The Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library is 30 years old, and it’s time for surgery. The library will close January 31, 2016 for about 18 months to undergo major renovation, says Mary Mulrenan, marketing director for Fairfax County libraries.
Temporary facilities will open nearby in an office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike which has plenty of free parking, and is across the street from George C. Marshall High School. Last Saturday at the library’s 30th anniversary celebration, several library users were unaware of the planned closure.
“Oh no,” exclaimed Ana Palomo, a junior at George C. Marshall High, when told the news. She sat with friends, Katelyn V. Crespo and Emily Argueta, at a table with small paper plates containing leftover refreshments which mingled with their books and laptops.
The trio often meets at the library after school and Saturday school where they go for tutorial help. “What are we going to do?” Palomo asked. “How long is 18 months?” If plans go right, she’ll be a Marshall graduate by the time the new library opens.
With help from Palomo and Crespo, Argueta chose her words carefully: “We like to come here because it’s quiet and a peaceful environment where we can come to study when school resources are not available.”
They mentioned the serenity and comfort of the adjacent park, seen from the library’s big windows.
Last Saturday, the Friends of the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library hosted a birthday party for the library and gave out free bags “Happy 30th Anniversary Tysons Library 1985-2915” and magnets, “I [heart] my library.”
Standing behind tables laden with chocolate and vanilla cake, brownies, cookies, fresh veggies and fruit slices with dip, raspberry punch, apple cider, and other beverages, were Friends’ volunteers Daniella Nedyalkova and Janelle Blanchard.
John Ball, the Friends’ president, said there are constant money problems for Fairfax County libraries. Reference books are being removed from shelves since so much information is on the Internet.
He and Mary Vavrina, the Friends’ vice-president, praised Fairfax County Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth who “has saved” a lot of books from the dump. “We love her,” Ball said, but books are still being trashed every day. “A copious amount I can show you,” he said.
Make way for ebooks.
Ebooks are a hot topic at libraries these days although recent news says their popularity is declining.
Said Ball: “They think they have to make room for them. Ebooks are very costly.”
At library rates Ball said a hardback book costs about $20 and is checked out between 80 and 100 times, but an ebook costs $80 for 25 checkouts.
Although they require less shelf space than books, “it’s not worth re-doing libraries for ebooks.”
About 30 persons are active members of Friends of Tysons-Pimmit Library, but their efforts seem triple that. “We could always use more members,” said Vavrina.
The Friends are called upon for funding many programs at the library. “The county pays nothing,” said one volunteer more than once.
The Friends paid $5,000 for the summer reading program, and they buy goodies for celebrations and host luncheons for volunteers. Their funding comes primarily from bi-monthly book sales.
While she listened to live music performed by the band, “No Charge” in a separate room, Alicia Korker, the assistant branch manager, described the anniversary party as “a fun event that we hope our community really enjoys.” Korker just celebrated her own library anniversary, her tenth, with Fairfax County.
Chiharu Abdin brings her sons, Ali, 5, and Malek, 9, both students at Shrevewood Elementary School, to the library about once a month.
“It’s close and special people work here who are very kind and helpful,” Abdin said. “They have my favorite books,” said Malek, which includes “The Magic Shop” series, and Ali proudly pulled out of his bag a “Where’s Waldo.”
Seth Chung, 11, and his brother, Shaun, 9, were at the library with their dad, Sang, who has lived in the area for decades and said he can remembers when the Tysons early library branch was in the PeachTree Apartments next door. They were unaware the library is temporarily closing.
“The library is close by and has everything we think we need. We read a lot, and the kids like to come.”
Nabilah Haque was a visitor from Loudoun County who was at the library for a meeting and waited to hear the music. She occasionally visits the Tysons branch but more often uses the libraries in Reston and Herndon.
The Tysons’ computers which have bigger screens than her laptop make her job search for a mechanical engineering position easier, she said.
Haque finds the library’s career and parenting resources helpful, and her teenage son likes the ebooks.
Leaving the library empty-handed since they have 50 library books at home were Wondwossen Bekel and his children, Hasset, 8, and Heman, 6. They visit the library about three times a week and his wife comes to study, Wondwossen said.
They carried no books since they already had 50 at home checked out, Wondwossen said.
Hasset had saved the last piece of cake for her brother.
Also outside on the pretty day was Joyce Migdall of Falls Church, collecting signatures to get Bernie Sanders’ name on the upcoming Virginia presidential primary ballot.
The Tysons library “is big. It’s a nice library. It’s friendly.” She was unaware the library is closing: “How can they do that?”
Spokesperson Mulreman said designs for the Tysons makeover have not been released. During a major library renovation, staff is never laid off, and she laughed at the ridiculous suggestion: “There is always plenty of work to do.”
She expressed gratitude to Fairfax County voters who approved a bond referendum for library renovations. Tax dollars are not used for library improvements.