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Chantilly Library: The Renewal Project

“A wonderful place for our community."

Pam Rearden (left), children’s information assistant, and librarian Jaye Lahlou at the centrally relocated information desk.

Pam Rearden (left), children’s information assistant, and librarian Jaye Lahlou at the centrally relocated information desk.

Just as the writing of a book begins with an idea, so did the renovations of the Chantilly Regional Library. It started around 2004, when then Branch Manager Bonnie Worcester and her staff first discussed how to improve customer service there.

They initially focused on updating and renovating the circulation desk — where customers checked out and returned books and other materials. They considered moving it in front of the book drop.

The discussion intensified in 2008 when the library began a new chapter with Daria Parnes as its branch manager. Then Fairfax County staff became involved in deciding where the desk should go.

“Rosalyn Sevilla, a county space-planner, worked with us to design the desk and its location,” said Parnes. “The change was necessary because, with reduced library staffing and hours, the desk needed to be in a better place to increase efficiency. Moving it near the outside book drop saves time and effort for staff and customers; it also facilitates work flow and quicker processing of returned books.”

However, that switch was the catalyst for others, and the discussion expanded to other improvements to the building’s functions. These included moving the children’s area to the periodical room, relocating the magazines to the front of the building and shifting the information desk to the middle of the library for more customer visibility.

Parnes shared the staff’s suggestions with the board of the Friends of the Chantilly Regional Library and requested financial support for the project. The Friends are the nonprofit, volunteer group that supports the library by volunteering its time and selling donated books to raise money for the library’s needs.

The Friends approved the funds for the renovation — ultimately costing $163,000 — including new carpeting for the public area. Then Sam Clay, director of the county Library System, gave his blessing to the project.

  • Phase one (done in November 2010) included moving the children’s room to the magazine area, shifting the magazines to the front and relocating the “Holds Pick up” shelving to the front of the library. The information desk was moved to the center.

“It didn’t catch people’s eye before, so they just walked past it,” said Steve Okrend, the library’s youth services manager. “Having it in the center has worked out well; now customers can stop there for questions or reference and then branch out. It’s also easier for staff to access all points of the library from there.”

  • Phase two (done in December 2011) included fabricating a new circulation desk, relocating it to the opposite side of the library, in front of the book return, and showcasing the area behind the old desk for new materials.

“Jane Frazier, now retired, with the county’s Facilities Management Department, and [FMD’S] Christine Wilhelm, integrated the project pieces together and made it all happen, along with others [from FMD],” said Parnes. “We also worked with the county’s Department of Information Technology to move data lines.”

Relocating the information and circulation desks was also done to make the library more customer-friendly. The changes gave it a more positive and welcoming atmosphere. But if not for the Friends, said Parnes, none of them would have been possible.

“They’re members of our local community who work tirelessly to improve and enhance the library facilities, inside and out,” she said. “They also increase the materials collection and contribute to the library’s year-’round children’s programs.”

On a regular basis, 16-20 people a week volunteer at that library. In 2011, they logged more than 2,500 hours. And the money contributed by the Friends comes from the twice-yearly book sales they run.

“We could not be the nice-looking branch we are today without the Friends’ help,” said Parnes. “By supporting us, they support the community. Their generosity of time and spirit has made the Chantilly Regional Library a wonderful place for our community and customers of all ages.”