Seeing the Library as Community Center

Seeing the Library as Community Center

Name: Sheila Janega

Address: Great Falls Library

Phone number: 703-757-8560

E-mail address:

Occupation: Librarian – assistant branch manager, Great Falls Library

Education: M.L.S. from The Catholic University

Town: I have worked 1 1/2 great years at the Great Falls Library and been a neighbor, living in Reston, for about 30.

Community ties/activities: I marched in the Great Falls Fourth of July Parade with the rest of the staff, wheeling book carts in formation. … Soon the field next to the library will be the site of the Freedom Memorial. … Great Falls Day, we sponsor puppet shows, thanks to the Friends of the Great Falls Library. ... Local groups use our two meeting rooms, daily. ... We are working with members of the Great Falls Historical Society to maintain a collection of their papers and records.

One thing about your community that you enjoy that you don't think most people know about, or something important for a newcomer to know: Great Falls is really a small town, a village. There is an incredible commitment and vibrancy among the people I have met and worked with. More than half of the library staff live in Great Falls. People really care about this community. Examples: Great Falls Day and the Fourth of July Parade, the FYI Network, the Garden Club, the Freedom Memorial, all the kids who are reading books for the library’s Summer Reading Program. The Ice Cream Social we host to mark the end of the Summer Reading Program is very popular. These are just a few of the things going on that are the heart of this community.

Favorite restaurants: Great Falls offers a wide spectrum of places to eat. My favorite depends on the time of day. Morning , it is Gilette’s, lunch is often La Grand Apetit, pizza from Romantica, and I always can find a reason to go to the Old Brogue.

Favorite activities: Reading , of course. I actually work in an environment where I am surrounded by books and other readers, both colleagues and library users. And gardening! To my delight the library has a beautiful garden, planted and tended by the Great Falls Garden Club. Barbara Cobb, who works as a page for the library, is in the Garden Club, and I have learned so much from her. In fact she is weeding right now, early, while it’s still cool.

Other favorite things (e.g., favorite place to take a walk, favorite place to see the sunset): Great Falls is so beautiful. One serious drawback to working is having to spend so many hours INSIDE the library and NOT being able to discover those special places. I love the Falls, and enjoy hiking between Riverbend and Great Falls. I think winter is best. There is a rugged, stark beauty then, and few people.

Favorite people in the community: Mike Kearney of  Brogue Charities. He is so involved with the community and so generous. This summer he lent the library his commercial popcorn popper, complete with the popcorn and little baggies. We had a new children’s program called “PJs & Popcorn,” where we showed Disney movies in the evening. And we served popcorn, thanks to Mike Kearney. Also The Friends of the Great Falls Library. This dedicated group not only raises money for us for special things, such as the children’s display case, but sponsors paid performances and hosts many community events at the library. A very successful one this past year is the art displays in our meeting room. The exhibits have been wonderful. People love them, and we have gotten to know the local artists.

Hobbies: Reading , walking, writing, gardening.

What do you like about the Great Falls Library?

The community and the people. Because the library is small, I feel I have really gotten to know the people who use the library. Great Falls is truly a community of library users, from looking for a good book or homework help to booking our Meeting Room. Behind the scenes we have a great team of volunteers (all live here in Great Falls) who help with library tasks. And Mr. Dane is a special volunteer who cares for the terrarium in our hall and teaches children about beetles and other insects.

What are your goals for the library? Fairfax County Public Library is in the process of implementing a new strategic plan with a new service role called “Library as Community Center.” I think Great Falls Library fits this to a T. I see our library becoming more involved with the community. This year the Village Green Day School has exhibited its students’ artwork in our Children’s area. Colvin Run Mill and the Great Falls Historical Society have exhibits in our display cases. The Friends of the Great Falls Library operates an ongoing “gently used” book sale under Kurt Cylke’s expert supervision. Our Children’s Department has added a new storytime for toddlers, and we had movies this summer. We will be looking for more ways to fulfill this goal.

What are your personal goals? Since I love to discuss books, I am especially excited to have started a second book group that meets in the evening. Lois Glick directs a morning group, which has met since the mini days. In my vision I think the library is the perfect place for study groups, writers workshops, and book discussion groups of all kinds. I am very open to what members of the community wants and needs and hope they come to the library for help.. We have meeting rooms, computers, a great collection of books and dedicated staff.

Parting thoughts: I would like to plug All Fairfax Reads. Other cities have done this, but this is the first time for Fairfax County. The current book is “To Kill a Mockingbird. “ On Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., Lois Glick and I will lead a book discussion here at the library. I hope the community comes out for this discussion.