Arlington, VA

Got a pesky boxwood that needs a bit of trimming or row of cabbages overdue for planting? Maybe it’s time to visit Arlington Public Library’s tool lending program “The Shed.”

“The Shed houses 157 garden tools and generates close to 700 checkouts each growing season,” APL spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “We have made strides each year to reach more residents as we continue our outreach efforts in the community.”

The Central, Glencarlyn, and Westover branch libraries also care for flower gardens and organic vegetable gardens, with some of the vegetables being donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food bank system.

The lending program allows library patrons to check out a variety of tools from the Central Library branch at 1015 N. Quincy Street. All patrons need to do to check out the tools for free is sign a waiver, have a library card, and show proof the patron is 18 or older.

“The idea for a garden tool lending program came as a natural evolution in the library’s continuing efforts to support the county on issues of community sustainability and particularly urban gardening,” Sundqvist said of the 2014 founding of The Shed.

“Library staff participated in the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force and suggested a garden tool lending collection as one way of encouraging and facilitating urban gardening and healthy living,” he said.

Today, The Shed is open three days a week: on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., Fridays from 3-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Sundqvist said hedge shears, tree pruners, and pruning saws are the garden tools patrons check out most frequently from The Shed.

The tool library is part of APL’s non-book collections, which also includes equipment for testing energy efficiency in your home. APL also opened a free makerspace in April where patrons can access a range of tools for woodworking, sewing, coding, and 3D printing projects.

This unusual collection is part of a bigger movement nationwide building “Libraries of Things” that serve communities by allowing patrons to borrow everything from neck ties to GoPros to musical instruments.

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Ballston Quarter could soon be home to a temporary pop-up library.

According to an Arlington County Board agenda item, the owner of Ballston Quarter mall and the Ballston Business Improvement District invited Arlington Public Library to create a temporary pop-up library in unoccupied retail space on the street level of the mall.

“The use of the newly renovated mall space is being offered to the County for one month at no cost,” the agenda item noted. “The county will be permitted to open a new pop-up library location within the mall for a period beginning on July 1 through August 2, 2019.”

Library services could include a small collection of books and audio-visual materials along with technology access. The library would be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The space will be provided by mall management at no cost to the county, while the operation of the library will be paid from the library’s general operating funds.

This would not be the first pop-up library in retail space. In 2016, Arlington County opened a pop-up library in Crystal City Shops that has since been extended through 2019.

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Arlington Public Library unveiled a trove of photographs and documents this week that spotlights the women in Arlington who’ve shaped the county’s history.

The digital exhibition is called Women’s Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence and it contains photographs, letters, bumper stickers, and voting guides taken from the Center for Local History’s (CLH) Community Archives. The exhibition organizes the records under several categories from politics to education.

Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist said the project has been in the works for the past two-and-a-half years.

“The Center for Local History’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the history of Arlington County,” he said.

One of the project’s stories chronicles how women created at network of neighborhood libraries before WWI, despite the work being considered “too dangerous” for women not long beforehand.

After the war, the county’s population grew enough to sustain a more formal library system, the exhibition’s page on libraries explains. Arlington resident Eleanor Leonard was appointed as the first professional librarian.

Other stories introduce readers to famed figures like suffragette Gertrude Crocker, who was jailed multiple times while fighting for women’s right to vote, and Margarite Syphax, who created her own real estate company to serve all families after learning other companies refused to sell or buy from African-Americans.

The digital exhibition is a permanent one funded by the library’s fiscal year 2018 budget, and staff hopes the project will continue to grow.

“Our goal is to highlight some of the untold stories of the many women pioneers who helped shape Arlington,” Sundqvist said. “Our hope is to uncover more stories as our collections grow.”

Although the files shared online were already a part of Arlington archives, the exhibition’s organizers wanted to shine a light on women’s history in the county.

“We always knew that women played an important part in building this County, but the extent of their contributions was amazing,” said Judith Knudsen, who works as a manager at the Center for Local History. “We learned, for example, that one of the many initiatives of The Church Women United was to help migrant workers in the early ’60s.”

Currently, none of the women featured in the digital collection are Vietnamese and few are African American. Both groups have helped build historical Arlington landmarks like Little Saigon and the newly re-named Green Valley neighborhood.

Sundqvist said the library hopes to expand the collection to include additional diversity.

“Yes, of course,” he said in response to a question from ARLnow. “The library welcomes donations of materials that help tell the stories of Arlington in a more comprehensive way.”

Those interested in donating materials to the Community Archives can learn how here.

Photos via Arlington Public Library

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If you get to work on Arlington Library’s Summer Reading Challenge, you could earn tickets to a Nationals game and other prizes.

The summer reading program challenges children, teens and adults to read for 25 days between June 1 and Sept. 1. Readers can keep track of their progress either on a printed calendar, a library app, or online.

Once they’ve read for 25 days, readers can come into the library and show staff how much they’ve read. They’ll receive a prize and an entry into a grand prize that varies based on their age group.

According to the library website:

Adults, teens and kids in kindergarten and above who complete [the Summer Reading Challenge] will each receive a voucher for two tickets to see the Washington Nationals play at Nationals Stadium.

Seating is in the scoreboard pavilion, upper gallery or right field terrace.

The grand prize for adults is a chance to enjoy a Washington Nationals game from a private suite.

A press release noted that books, newspapers, magazines and audiobooks all qualify.

Several events are planned along with the Summer Reading Challenge, including a visit from Nationals pitcher Aníbal Sánchez to Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on Saturday, June 15 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. The event description notes that there will be opportunities to take photos and get memorabilia signed.

For each person that completes the Summer Reading Challenge, the press release also notes that the Friends of the Arlington Public Library will donate $1 to provide books for the Arlington County Child Advocacy Center.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Laura Saul Edwards

From the time I began reading, the image of libraries that came to mind was of a building warehousing books that I checked out and tried returning on time to avoid fines. Thumbing through card catalogues and scrolling through microfiche film joined the memory bank in high school and college.

This outdated view of libraries is as much a historical relic as the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. The Arlington Public Library is more than a mere circulating book collection. It is an indispensable part of Arlington’s infrastructure with a diverse menu of services — and a leading example of data-driven, continual improvement that is a cornerstone of progressive governance.

A reason Arlington stands out among other communities is that our generally well-educated and well-off population places a high value on libraries. Arlington’s 2018 Community Satisfaction Survey reported an overall satisfaction rate with library services of 91% versus 74% elsewhere.

However, this high satisfaction does not mean the library can rest on its laurels. Continual improvement depends upon using data to develop budgets and policies that will make the library even more effective and responsive to public needs.

According to County Board member Katie Cristol, the satisfaction survey is helpful in this regard because it “sheds insight into the relative value that residents place on disparate functions of the government.”

For example, recent survey results revealed dissatisfaction with the rate at which the library was acquiring books. Arlington residents said they wanted more e-books and shorter wait times for borrowing titles. This information led to a $300,000 increase in the library’s acquisition budget, including e-books.

Read More

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A new makerspace has arrived in Arlington — in a library.

Arlington Public Library announced today (Tuesday) that their new makerspace is now open in the Ballston Central Library on 1015 N. Quincy Street.

Called “The Shop,” the free makerspace comes equipped with wood working tools, soldering irons, circuit parts and Raspberry Pi for coding projects, Wacom tablets and pens, 3D printers, Cameo cutters, sewing machines, tools for sewing, among other tools.

“The Shop provides access to tools and software and is staffed with Maker mentors to help you get your project off the ground,” said Library Director Diane Kresh, who added that APL is “excited to promote the Maker movement and offer collaborative spaces to meet the evolving needs of our community.”

The Shop is divided between a workshop and tables where attendees can take classes. This week, makers will be teach participants how to upcycle jewelry and preserve movies on 8mm or VHS tapes. The Shop at least partially fills a gap created by the closure of Techshop in Crystal City in 2017.

Hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. with extended openings and children’s classes planned for the summer, staff say.

APL joins several a nationwide trend of libraries investing crafting spaces. D.C. Public Libraries offer three multi-media and fabrication labs.

“Libraries have a long history of reinventing themselves in order to stay relevant,” APL spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “I think the maker movement is a perfect example of just that. to kind of encourage, play, experimentation and encourage critical thinking.”

APL previously announced plans to build a mobile lab later this year, to travel to different parts of the county.

“We’re going to ready in the fall,” Sundqvist said today. He noted the library wasn’t able to release details on the project yet.

The Shop was funded with part of the budget the County Board allocated for renovations at the Central Library, Sundqvist said.

Images from Library website.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) County officials are hosting an event this week about the #MeToo movement and how men and boys can stop sexual harassment.

The event is called “#MeToo: Being Men-Raising Men” and aims to create a “community discussion about masculinity and the role of men in addressing sexual assault and harassment in our community,” per a county press release. It comes at a time when officials say they’ve seen increases in requests for “sexual assault services across Arlington County… from police to advocacy and hotline to medical services.”

The event is the latest response from officials following a 2017 survey indicating as many as half the APS female students in grades 8, 10, and 12 have been sexually harassed at school.

The discussion will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Arlington Central Library Auditorium.

Officials from APS, ACPD and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office will speak at the event.

Also attending are representatives from groups dedicated to combatting sexual violence based in the county’s Department of Human Services, INOVA Loudon Hospital, and abuse hotline Doorways for Women and Families.

The event is a sequel to last year’s discussion, which was entitled #MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know.

Arlington County is planning several other events this month in honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Upcoming events include a poetry night at Metro Stage on Tuesday, April 16, and a rally at Gateway Park, near Rosslyn Metro, on Thursday, April 25.

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Morning Notes

Seven Corners Suspicious DeathUpdated at 10:25 a.m. — Fairfax County Police are investigating a “suspicious death” on the 6100 block of Arlington Blvd in Seven Corners, near the Arlington border. That block is home to the Willston Centre shopping center, a McDonald’s, a hotel and a number of commercial offices. [Twitter, Twitter]

What’s Up With the ‘Psychedelic Tower?’ — “You’ve probably seen the tower if you’ve ever driven across the 14th Street Bridge… It’s a hexagonal, granite structure that sits about a third of the way down the bridge, closer to the Virginia side. By day, it doesn’t look like much. But by night, its windows light up like a gigantic kaleidoscope.” [WAMU]

New Pike Library Remains a Goal — “Arlington government leaders haven’t given up their quest to add a new library branch on the western end of Columbia Pike. But unless an unbeatable opportunity presents itself, a new facility is not going to happen immediately.” [InsideNova]

Arts Cuts Highlighted in TV ReportProposed budget cuts to the county’s scene shop, costume shop and technical services provided to local theater companies “would really destroy the arts community,” advocates told NBC 4 in a segment that aired last night. [NBC Washington]

Nearby: Seven Corners Office Buildings Purchased — “BoundTrain Real Estate has purchased the two commercial office towers located at 6400 and 6402 Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church for more than $38 million. The two 13-story buildings in the Seven Corners commercial district include more than 410,000 square feet of commercial space.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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The County Board is moving closer to approving the first increase in the Arlington Public Library’s (APL) collections budget since 2014.

The proposal is part of the FY2020 budget sketched out by County Manager Mark Schwartz, which allocates $300,000 to APL’s budget for books and other materials for rent. The Board expressed broad support for beefing up the library’s budget during a work session Tuesday.

APL’s chief materials manager Peter Petruski presented that increasing the budget would help reduce the e-book hold times which have been “climbing precipitously.”

Together with APL Director Diane Kesh, Petruski told the Board that currently average hold times for an e-book are 38 weeks, but they are confident they can knock that down to 28 weeks.

“That’s a significant jump,” noted Board member Matt de Ferranti. “Is there any particular reason that we’re able to make that transition to pull that all the way down?”

“If we directly go towards the most in-demand titles, more copies of them, into people’s hands… that’s how we getting that 10-week that drop,” replied Petruski.

Director Kesh shared that the hold times for print books hover between 18 and 19 weeks, and that APL is “very hopeful” that the six-figure budget increase will help reduce that as well. Kesh also said the library would like to use the funding to buy extra copies of hot items, like Michelle Obama’s biography, which still has 300 holds.

APL also wants to use the funds to roll out a new movie and documentary streaming service called “Kanopy” currently used in Alexandria and D.C. public libraries. The last fiscal year budget cut 17 percent from the collections budget — leading the library to remove free digital services like its audiobook streaming service and investment research tool in July.

Schwartz previously forecasted up to $30 million more in county budget cuts this year, but proposed only $5.2 million due to some unexpected growth in real estate revenues and lower-than-expected employee healthcare costs. In a February letter about the proposed FY2020 budget Schwartz recommended using the county’s fortuitous finances to increase APL’s collection budget.

“This really goes a long way towards addressing where we’ve been in the past and we’re very, very grateful for the support,” Kresh said to the Board Tuesday afternoon.

“Since 2014, not only has the collection budget not increased as costs have escalated but the use of e-books and other digital platforms have become increasingly popular,” wrote Schwartz in February. “The library’s ability to provide popular materials to patrons in a timely manner, in either digital or print format, has eroded significantly.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Board members Katie Cristol and Eric Gutshall seemed to signal support for the budget increase by commending the library for its goals to reduce hold times and increase collections.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said, “It’s remarkable when you think about it even though we’re having a budget discussion, libraries serve as any and everything for people in our community. Safe spaces for kids, productive spaces for teens, ways to combat social isolation for seniors and everything in between.”

The County Board will have until late April to amend the proposed county budget for the next fiscal year and is scheduled to vote on the final version on April 23.

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With more than 150 new students set to attend classes at the Arlington Career Center in the coming school year, officials are now scrambling to free up some extra classroom space at the facility.

The county school system now plans to move eight trailers over from the adjacent Patrick Henry Elementary School to free up room for those students in the 2019-2020 school year. Career Center Principal Margaret Chung informed parents of the move in an email Monday (Feb. 25) that was subsequently obtained by ARLnow.

Chung wrote that school leaders initially hoped instead to move students into the second floor of the Columbia Pike Branch Library space, which is located in the Career Center. But county officials rejected that request, prompting the reliance on the so-called “relocatable classrooms” instead.

“To accommodate our expected growth next year and beyond, we have had to identify space for the additional students,” Chung wrote.

The downside of that move is that the trailers will take up some space currently used for the Career Center’s Animal Science program.

The program includes classes focused on animal care and veterinary science, with a variety of animals housed at the site for students to study. Chung expects that the trailers will take up the space currently set aside for three grazing animals — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says that includes two goats and a miniature pony — forcing the Career Center to “reimagine that program for a more urban setting.”

“This does not mean that we are discontinuing our focus on animal sciences,” Chung wrote. “We will continue to maintain the smaller animals onsite for learning and instruction.”

She added that her staff has “begun to explore options to find a new home” for the animals that need to move, with the goal having them settled by the time the new trailers are in place this summer. That’s also when the school system will move the Montessori program currently housed at Drew Model School into the Henry building.

But with demand for the Career Center’s programs anticipated to only keep growing in the coming years, and the planned expansion of the building to accommodate more high schoolers still years away, Bellavia says the new trailers won’t solve all the building’s space limitations.

Accordingly, APS officials plan to ask the county for permission to use both the first and second floor of the library as instructional space, Bellavia said, with the goal of having it available for students in time for the 2020-2021 school year.

It’s a move that “comes as a surprise” to Kristi Sawert, the president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and a member of working group that spent months studying the planned expansion and renovation of the Career Center.

Eventually, the school system plans to build room for another 1,050 high schoolers at the facility. But the process of doing so has been a thorny one, with Sawert and other local parents pressing the school system to add a full suite of amenities at the site to make it equivalent to the county’s other comprehensive high schools.

Still, Sawert says that the need to take up the library space for the new students was “never mentioned” during the working group’s deliberations, some of which included the library’s future. The group suggested that the county could ultimately buy up some properties near the Career Center and use that land for a stand-alone library.

“We were told repeatedly during the [working group’s meetings] that internal modifications to the Career Center would accommodate the incoming class of 150 students,” Sawert wrote in an email to concerned neighbors she provided to ARLnow.

Roughly nine years ago, the county kicked off a firestorm of controversy when it proposed shuttering the Pike library and moving its offerings to the Arlington Mill Community Center. The branch has been located at the facility since moving there in 1975.

While moving students into the library space (and the changes to the animal science program) may end up ruffling a few feathers, Chung chose to paint the impending changes as indicative of the demand for the center’s programs.

“We are so pleased to see the excitement and interest in our programs, and it is extremely rewarding to know that more and more students and families want to be part of the opportunities that our programs provide,” she wrote.

Photo 2 via @APS_AnimalSci

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As the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history continues without an end in sight, Arlington officials are continuing to offer help to federal government workers missing out on paychecks.

Two events scheduled for later this week are meant to reduce financial burdens facing furloughed workers.

The Arlington Public Library system plans to host a workshop on Thursday (Jan. 17) to help furloughed federal employees with their budgets and access county resources.

Entitled “Finding Help During Difficult Financial Times,” the workshop will provide how-to’s on the following:

After the presentation, Latrice Robinson, a financial coach and contractor who is a part of the CFPB Financial Coaching Program, will be on hand to answer any questions, along with AFAC Client Services Manager Lily Duran and outreach staff from the Public Assistance Division in DHS.

The workshop will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium in the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

Arlington Public Schools also announced today (Tuesday) that it will hold a job fair on Friday (Jan. 18) for federal employees interested in substitute teaching.

The job fair will run from noon to 4 p.m. at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd). Participants should bring two forms of identification to the job fair and are encouraged to submit their application beforehand.

File photo

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