"I'm like the alcoholic bartender," said Friends of the Library volunteer Betsy Davison. "I love being where the books are. Helping out with the book sales means I get to see them first. I recently researched a first edition that had some value. I never want to pay full price."
Davison, who volunteers two hours every Friday at Reston Regional Library, is one of many in the community who find themselves drawn to the shelves, which hold more than 215,000 volumes. Reston's library, deemed the busiest in Fairfax County, attracts anywhere from 500 to 1,000 patrons each day, according to assistant branch manager and volunteer coordinator, Ilze Long.
"On some Sundays," Long said, "there's a line waiting out the door to come in. I think the children's collection brings them in, along with all the other services we provide."
THERE ARE EIGHT regional libraries in Fairfax County and 12 community branches. Reston's current 30,000-square-foot facility was built in 1985, at the same time two other regionals were constructed, the Pohick in Burke and Tysons Pimit in McLean. According to branch manager, Nadia Taran, the Reston library was neck and neck with Pohick for years in traffic numbers. This is the first year Reston surpassed Pohick. The numbers are calculated with the help of a people counter at all entrances and the number of books checked out.
"When we first moved in," said Taran, branch manager for the past five years, "you would look out the kitchen window and see the woods and grazing deer. Over time, the city has grown up around us. Because of the way Reston is planned as a multi-use community, we have a nice mix of commercial and residential close by. And the library is easily accessible by foot, bus and car. People like the convenience."
Reston Regional Library circulates more than a million items each year. The library offers a sizable collection of newspapers and magazines, including foreign language materials, recorded books, large-print books and special equipment for the visually impaired and a separate wing for children.
"I'm researching a project for school," said 11-year-old Chinmay Kulkarni, a student at Buzz Aldrin Elementary going from row to row in the children's section. His father, Sanjay, an immigrant from India, accompanied Chinmay through the stacks.
"The library is huge with many resources," said Kulkarni, a software engineer living in Reston. "In India, most libraries are attached to schools or colleges. I like the open, public atmosphere here."
Veronica Anapur, 12, a student at Langston Hughes Middle School and a reader of mysteries, is completing her community service requirements at the library. She works two hours on the weekend. "It's always busy," she said, standing beside a cart full of books waiting to be returned to shelves. "People ask a lot of questions and check out a lot of books."
COMPUTER STATIONS, located just behind the information desk, attract large crowds. Patrons may surf the Internet in one section, or browse the library's database at another. Seats are frequently filled on the weekends to capacity and sometimes, there is a wait.
Reston resident Troy Reid, who found a seat among 10 available Internet stations, visits about twice a week. "I've used the library for just about everything, from a job search to finding out how to build a canopy. The people here are very helpful."
"I'm searching for boats for sale," said Gary Otten of Reston, gazing at the blue computer screen. "It's convenient, simple. It's free. During the week, it's not too bad." Otten also visits about twice a week.
"Reston is a lively community," said Taran. "We are blessed with an active Friends group who support us with their time and develop our children's programs. As the population grows, we expect this to continue. People in Reston are very involved."
The Reston Regional Library is located at 11925 Bowman Towne Drive, near the Reston Town Center. Its hours of operation are Sunday, from noon-6 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Saturday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 703-689-2700.