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Ask Me (Almost) Anything: Arlington Public Library

by ARLnow.com September 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm 6,673 57 Comments

Editor’s Note: Ask Me (Almost) Anything is intended to be a local, community-oriented derivation of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything discussion threads. This feature allows readers to discuss important and interesting topics with local community, government and business leaders. See below for discussion guidelines.

With eight locations serving some 120,000 library cardholder per year, Arlington Public Library is one of the most beloved institutions in the county.

The connection Arlington residents feel with their local libraries is evident given the recent over a reduction in library hours (since restored) and the proposed relocation of the Columbia Pike branch library (which never came to fruition).

Not only does the library system offer materials to borrow and a quiet place to study, but it also organizes events, from author talks to speed dating to punk rock exhibits to book sales. A large weekend book sale at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) is schedule to kick off tomorrow, with tens of thousands of books to choose from.

Diane Kresh has been the director of Arlington’s libraries since April 2006. An Arlington native and Yorktown High School grad who got her first library card at the Westover branch, Kresh will be taking you questions about Arlington Public Library in the comments section from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. today (Wednesday).

Please note that Ms. Kresh may not be able to answer every question asked. Also please note that in addition to our normal comment policy, we ask that questions and comments be of a civil tone. We welcome tough questions and critical comments, but anything of a mean-spirited nature will be removed.

  • DarkHeart

    What size internet access does each branch have to offer wireless? E.g., T1, DS3, Fast-E (100mb).

  • Mattie Don

    I recently moved here from Boston, where the library sponsors a “children’s writer-in-residence” program that my kids loved. Any chance of Arlington doing something similar?

  • All the Arlington County provided wireless hotspots, including the libraries, community centers, etc. work at 500 mbps (megabits per second). Thanks for asking

    • DarkHeart

      That is a lot of bandwidth! Is it in any way tied to Comcast’s operating license in the county?

    • Dan

      I had no idea that it was that fast……I’ll have to bring my laptop to the library more often !!

  • Jake

    What is the county doing to prevent homeless people and vagrants from loitering in the libraries?

    • Hello Jake,

      The Library works very closely with the County Department of Human Services to make sure that the people in the community who need assistance receive it. Any person in the Library who observes the rules of the Library http://library.arlingtonva.us/about-us/policies/library-rules/ is welcome to visit and use our resources.

      The Library staff is well trained in enforcing the rules and we have regular meetings with DHS to make sure we’re responding appropriately with all the issues that arise with homelessness and other concerns.

    • Nancy

      The library is a safe place for homeless people. It gets them out of the elements and gives them books, papers, and magazines to read, to while away the long hours. As long as they behave (and why wouldn’t they) why would we not want them in the library?

      • Hollywood

        I think that’s pretty obvious Nancy

  • i love you guys!!!!!!!! keep adding more e-book titles. thanks for your hard work.

    • Thanks Captain. We’ll do.

    • JJDRP

      I agree with you on the selection of e-books except, the waiting list is generally too long for popular titles. I think that the max. lending period should be 14 days for popular titles.

  • nauckneighbor

    Does the library plan to expand their offering of digital services? Which device (Ipad, Kindle, Nook) works the easiest with the library’s system?

  • Tabby_TwoTone

    I don’t frequent the libraries as often as I used to.

    I got really tired of being charged late fees when I knew I had returned items on time (through the drop box). When I said this to a worker in the Shirlington branch, she said “yes, this happens a lot; come in when we’re open.” Sure, I’ll take time off work.

  • Hi Mattie Don,

    Our great Youth Services team puts together all sorts of great programs including those focused on the art of writing. In fact, next month they have several events lined up for National Novel Writing Month.

    Depending on your children’s ages, keep an eye on either our kids calendar of events http://library.arlingtonva.us/events/kids-events/ or our teens blog http://tatalonline.blogspot.com/

    If you do have a teen, he or she won’t want to miss the Oct. 15 Writers Cafe with local author Morgan Keyes. http://library.arlingtonva.us/ai1ec_event/teen-writers-cafe-with-author-morgan-keyes-central/?instance_id=27732

    Thanks for asking and we hope to see your family at the Library soon.

  • 350sbc

    Do you have any historical maps archived? Is it possible to scan them using a flatbed/feed scanner?

  • Thes

    It seems like every year I have a bunch of old books that don’t fit in my house anymore. What is the best way to donate them to a good cause?

  • Westover Book Drop Box?

    Will you look into replacing the drive-by book dropbox at the Westover branch’s back parking lot? It was damaged by a snowplow soon after the new library opened and never replaced.

    The dropbox is very handy, especially for the disabled, parents with little kids, or just people in a hurry, particularly since parking at the new Westover branch is much farther from the door than at the old Westover branch.


    • Nate

      I’ve been leaving my books out there in the middle of the lot where the old library used to be. They seem to get collected eventually.

    • The Library’s current bookdrop on the McKinley side feeds directly into the processing area, which speeds the return of the materials to the shelves and protects them from inclement weather.

      We’ll continue to assess whether a second bookdrop is needed.

      • Westover Book Drop Box?

        Thanks for your reply.

        The staff would have to empty the drive-by book drop once or twice a day, and it would have to be weather-proof, but those seem to be solvable issues. The McKinney side drop box doesn’t really address the needs of the disabled, parents with little kids in the car, etc., since it is far from the curb, up a set of stairs or a long ramp.

        What steps are you planning to take in order to assess the need for a drive-by book drop?

        Thanks again.

      • Rardnek

        I echo this request. The bookdrop on the McKinley side is a total PITA (pardon my french) esp. since the curb lane is often prohibited due to buses for the school.

  • charlie

    First, great job, the library is top-notch.

    Do you have a program where we can vote for new books? Although you do a pretty good job.

    Homeless people around the library are a real problem.

    Can you book a book drop box on the street?

    • Hello Charlie,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      I think you’re asking how to ask that the Library add a new book to the collection. If so, here’s the form: http://lib.arlingtonva.us/Departments/Libraries/materialmgmt/LibrariesMaterialmgmtPatronform.asp

      Please see the answer above regarding homeless people.

      As to placing book drops on the street, we would need to work with other departments on such a request and there are a number of issues regarding access ways, possible damage etc. We favor drops as part of the building for reasons addressed above.

    • Zelora

      Hm, “homeless people around the library are a real problem”.
      Where would you prefer that these people go? Would you prefer to see them near taverns and restaurants? Shopping malls? Your yard?
      I can hardly think of a more wholesome and safe place for them than the library.
      “The poor will always be with you.”

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Why does the library require in-person renewals of library cards every 2 years? This is kind of onerous when I only use library services 3-4 times in that period. Even something much more important like a driver’s license renews every 8 years in VA.

    • Hello SNU,

      We ask patrons to come to one of our eight locations to renew their cards because we need to make sure they are still living in the Arlington area. That has become especially important with our eCollections, which tend to be specifically licensed to serve Arlington County.

      As the Internet is global, someone could continue to use our eCollections even if they’re across the ocean. By asking patrons to come in to renew their cards, it’s a pretty good indicator that they’re still local.

      Thanks for asking. Maybe some of our events could get you to stop by more often? http://library.arlingtonva.us/eventscalendar/

  • CrystalMikey

    I have nothing to ask, but thanks for being open to our questions!

  • Hank

    Hello Diane,

    Thanks for all of your hard work. Arlington’s libraries are really great.
    There are a lot of toddler’s activities during the week, but few if any during the weekends. Are there any plans to extend children’s activities to the weekends when more people could utilize them?

    • Hello Hank,

      Thanks for the compliment.

      We regularly assess the scheduling of our programs to make sure we’re serving the audiences as best as possible.

      Our children’s storytimes tend to attract large crowds. Because weekends are usually the busiest days of the week in general for the Library, we assign staff where they’re needed most just to keep up with non-programming demands.

      Thanks for the question and we will keep looking at the possibility of more children’s programming on the weekends.

  • Jake

    How do you prevent people from using the computers to look at pornographic materials? I see people watching videos in plain site on the public computers often. Is there a way to control this abuse? Thanks and great job.

    • YTK

      A LOUD buzzer and INSTANT Ceiling projection of said material.

    • Thanks for the question Jake.

      To start, please take a look at the Library’s Internet Access policy. http://library.arlingtonva.us/about-us/policies/internet-access-policy/

      Arlington Public Library is committed to providing a safe environment for all its patrons, especially its children, from exposure to potentially harmful materials. To that end, we use filtering software to screen and block pornographic, obscene, and otherwise harmful materials from computers to which children may have access.

      However, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. American Library Association in 2003 http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_02_361, the Library is now required by state law and federal laws to provide adults, upon request, with unfiltered access to the Internet. This does, in some instances, result in adults viewing materials which others find offensive.

      In order to avoid potential conflicts between patrons, the Library’s policy is to ask patrons viewing potentially offensive materials to use a designated computer equipped with a privacy screen and to limit their time on the computer. Patrons who refuse to follow the Library’s policy are asked to leave.

      If the material being viewed is not just offensive, but also illegal, such as child pornography, the Library will call the Police and have the patron escorted off the premises.

      While viewing pornography in public may be offensive to many, it is not illegal, and we cannot take any other action a library policy is violated.

      We recognize that in the process of balancing an individual’s right to free access to information and an individual’s right to a safe community space, inevitable conflicts will arise. Luckily, such conflicts are rare in a community like Arlington.

  • DarkHeart

    Is the crossword contest coming back for a second year?

  • VC

    Wish all governmental operations worked as well as Arlington Library System. You do a great job.

  • Liz

    I go to the library a couple of times every week, thank you for such a wonderful service.

  • JA

    I love working at the library when I don’t head to my office in Reston. But there is really no where to take phone calls. Do you have any plans to create separate area that patrons can use and make some noise/phone calls? A non-quiet area, so to speak?

    • Hello JA,

      You don’t say which of our eight libraries you use but if you’re talking about Central Library, most of the first floor is phone-friendly and there is plenty of room, plus tables and chairs, near the circulation desk and holds shelves.

      As to the branch libraries, each has a unique configuration. Please speak with the staff and they’ll try to accommodate your needs in balance with the usual quiet nature that people expect from a public library environment.

      Thanks for making us your home away from the office.

  • fitzpatrick

    Thanks for doing this Diane! I couldn’t come up with any questions, but I just wanted to say thanks for doing such a great job!

    Arlington libraries continually impress me. The digital services and media selection are excellent. My wife and I regularly check out DVDs through the website’s holding system. I also find being able to subscribe to the Event Calendar via Google Calendar to be really useful (although it’s broken at the moment).

    The staff has also always been courteous and flexible as well. Whether I was out of town unexpectedly and needed an extension on my due date (and already exhausted my renewals), or being kind enough to find a book in the back that was “Returned but not shelved”. These kinds of customer-oriented services really make us loyal Arlington library patrons! There’s nothing quicker at building dissatisfaction as feeling nickel-and-dimed by unbending rules/fines.

    • Hello Fitzpatrick,

      Thanks for the generous words.

      Our staff is always working to make our website and 24/7 “branch” as good as it can be. Please visit often: library.arlingtonva.us (We’ll take a look at the Calendar.)

      As to our staff (and volunteers), we tend to be library fans too so we’re just trying to create the kind of place that we would want to spend time in as “civilians.” And we find it’s usually easier to go the extra step than to make an excuse not to.

      Thanks again.

  • NewLibrarian

    As a new librarian, I was wondering what future does the MLIS have with Arlington County Public Libraries?

  • BrianKal

    I live in Ballston and would like to take out magazines from central but that is not allowed. What is the reasoning behind this? And any plans to change it? Growing up you in NY you could take out any issue but the current month’s.

    And thanks for answering our questions.

    • Hi BrianKal,

      Magazines can now be checked out from our branch libraries and certain Central collections, including Young Adult items, are also circulating.

      Because the Central subscriptions for adults are considered almmost part of our reference collection, we try to keep them intact as much as possible and they don’t leave the building. But as I’ve said in answer to other questions, we do re-evaluate policies and periodicals are a frequent topic of conversation.

      Thanks for asking.

  • Many thanks to all who participated in today’s Q&A.

    It’s terrific to hear from so many supporters of Arlington Public Library in a new way.

    See you at the big book sale this weekend! It’s a great way to recycle.

  • Thank you to everybody who participated in this discussion. The comments will now be closed.


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