New Library Will Provide Social Center

New Library Will Provide Social Center

When planning the new Gum Spring Library, the leaders of Loudoun County Public Library looked to create not only a place for people to come and read, but a place where people would come to spend time, do research and meet with friends and business associates.

"There are two ways to look at it," director of the Loudoun County Public Library, Douglas Henderson, said. "Either a library is a community center or a library is the center of a community. We want everyone to come out and hang out."

Libraries are a "level playing field," Henderson added.

THE NEWEST county playing field is a 40,000-square-foot facility that will be housed in the first two levels of an office building, with special entrances for library patrons. Located on the corner of Route 50 in Stone Ridge, the library will service a group of residents that currently do not have a library anywhere nearby.

"We need a library," Laura Tekrony, a representative of Families for Dulles South, an independent group of citizens dedicated to preserving the quality of life in southern Loudoun, said. "A lot of us have to go all the way to Chantilly, Fairfax or even Middleburg."

The location of the library is designed to provide convenience for local residents.

"It's on Route 50, so you don't even have to be a resident for it to be convenient," Laura Holtslander, assistant director of the Loudoun County Public Library, said. "It's going to be adjacent to a strip mall and that's what people want. They don't want it be a destination."

The plans for the Gum Spring Library are only at 30 percent complete and it takes a 60 percent drawing to accurately estimate cost, but Henderson said there is approximately $7.6 million in the budget for the library, adding they would need an additional estimated $3.5 million for books.

"All we get is the shell," he said. "Everything inside comes from the bond and referendum."

The library will go to a public hearing by November 2007 and is scheduled to open in July 2008. A Gum Spring Library Board has already formed, Holtslander said, and public meetings have already taken place.

"We will make changes based on public input," she said. "When you are living there, you know what you need."

WHILE RESIDENTS are excited to see a new library come into their neighborhood, some are concerned about the fact that the library was being planned inside of an office building.

"Van Metre was supposed to proffer a stand-alone 7-acre site and that didn't happen," Tekrony said. "We want to know how it is going to work inside of an office building."

Some of Tekrony's group's concerns included how utilities would be divided amongst the businesses in the building and the county, and safety.

"A lot of us are going to be coming in with small children and we want to know that there aren't going to be strange people just walking around," Tekrony said. "I understand the need for a building like this in an urban center, but we're not an urban center."

Tekrony said she has been in touch with Henderson and expressed her concerns over the library plans. She said that Henderson has been really upbeat about her concerns which gave her some "hope."

"We have heard that some people are concerned with getting in and out of the building," Holtslander said. "We want to try and meet their personal needs."

For Tekrony, the main issue is that Gum Springs will be the only library in the county that doesn't have its own building.

"I just feel Dulles is being shortchanged," she said.

IN AN ATTEMPT to give residents the best facility possible, one of the biggest considerations for the new space was how to encourage teens and young adults to come and spend time at the library.

"Surveys with kids have shown that the reason they don't use libraries is because they don't have any space," Holtslander said.

"Most libraries have a young adult section, but it is jammed in the back of the children's section," Henderson added.

To accommodate teenagers, the Gum Spring Library has a large teen library on the upper level complete with computers, reference materials, workstations and all book formats. There are also two group meeting areas set aside for study groups and even some computer stations have room for more than one person to sit.

"Teachers have been saying that kids are studying in groups now," Henderson said. "We want there to be a real continuity with the schools. It's a way to tie into the whole education system."

In addition to a specially designed area, the teen library is on a separate floor from the children's section and designers are even considering a special entrance. Following designs from the Phoenix Public Library's and the Los Angeles Public Library's teen centers, the Gum Spring Library was designed around what teenagers themselves want. There are teenagers on the library advisory boards to give input on design.

"We want to ask the kids what they want," Holtslander said. "There is a coolness factor that you want there."

AS THE Gum Spring Library moves forward the Loudoun County Public Library hopes to make it better and more advanced than the libraries that went before it. For each library there are three set standards, Henderson said, the total amount of square footage, the number of books per person and the amount of space per person. However, Loudoun libraries have to be built to keep up with the growth of the county, Henderson said.

"These libraries are for the entire county," he said. "If 12,000 to 15,000 more people are coming in per year, then we need that many more books and space."

In addition to keeping up with population growth, the newest libraries are being built with the newest technology in mind, housing all formats of information and providing the same amenities that people can find at their offices, schools and homes.

"There is this idea that libraries are just books," Henderson said, "but libraries are print, libraries are visual and libraries are tactile."