Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Library is experimenting with a new, faster check-out system for popular books in a bid to reduce wait times.

Starting this week, patrons will be able to snag some of the system’s most sought-after books from a “Grab and Go” display near their library’s main circulation desk. These displays will host extra copies of popular books at each library, which patrons can check out with no holds.

“Arlington Public Library routinely sees several titles receive over 500 holds in a given year and in any given month we see 30 titles with over a hundred holds. The Library considers 100 holds as the minimum indicator for a high in demand book,” said APL’s chief materials manager Peter Petruski.

“The new Grab & Go collection increases access to bestselling books and alleviates wait times, but it’s still just scratching the surface of meeting the demand for books in Arlington,” he said.

Digital and print books checked out through the new program cannot be renewed — and thus are not subject to APL’s new automatic renewal policy. Each item can be checked out for a maximum two weeks, and patrons can only check out two of the e-books at a time.

The most popular book right now is “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, with 495 print holds, 585 e-books holds, and 257 e-audiobook holds. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama also has 97 print holds, 481 ebook holds, and 508 e-audiobook holds.

Library Director Diane Kresh told ARLnow that the Grab and Go project was an “ongoing initiative” that started with multiple copies of 18 print books and 132 digital titles. Staff plans to grow the collection by targeting the items with the most holds and longest wait times.

“Our book collections team adds ‘hot’ new titles as they become available and demand increases,” she said. “We already see a great success with 66% of print and 100% of the eCollection being checked out.”

APL pitched the project earlier this year when requesting a $300,000 collection budget bump after the county previously slashed library funding, causing the library system to cut its digital checkout system Hoopla.

As of today (Tuesday) all of the Grab and Go e-books and e-audiobooks were checked out, according to APL’s online system Overdrive. Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist said when digital title are available, they will be advertised on the top of the web page or app.

Data via Arlington Public Library

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Arlington Public Library could create more pop-up libraries after receiving warm reviews and lots of visits at its Ballston experiment last month.

Officials said a total of 2,700 people stopped by the space inside the Ballston Quarter mall (4238 Wilson Blvd) while the pop-up was open over the course of the month, with some visiting more than once.

Patrons who visited the pop-up in July could check out and return books, and explore an interactive book nook with adjustable lights, sounds, and color.

Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist didn’t have data on how many used the interactive space, but did give “overwhelmingly” positive feedback about the pop-up in general.

“Patrons were impressed with the new and diverse collection of titles we had available for checkout, made LOTS of suggestions for where else we should do a pop-up and were thrilled to be able to drop off their returns right in the mall,” he said.

The library also signed 80 Arlington residents up for library cards at the pop-up — a number Sundqvist said was high considering summer is the slow season and the little library was not open weekends.

He added that the mall provided the space for free. The library paid under $10,000 to fund equipment and staffing from its existing operating budget — not the collection budget which officials asked to increase after funding cuts last year.

This is the county’s second pop-up library after “Connection Crystal City” opened two years ago — and officials extended its opening through 2019. Sundqvist said comparing the two is difficult, however, because Connection is a full-service library while the Ballston pop-up was designed to generate awareness of the library and its various programs for newcomers in the area.

When asked if the Ballston experience has spurred future pop-ups, Sundqvist didn’t rule it out but that nothing is planned yet.

“The library will continue to experiment with low-cost pop-ups if given the right opportunity,” he said. “It’s a great way to engage the local community, reach new residents who might not be aware of what the library has to offer and to partner with local businesses and civic organizations. Our goal is to connect people with ideas and to create space for reading and culture.”

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Arlington Public Library is extending the hours for its makerspace after staff say hundreds attended its grand opening.

The makerspace, located at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) first opened in April, but staff celebrated the opening this past Saturday (July 20), with tours and workshops of the space, dubbeds The Shop. Over 500 people came out for the event, according to Maker Librarian Katelyn Attanasio.

Now the APL is expanding The Shop’s opening hours from fours hour a day — Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays–  to five hours each day.

Many of the workshops for the space are already “booked through October,” said Attanasio. She added that the DIY drywall repair workshop seemed to be especially well received.

Yesterday, the makerspace displayed little Groot figurines that had been made with the Shop’s 3D printer.

The Shop allows patrons to use a variety of equipment, from woodworking tools, circuit parts, Wacom tablets, 3D printers, and Cameo cutters, among others. Attanasio told ARLnow she hopes people realize there is even more to the space, like opportunities for patrons to come in and digitize home movies and tapes.

“This is your library,” said Attanasio. “We don’t just have fancy tech.”

She said the library is looking for feedback from patrons on the space, including its workshops and equipment.

The new hours for the makerspace are:

  • Monday: 2-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 2-7 p.m.
  • Thursday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Friday: Closed
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sunday: Closed
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Arlington Public Library has opened its new pop-up library in the Ballston Quarter mall.

The library partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District to create the mini lending library, which opened earlier this month on the mall’s first floor, above the Quarter Market food hall. Located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, the mall is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and on Fridays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., until Friday, August 2.

The Ballston pop-up features a reading nook called “Alterspace” where users can control lighting, sound effects and color. The technology behind it was developed by Harvard University’s metaLAB and is being shared outside Massachusetts for the first time.

Ballston Quarter’s website says the Alterspace reading nook is “the ideal environment for meditating, reading, collaborating, playing, or whatever activity brings you here!” The space also includes a mobile charging station for phones and tablets.

This is the library system’s second pop-up, following a successful experimental pop-up in Crystal City.

“Although the Ballston Quarter Pop-up Library is only a short walk from Central Library, we are encountering so many people who aren’t aware of the library and its resources,” said library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist.

“Meeting our community where they are — in the mall during their lunch breaks, after school, or during their evening commute — gives us an opportunity to connect new users with library materials, services, and resources, which they may not know are available to them,” he said.

At least one librarian will be on-site in the space during operating hours to help patrons with check outs and new library cards.

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Arlington Public Library is piloting an automatic book renewal system.

Starting Monday, libraries in Arlington will begin renewing checked-out books without patrons needing to renew them online or in person.

“We want patrons to enjoy their reading and leisure time and not worry about overdue items,” library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow.

The program will only be for print books — not e-books. Automatic renewals won’t kick in if another patron places a hold on the book.

“At Arlington Public Library, we constantly seek to improve customer experiences by providing easy-to-use services and resources, said the system’s head of Materials and Technology Management, Peter Petruski.

APL is also increasing the overall renewal limit on items to three renewals.

Libraries across the country are testing automatic renewals as a way to reduce the fines patrons incur. Sundqvist said now that the library’s technology makes it possible, APL wanted to test the idea as well in Arlington.

Sundqvist said the library system will be keeping a close eye on the program over the summer and welcomes patrons’ feedback.

“We understand that our community is busy and we want to make using the library easy,” he said.

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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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