photo by Karen Gavis
Downtown Arlington’s new $30 million library debuted earlier this month creating a flurry of activity as parents arrived with children in tow.
“Welcome to your new library,” a volunteer greeted visitors entering the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library when it opened June 16.
The long-awaited, three-story gem houses a children’s collection on the first floor near a colorful Discover Wall and features an ultra-modern, open concept with gaming areas and lots of seating choices across all levels.
“I hope I never see a bee,” a young woman read to a crowd of children seated on the floor.
“I am a bee,” says her associate.
“Well, you aren’t big, and you don’t have long teeth and sharp claws,” she continued.
In other areas of the 80,000 square foot facility, children were carrying balloons, awing over Disney’s Elsa, having a foot race with Spiderman and exploring.
Arlington resident Debbie Shuping, who was there with her family, browsed a selection of magazines. Shuping says her favorite part of the library is the second floor because of all the hands-on, creative opportunities there. Along with young adult books and audio visuals, there’s a 3-D printer, sewing machines and rooms for tinkering.
“Everything I’ve seen is over the top,” she says, adding that her family can’t wait to return.
Up a grand stairway, which is faintly reminiscent of the old Central library with a modern twist, is the third floor which seems to hold the bulk of the collection including genealogy material. And next to a large meeting room for the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, which provided a multi-million dollar grant for the facility, is an outdoor garden overlooking Downtown Arlington’s fresh façade.
“The project received a $4.1 million grant from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and a $1.3 million contribution from the Parks gas well fund,” says city spokeswoman Susan Schrock.
The former George W. Hawkes Central Library closed in 2014, and while the new library is somewhat overdue timewise, according to Schrock the cost of the project is currently within its allotted budget of nearly $32 million.
Computers and technology abound at the new facility along with encouraging words like excellence, curiosity and resilience. A sign near the first floor exit also warns patrons they’re in a kindness zone.
“This new, state-of-the-art library houses a collection of approximately 200,000 print and electronic items and provides spaces for users of all ages,” says the city’s website.
The George W. Hawkes Downtown Library is located at 100 S. Center Street.