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Burke Library Takes Shape

November bond would fund two new libraries.

Commuters whizzing down the Fairfax County Parkway will be drawn to a gleaming, 17,000-square-foot library, one of two new libraries to be put in the Fairfax County Public Library system as part of a major bond referendum set before voters in November.

The new Burke Centre and Oakton libraries would be built with funds obtained by the county through a $52.5 million bond should the referendum pass.

"This is a big bond referendum for us," said Jane Goodwin, deputy director of the Fairfax County Public Library System. At a meeting at Thomas Jefferson Library on Tuesday, Goodwin unveiled plans and renderings for the county's two new libraries and four others to be renovated.

Voters will decide on Nov. 2 whether the county should take on $52.5 million in bond money in order to go ahead with library construction, renovation and renewal. The last such bond referendum passed in 1989. Under state law, the Fairfax County government is permitted to borrow money to finance projects but must ask voters to authorize such a move.

"People love libraries in Fairfax County, and I think the bond funding to use it is appropriate, and I feel that it will be successful," said Supervisor Sharon Bulvoa (Braddock). "I look forward to seeing the construction getting started."

According to current plans, the Burke Centre Library would be located near the intersection of Freds Oak Road and the Fairfax County Parkway, just east of Ox Road. It would serve patrons who currently use the Pohick and Kings Park libraries, both among the busiest libraries in the county. Pohick served nearly 450,000 visitors last year, and the Braddock District, where the new library would be located, is projected to grow 6.6 percent by 2020.

"This library has been so over-used since it opened, that I certainly think there is going to more than enough demand to library services to make the Burke Centre Library a very good idea," said Carolyn Koehler, branch manager of the Pohick Regional Library, who said her staff enjoys the busy atmosphere, but the customers might enjoy a less hectic pace.

"We love the business here. It's certainly very energizing for us. I do think there will be people who enjoy a less congested parking lot, shorter lines," said Koehler.

The increased space at the Burke Centre library, located on seven acres, would allow the library to offer increased children's programs, which Koehler said has become an issue at the Pohick library. The Burke Centre library would also feature a 5,000-square-foot system distribution and storage center for the entire county. Construction would begin in late 2005 and be completed in the winter of 2007.

"The Burke community is very, very excited about this library. We've had a number of community meetings, and they have seen the initial design. I think the library bond will be successful," said Bulova.

THE OTHER new library, in Oakton off Hunter Mill Road in the Providence District, would alleviate the burden on the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna, one of the county's busiest community libraries.

In addition to the two new libraries, four existing libraries would receive major renovations. The Thomas Jefferson Library in Falls Church, Richard Byrd Library in Springfield, Dolley Madison Library in McLean and Martha Washington Library in Alexandria are scheduled for additions and renovations that would continue until 2010.

What the library system is hoping to build in Springfield, however, is a new, more spacious library just down the road from the venerable Byrd Library. The new library would be located in the heart of Springfield's designated revitalization district off Old Keene Mill Road on the west side of I-95. No progress has been made on the project, however, since no developer has come forward to build on the site. It is little more than an idea at this point, although Del. Mark Sickles (D-43rd) said he's hoping for some movement on the proposal before the renovations on Byrd begin.

"The county is trying to bend over backwards to help," said Sickles.

ACCORDING TO GOODWIN, the library system is prepared to move ahead with renovations on Byrd, if no developer comes forward before renovations are scheduled to begin in 2007.

The last library-related bond referendum passed in 1989. According to current plans, the Byrd Library would receive a complete overhaul to its front end, including new entrance area. Frosted glass on the side that borders Commerce Avenue would allow greater visibility from the road. In addition, the library's square footage would increase to nearly 18,200.

According to Goodwin, all the libraries slated for renovation need more space.

"The library has become a community center in many ways," said Goodwin, citing the library’s increased need to provide meeting space, quiet study areas and technology workstations for its patrons. The branches scheduled for renovation are among the busiest in the county and the oldest, all dating to the 1960s.

During renovations, the libraries would not remain open at their existing sites, but Goodwin promised to come up with "creative" solutions, such as increasing services of adjacent libraries, or housing the holdings in temporary quarters.

"We will make every effort not to eliminate library services in the community during the renovations," said Goodwin.

Money to purchase equipment and furniture, as well as to build collections and hire staff for both new libraries, would be rolled into the county budget, beginning in 2006.