Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

Saturday’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Woodrow Wilson Library in Culmore had an international flavor, from the Vietnamese-American Girl Scouts staffing the arts and crafts table to the Colombian folk dancers performing in the community room. This was not a day for silence in the library. Everyone was there to celebrate!

The Woodrow Wilson Library branch was established in 1967, in a storefront in Bailey’s Crossroads. In those days, the community had to demonstrate support for a library before the county would agree to take it over. Lucille Huddleston, the original “friend” of the library, regaled the crowd with her story of trying to raise $7500 for the library. It came in $5 contributions, she said, and one shopping center owner said he would donate the last $500, never imagining that she really would raise the other $7000. He was very surprised when she showed up to collect the final $500.

From that first storefront location, Woodrow Wilson Library has grown to become a community center in Bailey’s Crossroads, serving thousands of patrons yearly. Last year alone, the library welcomed more than 177,000 visitors and checked out books more than 157,000 times. The library serves a diverse community, offering more than 3000 books each in Spanish and in Vietnamese. The staff at “Woodrow” reflects the diversity of the community it serves. Among the 12 languages spoken by employees are Amharic, Arabic, Tagalog, Urdu, Spanish and Vietnamese. Several former branch managers gathered for the celebration, including Jan Prasher, Liz Promen, Kay Rzasa, and Linda Schlekau. Emcee for the event was the new branch manager, Sheila Janega.

The entertainment was spectacular. Mariachi Los Amigos, led by Mason District Dan Sheehy, performed on the stage in the parking lot. Inside, a Chinese lion dance captivated visitors in the main reading area. There was standing room only as barefooted Colombian dancers in white gowns and headdresses reminiscent of bridal attire danced to the throbbing beat of African drums. The group’s announcer noted that many traditional folk dances incorporate the influence of African tribal music from colonial days. 

When you drop by the library at 6101 Knollwood Drive (at the corner of Glen Carlyn Drive), be sure to check out the display cases in the entryway. Old photographs and mementos of the original library will delight the visitor. At the circulation desk, you can glimpse into the future and use the self-checkout feature for your books. No more waiting in line!

While on the subject of books, children’s librarian Kay Karim has just published the “Iraqi Family Cookbook: From Mosul to America.” Kay grew up in Mosul and Baghdad, and learned to cook from her mother, a teacher and master cook. Kay’s cookbook is filled with color photos of food and family, along with pithy sayings about life, in Arabic and English. For more information about the cookbook, contact Kay Karim at iraqicookbook@aol.com.

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