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On the Horizon

Oakton Library inches toward a reality.

It may be an overgrown plot of grass now, but the Oakton Library is becoming a reality. For the Brubaker family, it can't come soon enough.

"We moved here because of the library," said Caroline Brubaker, who lives with husband Paul and sons Jackson, 5, and Gavin, 2, in the Oakton Village development off Hunter Mill Road.

The Brubakers live within walking distance of the new library and are "excited" about the prospect of being so close to the books as well as the storytime activities the library will provide.

"I had great faith in the electorate's ability to vote for the bond," said Paul Brubaker, referring to the $52.5 million in bonds raised for the Fairfax County Public Libraries, passed by the Fairfax County electorate in November 2004.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors got the process moving Monday, Sept. 12, by passing a board matter authorizing the inclusion of county-owned property to facilitate the building of the library. On the same day, the board passed $3.5 million of the carryover budget for materials acquisition in the new Oakton and Burke Centre libraries.

"It's not enough to build the building," said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence). "You've got to put the books on the shelf."

The $3.5 million is half of what will be needed to outfit the library, said Jim Hyland, Republican candidate for 35th District delegate seat and president of Friends of the Oakton Library. He said he hopes the rest of the funding will come during the next budget cycle.

Fairfax County Public Libraries acquired the land for the Oakton Library in 2000 from a developer. The developer had planned on building 120 houses on the 16-acre parcel, said Byrne, but after a public hearing at which around 80 citizens testified, the Board of Supervisors decided against the 120-house development. Eventually, the developer offered to donate three acres of the land for the library, she said, marking the first time in Fairfax County a developer had given land for that particular use.

In the end, the original developer passed the project on to Richmond-American Homes, which built 54 houses on the property. The library site is located just off the main road into the development, Lynnhaven Place, which branches off Hunter Mill Road.

"This is the first time everyone worked well together, I felt," said Byrne. "The citizens, government and developers all came together to make this wonderful plan work." Groups such as the Friends of the Oakton Library, Options for Oakton and the Oakton Women's Club all rallied for the library, she said.

"Three acres of prime land in Oakton does have considerable value," said Smyth. "All we had to pay for is the building."

Building the library will use $7.6 million of the $52.5 million bond, said Lois Kirkpatrick, FCPL spokesperson. The project will break ground in the spring of 2006, and is scheduled to be finished by 2007, said Linda Byrne, vice-president of Friends of the Oakton Library.

When the developers proffered the land, said Byrne, FCPL had already been hunting around for a site to build a new library, in order to lessen the strain on the heavily-used Patrick Henry Community and Fairfax City Regional libraries. The library system had conducted a study of appropriate places to construct a library and narrowed the area radius down to a section of Oakton, said Byrne.

Patrick Henry, the busiest library in Fairfax County, has over 1,000 visitors a day, said branch manager Barbara de Beaufort. The Vienna library draws patrons from Vienna, Fairfax, Oakton, McLean, Tysons Corner and parts of Reston, said de Beaufort.

"We’re looking forward to [the Oakton Library]," said de Beaufort. "We’re a community library in size and square footage, but we do more business than three of the larger regional libraries, so we're pretty busy."

With all the patrons, sometimes Patrick Henry gets loud, she said.

THE OAKTON LIBRARY will have rooms set aside for quiet study, said Kirkpatrick. In the 1960s, she said, libraries had an emphasis on silence and "library voices." Now, with cell phones, readings and children's programs, she said, libraries have become a little louder.

"Folks who really need it to be quiet can go and get away from the ambient noise," said Kirkpatrick about quiet study rooms.

"I think [the library] is needed because Oakton has grown, there is traffic from Reston, and traffic from western Vienna," said Hyland. "I think the day it opens, it will be a very used facility."

Tina Cunningham, branch manager of the Fairfax City Regional Library, expects that some Fairfax City library patrons will begin to use the Oakton facility, but that Fairfax City's usage will increase with its own new building in 2007.

"We're expecting that the door count is going to increase because of improved facilities, an additional 150 parking spaces and expanded Virginia Room, and plus the almost triple number of public computers we have now," said Cunningham. "When Oakton opens, it will impact somewhat on the usage because people see [Interstate] 66 as a barrier — it sort of defines a community." The Oakton Library will mainly relieve pressure on Patrick Henry, she said.

"I'm very excited about it," said Jim Jochum, an Oakton Village resident whose daughter, Elena, owns a lot of books. "Then my little daughter can walk to the library."

Jochum was aware of the traffic the library would potentially generate. He took that into account when choosing the house, he said, picking one that faced away from Lynnhaven Place.

"It will be busy when it opens," said resident Barbara Caudle, whose street branches off Lynnhaven. "I don't think [the traffic] will bother me ... [the library] might be nice."