- The new Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library branch has been open for a week. (Photo: TBD Staff)
The design of the brand new Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Library branch has gotten a lot of glowing write-ups since it debuted on Aug. 2., but if public libraries should be judged on a more utilitarian scale — how many residents they actually serve — how does Shaw's gleaming new glass triangle stack up?
Pretty well, according to DCPL officials. Between Aug. 2 and Aug. 7 alone, the new Shaw library issued 374 new library cards and saw 3,160 books, CDs, and DVDs checked out. As a point of comparison, during the same month last year at the interim Shaw library, which operated out of a trailer for two and half years behind the old Shaw Junior High, an average of only about 70 new library cards were issued and 1,200 books, CDs and DVDs checked out each week.
"We've been doing gangbusters business," says branch manager Eric Riley. "It's very different from the interim library."
Of course, the completed new branch offers more than double the amount of material than the old trailer, with a launch collection 40,000-strong and the capacity to double that number as the library gets on its feet. The interim library only had room for about 20,000 titles, according to DCPL.
While Riley is pleased to be able to serve so many more residents than he could at the old interim space, he's even more excited to see that the larger collection is allowing his team to do a lot more of the kinds of things librarians are actually trained to do — help people track down information.
"People are coming in to do actual research," says Riley, who notes that his staff at the adult reference desk have been surprisingly busy during this first week. "The interim library had kind of a popular collection. It wasn't really retrospective or comprehensive in any manner. But now, we have a much deeper collection, we've got a huge body of African American history, the history of this neighborhood."
Riley says the facility's drop-in study rooms are also getting a lot of use already, though the building's two larger meeting rooms, which can be reserved in advance for community events, have yet to be used. The online reservation system that DCPL uses for meeting rooms still needs to add the new Shaw branch, but Riley's optimistic that will be resolved in the next week or so. In the meantime, residents may reserve meeting rooms at the library either in person or by calling 202-727-1288.