When I think of really stunning libraries, I tend to think of central branches—places like the Site François-Mitterand, or the NYPL’s Rose Main Reading Room, or even the library that introduced me to really great libraries, the Grand Bibliothèque of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. But then there are the community libraries, the smaller branches that in many systems actually serve the majority of patrons and hold the majority of the circulating collection. Despite their vital role, I think I’ve always thought less of community libraries—assuming that because they are not central branches, they are in a way second-class libraries. Today I saw a library which changed that.
The new Tenley-Friendship branch of the DC Public Library (from which I am writing this post) opened today, and it is a community library unlike many I have seen before. It features the smart design, natural light, and open, well-designed workspaces which I have come to expect from modern libraries. The library’s holdings are small, compared to a central library (nothing like the daunting five floors of stacks at the Toronto Reference Library), yet still comprehensive. And it is truly a community library, with facilities for everyone: plenty of computers, a good young adult section, and group study spaces.
This community library may be small in size, but it is certainly large in spirit. I can only hope that Montgomery County will meet the same standard with the new Silver Spring library.