Community members joined the Petworth Library staff on Saturday, for an afternoon of face painting, architecture tours and energetic African entertainment.
Located at 4200 Kansas Ave. N.W., the library held an open house welcoming neighbors to see what it has to offer after a $12.4 million renovation. Amenities include more than 40,000 books, the District’s largest children book collections, 40 computers with free Wi-Fi and a 100-person community room.
Mayor Vincent Gray and local and federal officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 28. Gray said that public libraries have a role in workforce development in the District.
“Reducing unemployment in the District requires residents to have the training and the educational requirements that employers seek,” Gray said in a D.C. Public Library news release. “For many in the District, neighborhood libraries are the best locations to develop the skills needed to be more marketable candidates.”
Librarian Jamila Felton, a Prince George’s County resident, expressed how joyful the community is about the library’s transformation.
“There is more public space and opportunities for the public to have meetings, study, our collections,” Felton said. “There is also more room for programming for children’s story time, teens and adults.”
Emilie Lamb,a Librarian at Petworth, also said that the space is beneficial to the community by allowing residents to gather in the community, conference and study rooms.
“It gives everyone in the neighborhood a place that they can congregate,” said the Ward 5 resident, “and being able to meet your neighbors in ways that you can’t where there is not a place to gather.”
Bill Petros, who describes himself as being “D.C. to the core,” thinks that the re-opening will bring positivity in the neighborhood.
“It gives folks that live in this area a sense of local and city officials really caring about community and that they are willing to push forward with the renovation of the libraries,” Petros said. “It’s a very important part of the community.”
Franck & Lohsen Architects Inc. was hired to renovate the library, which was built in 1939.
“I was struck by the architecture,” Petros said, “the beautiful wood paneling and the mixture of old and new, contemporary and traditional.”
“[Franck & Lohsen] really maintained and respected the dignity of the building while modernizing it for the 21st century,” Lamb said.
The library is also reconstructed to be environmentally friendly. It features energy-efficient heating and cooling system, light fixtures and controls, natural linoleum and cork flooring, and water-efficient plumbing.
The library also anticipates receiving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.
When asked if the reopening of the library will encourage patrons to engage in the traditional way of checking out books, audio and video, Petros said it’s a lot easier.
“The technology has made it easier to access,” said Petros, who recalled the days when patrons used index files to look for books alphabetically. He said that he enjoys both the traditional and new ways of reading and staying abreast on current events.
“The traditional way is no longer the common way of doing things,” Petros said. “[However], we should learn to balance our lives and allow the new technology to come into our lives but at the same time, feel free to hold on to doing things traditionally.”
Norman Kelley, also a Ward 3 resident, was using the laptop space and says that he is now able to come to a place where it’s clean, updated and has numerous books. Though the library is short walk away from his home, he discussed a downfall of the modernized library.
“Once upon a time, it was conducive to reading and light conversation,” Kelley said. Now, with technology, people are constantly clacking, pulling out their cell phones and engage [in conversations] and things of that nature.”
“Librarians no longer reinforce being quiet,” Kelley said, ” You almost don’t hear ‘shh…’ anymore.”
For a list of programs and events at Petworth Library, visit www.dclibrary.org.