All that’s left to do now is welcome the readers (and add a few finishing touches.)
The new Silver Spring Library on Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring officially opened Saturday.
During a press tour Friday morning, county officials showed off the gleaming space. The library takes up the top three floors of a five-floor, 90,000-square-foot building. There’s floor-to-ceiling windows, computer labs, children’s spaces and meeting rooms dispersed among the rows and rows of nearly 100,000 books.
Computerized checkout systems, automated conveyor belt book drop-offs and a Mac lab—outfitted with expensive video and photography editing software—are among the library’s unique features.
“It’s an iconic project,” said David Dise, the director of the county’s Department of General Services. “I’ve worked in the public sector for 40 years and never met a community more invested in its libraries than Montgomery County.”
The building features a cantilevered design—the third floor of the building hangs over a plaza at the corner of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue. Eventually, a Purple Line station will be constructed in the space, if Gov. Larry Hogan decides to approve the light-rail project.
Right now, the plaza contains large rocks and two wooden pathways that cross a cement area where the Purple Line tracks are designed to run. Officials said it could be used as a seating area.
On the first floor, near the Fenton Street entrance, there’s Kefa Cafe. The local Silver Spring coffee shop has a cart inside the building that will serve up coffee, pastries and juices to the library’s guests. The cafe will be able to add benches and tables to the plaza outside if its owners decide to do so, Dise said.
The only escalator in a county building takes patrons up to the third-floor library entrance. The entrance is an expansive, open space with green walls and a giant Civil War mural moved from the old Silver Spring branch library. The entry area contains computer self-checkout terminals and a big customer service desk.
A young adult section, the Mac lab, a community meeting room and an area with technology designed for disabled residents are also located on the third floor.
Library guests can take an elevator or walk up granite steps to get to the fourth and fifth floors. The fourth floor contains a majority of the library’s print collection and computers. A serene-looking quiet room with shelves of magazines and newspapers takes up one of the sides of the fourth floor. The views from the quiet room extend into the Fenton Village neighborhood.
"There was a concerted effort to make an open area projecting outward toward the Fenton community," Dise said.
Inside the quiet room and a photo of the fourth floor nonfiction collection.
If you have young children, prepare yourself for the fifth floor. The whole floor is dedicated to books for kids 13 and younger. There’s sweeping views of Silver Spring, an early childhood learning area, a kids’ activity room, and plenty of picture books.
The building’s exposed beams presented a small problem for designers—how to make sure people don’t bump their heads or run into the beams’ edges. The solution was to add pool noodles along the edges.
The library includes a green roof, which isn’t accessible, but is planned for educational activities such as educating children about beneficial environmental practices. There’s a long row of seats with electrical outlets for working on laptops on the fourth floor, which has views of Wayne Avenue. The library also has 11 conference rooms available for studying or community use.
On Friday, workers were still completing a number of minor details on the building, including adjusting the sign over the main entrance and working on the computers.
Hundreds of people attended the grand opening Saturday. The entire building cost $69.5 million, while the library portion cost about $35 million.
The county is currently in the process of finding one or two community partners to operate businesses on the first and second floors of the building, according to Dise.
Originally, an arts space was planned there, but negotiations with the arts organization fell through before the building was completed.
Dise said Friday there probably won’t be any occupants in the bottom two floors until at least next year.
The library also has a number of interesting exterior features. There’s a stormwater management system surrounded by landscaping as well as a car book drop and book lockers. The car drop and lockers can be accessed by a one-way road, dubbed “Library Lane,” off Bonifant Street.
The lockers allow library users to put a book on hold either online or over the phone, which library staff will then place in an exterior locker. The user can then drive up to the lockers, find the locker where the book was placed and use their library card to access the locker without ever stepping foot inside the library.
Exterior features include the outdoor book drop and lockers. Workers were putting the finishing touches on the building Friday.
There’s no public parking at the building. Dise said that decision was made because the library is located in an urban area and officials wanted to promote transit use or walking to get to the library. There is a large public parking garage, however, across Wayne Avenue from the building.
Construction on the building began in 2013. It was designed by the Lukmire Partnership and constructed by Costello Construction.
The previous Silver Spring branch closed at 8901 Colesville Road in March to give employees time to move furniture and books to the new library.
The green roof.
All photos by Andrew Metcalf