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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County Board Signals Support for Library Collections Budget Increase

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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APS Moving Trailers to Career Center, Could Take Over Columbia Pike Library As Enrollment Swells

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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County Plans Two New Events to Lend a Hand to Furloughed Workers

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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Morning Notes

In Planning: New Rail and Pedestrian Bridges — “The only solution, they say, is to add two tracks and create a four-track crossing over the Potomac to handle more commuter and intercity rail service as well as expected increases in freight transportation over the next decades… A stand-alone bike and pedestrian bridge would be built upstream from the new rail bridge, allowing people to walk or bike across the Potomac.” [Washington Post]

Metro Stations Getting Brighter — “A boost in lumens looms for three Arlington Metrorail stations next month.” [WMATA, Twitter]

School Libraries to Buy New Print Material — “Officials with the school system’s libraries say they are working to ensure that, by the end of the school year, the average age of materials in their print collections is no more than 10 years old.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool by John Sonderman

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Westover Exhibit Explores 40 Years of Change in Arlington’s Neighborhoods

Arlingtonians can get a glimpse into the past with a photo exhibit currently on display at Westover Branch Library.

The historic photo montage documents houses and buildings in Arlington before their demolition and the structures that replaced them, spanning 40 years. The photos are showcased in window frames preserved from the demolished houses depicted.

The “Windows to the Past: Arlington, Then and Now” exhibit by Tom Dickinson will be on display until Jan. 5 at 1644 N. McKinley Road, Suite 3.

Dickinson, a historian, photographer and historic preservation advocate, told ARLnow that his exhibit combines his passion for photography and historic preservation.

When he moved to Arlington in 1978, he said he was shocked by the constant demolition of older homes and commercial buildings, so he’s been snapping and collecting pictures of houses fated for demolition and then what replaced them.

Dickinson said he finds out about the houses from online archives of demolition permits that developers have to apply for, word-of-mouth and his own observations. One indicator he looks for is a dangling power line, which has to get cut from the telephone pole before a demolition.

The exhibit, which is funded by the Arlington Arts Grant Program, includes photos of Lustron prefabricated enameled steel houses which were developed after World War II, and Certigrade homes, which are made from cedar wood. The original houses in the “before” pictures were built between the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Dickinson got permission from the developers to salvage windows from the houses. His appreciation for the craftsmanship of windows began after he took a workshop on window construction about 15 years ago.

“These are the windows through which who knows how many thousands of eyes peered out through this glass to the world around them, and the light that illuminated their lives came in,” he said. “It’s the last sort of symbolic artifact from these houses.”

While Dickinson acknowledges that some people see new developments as a progress, Dickinson has a “two-prong lament for the loss of affordable housing and of historic structures.”

Some houses in Arlington are better off torn down, he said. “A lot of these places that were torn down were houses that were not distinguished in any way, just average and inexpensive [ones] that served their purpose and came to the end of their life,” he said. “But still that comes with a cost, environmentally, in terms of the energy for demolition, transporting debris and filling up landfill space. There’s an environmental penalty.”

Dickinson insists that the greenest houses are the ones that are already built.

On the heels of Amazon’s announcement that it will set up its second headquarters in Crystal City, Dickinson said he expects to see fewer “less expensive” houses as housing demand skyrockets, along with increasing congestion on the highways and Metro. “It’s the Manhattanization of Arlington.”

Dickinson isn’t holding his breath for Arlington County to put the brakes on developments. “They’re going to do everything they need to do to make Amazon happy and help them find housing for people,” he said.

“This change is inevitable — it’s going to happen for good or for bad,” Dickinson said, adding that in 40 years from now, he expects Arlington to look completely different from its appearance today.

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Roll for Initiative at Arlington Public Library’s Tabletop Gaming Day

Break out the dice; it’s board game convention time at the Arlington Public Library.

Demand for the library’s board game collection has led the library to host Tabletop Gaming Day on Nov. 4 at the Arlington Central Library. The board game extravaganza will run from 1-5 p.m.

All ages and experience levels are welcome to Board Game Day. For those who may be new to certain games, staff and volunteers will be ready to help teach the rules. Those with their own board games are welcome to bring them.

Attendees can also join into a raffle to win board games Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 and Codenames: Disney Family Edition donated by ThinkGeek.

The event is free, without any registration required.

Photo via Arlington Public Library

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Arlington Public Library Helps Rebuild a Puerto Rico Library

One year after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the Friends of the Arlington Public Library is donating $5,369 to help rebuild a damaged library on the island.

The Águedo Mojica Marrero Library at the University of Puerto Rico is still in rough shape, located in one of the hardest hit areas on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. The building and the collections inside were both damaged by the storm.

According to Henrik Sundqvist, communications officer the Arlington Public Library, the Friends of the Arlington Public Library donates $1 to a charitable organization for each person who completes the summer reading program. This year, a total of $5,354 Arlingtonians completed the program, 700 more than last year, with an additional $15.17 from unsolicited cash donations from Arlington kids.

Additionally, the library will be hosting a free panel discussion about Puerto Rico, moderated by Michelle Fernandez, a librarian and University of Puerto Rico graduate.

The event will be held next Thursday (Sept. 20) from 7-9 p.m. in the Central Library (1015 North Quincy Street).

Photos contributed by Friends of the Arlington Public Library

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‘X’ Marks the Spot for Arlington Public Library’s New Logo

Arlington Public Library has unveiled a new lineup of fall activities, along with a new tagline and a controversial new logo.

A series of lectures throughout the fall include talks from a variety of authors. Events throughout September, which is National Hispanic Heritage Month, include classes, activities, and movies focusing on the history and culture of Hispanic and Latino Americans.

Finally, during “Banned Book Week” at the end of September, the library will host activities spotlighting books that have been challenged in schools, bookstores and libraries.

“Books are change agents,” said Director of Arlington Public Library Diane Kresh on the library website. “They challenge our beliefs and biases, help us learn to think for ourselves, and expose us to different experiences and cultures. I encourage you to commit to reading at least one challenged book this fall.”

All of these events tie in with the library system’s new tagline: “Everyone Has a Story.” Kresh said the tagline highlights the commitment to inclusion and diverse points of view.

But it’s the logo that has people talking. The logo, seen above, is a neon green book with a white ‘X’ in the middle. The logo was designed in-house by the library’s communications team.

“The addition of a bold ‘X’ emphasizes the position of the library as the public commons, an educational and cultural destination for tens of thousands of Arlington residents and library patrons,” said Kresh.

Online, some praised the new look, but for many more the intent of the new logo didn’t land. Of the 13 comments on the library website, nearly all of them centered on the logo and few of them were praising it.

“I’m not sure that an sends the message you are promoting,” said one commenter on the library website. “It looks more like it is signaling the end of books. Yes, X marks the spot, but it also means deletion.”

Reception on Twitter was just as divided.

The library will use the logo and tagline as they continue outreach efforts for its community oral history program.

Logo via Arlington Public Library

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Arlington Libraries Abandon Some Digital Offerings to Cut Costs

Arlington’s public library system is rolling back some of its digital offerings as it seeks to cope with deep budget cuts.

Library officials announced Monday (July 16) that patrons soon won’t be able to access both Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ Netadvantage, an investment research tool, and Hoopla, a system for streaming music or audiobooks. Both services were previously available free of charge for library users.

This move comes after the library system spent the last few weeks collecting feedback on what services patrons value, in order to prepare for the loss of $250,000 in funding that took effect with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Library officials say they received more than 19,500 responses to that survey, which helped inform these cuts.

“Cutting these online services was not an easy decision,” Library Director Diane Kresh wrote in a blog post. “As the recent survey demonstrated, all of our collections are used and valued by members of our community.”

However, Kresh noted that the library does still give users access to Morningstar and Valueline, a pair of services similar to Netadvantage.

She called the loss of Hoopla “regrettable,” as the library doesn’t offer any similar streaming music service. But the county does offer several other downloadable audiobook subscriptions for patrons.

“I am so disappointed to hear you are cutting Hoopla,” Christine Lewicki wrote in a comment on the post. “My daughter and I use its audiobook collection several times a week. The beauty of Hoopla is there is no wait list… Because my daughter has a Milan dyslexia, she is a reluctant reader. Consequently, access to digital audiobooks through Hoopla has exposed her to far more books than she would have otherwise been.”

These cuts are likely not the last for the library system, considering the loss in funding was the equivalent of 17 percent of its total collection budget. Officials say they will “make further decisions throughout the coming year regarding what to reduce or eliminate entirely,” but they don’t expect to make any cuts to their physical book offerings.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Free Admission at New Observation Deck — The new observation deck in Rosslyn is holding “Arlington County residents day” this weekend. Arlington County residents with valid ID can present it at the Observation Deck at CEB Tower box office for free admission from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. [Observation Deck at CEB Tower]

Stanley Cup to Visit ACPD Today — The Arlington County Police Department is set for a visit from the Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and the Stanley Cup today. [WUSA 9]

Pike May Get New ‘Showplace’ Library — “The current two-story community library in the corridor is tucked away on the Arlington Career Center campus, which is slated for a massive, if currently undefined, redevelopment effort in coming years. A library space is expected to be part of the redevelopment package, but county officials are looking at other options, including a full-frontal signature space facing Columbia Pike itself.” [InsideNova]

Road Closures for 5K Race — Several roads will be closed in and around Pentagon City Saturday morning for the 2018 ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk/Dash for Dads 5K Race. [Arlington County, ZERO]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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Crystal City Pop-Up Library Could Stay Open Through End of 2019

A pop-up library in Crystal City could stay open through the end of 2019, should Arlington officials give the project the green light to continue this weekend.

The County Board is set to vote Saturday (June 16) on a lease extension for “The Connection,” a one-room library located at 2100 Crystal Drive. The county’s public library system opened the small space in the Crystal City Shops in 2016 as a way to expand access to books and select tech equipment, particularly for people who feel cut off by Route 1 from accessing the Aurora Hills library near Pentagon City.

But the library’s lease at the shopping center is currently set to expire at the end of the month, and the county’s budget squeeze means that Arlington Public Library will lose some of the funding it previously set aside to run the pop-up location.

Nevertheless, County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending that the Board approve an extended lease with the Crystal City Shops, through Dec. 31, 2019, and county staff note in a report that the public library system fully expects to continue funding the pop-up library through its own budget.

The matter is set for review as part of the Board’s consent agenda on Saturday, a slate of items typically approved without much debate.

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With Budget Cuts on the Way, Arlington Libraries Looking for Feedback on Services to Save

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Arlington’s public libraries are bracing for impending budget cuts — including a 17 percent cut to its collections budget — and they’re asking for your input on what services staff should protect from those spending slashes.

The county’s public library system is currently running a survey on its website, looking for feedback on “what collections we will provide and maintain” moving forward. The survey will stay open through June 8, and staff wrote that the results will help guide their decision-making on how library services change going forward.

Arlington’s Department of Libraries has a roughly $14.5 million budget in fiscal year 2019, and county budget documents show that the department is set to lose out on $250,000 in one-time funding for library materials in the new budget year. The department is also set to lose one full-time library assistant, as the county grapples with an increasingly tight budget overall.

We’re really just trying to get feedback from the community and hear what they value,” Peter Petruski, the department’s division chief for materials management, told ARLnow.

The survey’s questions say that some library collections — including bestselling books, DVDs and children’s books — will remain unchanged, even with the new budget pressure. However, the survey does ask respondents to rank how much they value some categories of materials that the department could roll back, like online encyclopedias or new CD audiobooks.

The questionnaire also asks participants to rank how much they value online resources county libraries currently offer, such as access to Ancestry.com or ConsumerReports.org, as well as how much they might be interested in services the department is considering offering, but has yet to provide to patrons.

Henrik Sundqvist, a spokesman for the library, added that no decisions have been made yet on what to cut. He added that the library system has already received more than 11,000 responses to the survey.

“It just really speaks to the library department being at the heart of this community,” Sundqvist said.

The department is also set to lose $19,000 in funding to run a “pop-up” library in Crystal City, which opened in 2016. Sundqvist said the County Board has yet to make that change official, or decide what it will mean for the location, and plans to review the matter at its June 16 meeting.

File photo

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Local History Center Unveils New Arlington Women Digital Collection

(Updated 2:35 p.m.) The Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History has unveiled a new digital profile collection of women who influenced Arlington’s development through their “quiet but not silent” persistence.

The collection seeks to bring up the names of those women who “were frequently hidden in the background” but “were nonetheless ground breakers and trailblazers” who fought for better education, libraries, conservation, and health care in a modernizing county.

Focusing on women from 1900-1975, the center is seeking community donations and oral histories of little known facets of Arlington history to add to the their collection.

The center “will follow their journey as it is revealed through [the] archival collections and oral histories” over the next year, according to the collection’s website.

One subject of the in-progress collection is Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, who was responsible for bringing an annual science fair to Arlington Public Schools and was the first APS science supervisor — and the first in Virginia. Dr. Knipling, finding that there were few pristine natural spaces in the fast developing county, took three years to track down an outdoor lab in Fauquier County for her students to experience and work in nature.

Margarite Syphax, a U.S.O. entertainer turned prominent African-American businesswoman and real estate developer, was also featured. The archive entry on her life stated that after World War II, she and her husband had a difficult time finding adequate housing in still segregated Northern Virginia.

The injustice led the couple to eventually form W.T. Syphax Real Estate Company, a property development and construction business focused on minority affordable housing.

Other notable Arlington women in the collection include the members of an interracial, interdenominational women’s group focused on community building and social justice, as well as several groups of women who either founded or contributed to the creation of several Arlington libraries.

Photos via Center for Local History

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Arlington Libraries Scramble for Copies of ‘Fire and Fury’

Arlington Public Library is struggling to keep up with demand for “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s exposé on President Donald Trump’s White House.

With a three-week checkout policy for books, it could take weeks — even months — for patrons to get their hands on a copy.

The #1 Amazon bestseller has 458 holds on 28 copies across the library system as of this afternoon. Nearly 150 people are on the waitlist for 15 audiobook copies and 252 are on the waitlist for 25 eBooks.

But some relief could be on the way. The library has ordered 61 new copies of the book, according to the library catalog website.

By comparison, demand for the #1 New York Times bestseller in fiction, “The Woman in the Window,” is lower. There are 215 holds on 35 copies. The book by A.J. Finn follows the story of heavy drinker who witnesses a crime near her Harlem townhouse.

Wolff’s book — which generated lines at local bookstores upon its Jan. 5 release — has drawn sharp rebuke from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and other Trump administration officials.

“It’s disgraceful and laughable,” she said at a recent press conference.

File photo

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