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Tenley-Friendship Library ready for the stroller onslaught

January 20, 2011 - 04:04 PM
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The public areas of the library are surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls that let in a lot of light. But the harshest light is blocked by the panels on the outside.8 Photos
The public areas of the library are surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls that let in a lot of light. But the harshest light is blocked by the panels on the outside. (Photo: Samuel Corum/TBD | Date: Jan. 20, 2011)

Moms and dads of upper northwest D.C.: brace yourselves for the librarygasm.

The latest in a string of modernized D.C. Public Library branches opens Monday in Tenleytown, and from the looks of the new facility, it promises to be one of the busiest in the system. Located directly across the street from a Metro station and a dense shopping center, the Tenley-Friendship Library shares many of the same characteristics as the Shaw, Anacostia, and Benning branches that came before it. There's the "quick-grab" area near the front with new releases and DVDs, the high ceilings and emphasis on capturing natural light through the heavy use of glass, the gleaming iMac computers reserved especially for teens. (Architects The Freelon Group were in fact also behind the new Anacostia branch.)

But as Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper explains as she walks through the first floor of the just completed building, the Tenley-Friendship branch was designed with a particular constituency in mind: parents with small kids. The children's collection and the main story time room are located entirely on the first floor, and there's even a wide hall near the back that will be kept free of furniture and books for the sole purpose of serving as stroller parking.

Stroller access "was the thing we heard about most frequently at the community meetings," Cooper says.

Adults and teens have their dedicated areas of the library, too, up on the light-filled second floor. There, the building's most visible design characteristic, rows of orange metal "fins" that line the exterior, serve both to allow a maximum amount of natural light and to direct that light in a way that prevents glare. Comfortable reading chairs at either end offer a chance for people watching along Wisconsin Avenue.

The roughly $16 million facility (which includes close to $1 million just for additional structural supports in case the city ever decides to go forward with its hotly debated plan to build a residential tower over the top of the library) also features: four reservable study rooms, two conference rooms, a larger 100-person meeting room, 32 computers, and space for a collection up to 80,000 titles (on opening day, that figure will be between 55,000 and 60,000).

The Tenley-Friendship Library, located at 4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW, opens Monday, Jan. 24. DCPL will host a grand opening party on Saturday, Feb. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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