The George W. Hawkes Central Library located in Downtown Arlington is the heart of the City’s seven-branch library system, providing over 200,000 books and audiovisual material, programming for all ages, over 80 public computers, research expertise and reference support. The current facility turned 40 years old this year and suffers from a number of plumbing, electrical and mechanical concerns, as well as accessibility and environmental issues that cannot be easily corrected. Over the last four years, library and city staff have been studying options for remodeling or building a new facility.City Council members are awaiting the details of a capital financing plan that would pay for a shared City Hall/Library campus featuring a park/plaza area for visitors to enjoy. The campus, which is still in the planning stages, would include a new 80,000 square foot library and a 6,500 square foot shared meeting space designed to serve as City Council Chambers and for library programming.The new library will reflect the input of internal and community stakeholders who participated in visioning study conducted from 2009 through 2011 which included stakeholder interviews and focus groups, public surveys, public meetings as well as email and social media communication. This study recommended the following important components that citizens wanted to see in a new Central Library facility:
- An Interactive Center of Learning for Children will be the centerpiece of the new library. Programming will focus on preparing “Arlington’s children for success in school.”
- Teens will be able to enjoy a Real World Laboratory offering programming that will prepare them for college or the workforce.
- A Center for Literacy and Workforce Development will ensure that adults and families have access to learning resources that lead to economic self-sufficiency and fulfillment of personal goals
- Resources for local history and culture will ensure that Arlington citizens have access to information about where we’ve been and can appreciate Arlington’s cultural diversity
The campus would become a civic icon that embodies Arlington’s commitment to the future. It will serve the community’s needs for literacy, information and knowledge in the 21st century. Library Director Cary Siegfried wants the new facility to serve as a catalyst for meeting, learning and gathering so residents can remain connected and engaged in the community.”Investing in library resources is one of the most important statements a city can make to demonstrate the importance of education for all of its residents, young and old, said Cary Siegfried, Director of Arlington Public Library. “While some people may feel that libraries are no longer relevant in the 21st century, a visit to any of our libraries here in Arlington will demonstrate that libraries are needed more than ever today. But our prime focus is no longer on providing facilities filled with books; instead, libraries are centers where people can come to learn about new technologies, improve their career skills, learn a new skill or hobby, meet a study group, research a new business idea OR to simply find a good book!”The estimated cost for the library design and construction is $20.5 million. The shared meeting space and park would cost an estimated $3 million, with the furniture, fixtures and equipment costing around $3.1 million. This project is still pending approval by the Arlington City Council.