Community Spotlight: Georgetown library
By August 9, 2017 0 659•
It was 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 3. A severe thunderstorm had just ended. As the proverbial mystery novel opening goes — “On a dark and stormy night …” — the Georgetown library was cozy and full of people.
A poetry reading and discussion with some 30 participants was taking place in one of the two main-floor reading rooms, the one filled with thousands of novels — including many mysteries. In the second, readers settled comfortably in the leather chairs while others worked at their laptops at the heavy, dark-wood tables with embedded electrical outlets, taking advantage of the free high-speed WiFi. They were surrounded by shelves of new nonfiction, audiobooks and scores of the latest popular magazines.
Upstairs, adults from millennials to seniors, plus a few high school students, bent busily over the two dozen computers available free of charge. Downstairs, the children’s librarian was tidying up for the next morning’s onslaught of babies, toddlers and schoolchildren. The colorful room has a multitude of books, displays and computers, all overseen by giant stuffed animals perched on top of the shelves.
The Georgetown Public Library is well-stocked, well-staffed and, at the moment, well-funded, according to Library Manager Lucy Thrasher. “We have strong city support for the systemwide activities and enough extra support from the Friends to do the special projects we want just for the Georgetown branch. Even extra staff has been added for the next three years, due to the closure of D.C.’s main library for total renovation.”
Because of that, the Georgetown Library is now open seven days a week (it used to be closed Sunday and Monday). There are extended hours Monday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Currently, daily life at the library revolves around the summer reading program established at all 26 branch libraries. The Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge encourages readers to explore books, resources and library services. Prizes such as coupons to popular eateries or tickets to Nationals games can be earned.
But there are many “beyond the book” activities that bring people to the library.
“Our most popular Georgetown summer program is the Sing, Talk & Read program for children from birth to eight years old. You have to come some mornings to see all the excited children coming to our Toddler Art & Stories programs or Pajama Story Time or Baby Lap Time, Song and Dance and Preschool Story Time,” said Thrasher.
Summer activities for school-age children include Lego challenge afternoons, an adventure film series and a young filmmakers workshop and showcase. There are also special events like the Aug. 2 Reptile Live show-and-tell that featured an albino boa constrictor, among other snakes and lizards.
The increasing number of children in Georgetown is one of the biggest changes Thrasher has seen in her 20-some years as a librarian in the Georgetown area.
Many activities are offered year-round. For adults, there are Monday movie matinees and monthly Book Hill Talks by a variety of experts. There are numerous book clubs (including one for millennials that meets offsite), a Poets on the Fringe group, short-fiction writing workshops and an English conversation circle for ESL learners.
“But guess what the most popular new yearlong program is?” laughed Thrasher. “Yoga!” The morning Finding Your Missing Peace yoga classes are increasingly full. A tai chi health lab has now been added.
Libraries as Community Centers
Georgetown’s library is experiencing the wave of popularity seen by libraries across the country as they increasingly become community centers. While the D.C. library system’s number-one goal is to “support new readers and cultivate a love of reading,” according to the May 2017 strategic plan, another top priority is to ensure neighborhood libraries are vital centers of community learning and engagement … positioned to respond to their changing needs.”
At the base of these goals is a total embrace of the digital age. Every aspect of the system has been digitized. The number-two goal in the strategic plan is to “ensure residents have the skills to navigate an increasingly digital world.”
“You don’t even have to come to the library to benefit,” Thrasher exclaimed. “One of our most valuable services is access to a multitude of databases with information about anything you ever want to know. They all are accessible for free on your home computer just by entering your library card number.”
As for the “silence, please” policy in the library, that too has changed. “In some rooms, quiet is requested,” said Thrasher. “But in the children’s section not so much.”
Georgetown Public Library
3260 R St. NW
Washington, DC 20007
Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m.
Monday to Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Beginning May 8, 2017, Special Collections will be available at this location by appointment as part of MLK Library Interim Services.