Throughout the long ceremony, 7-year-old Lashanne Bennett sat clutching her library card.
The card was new; it was her first D.C. Public Library card and she was anxious to use it.
Lashanne was among the first guests to arrive at the dedication ceremony this week for the District's newest public library, the Garnet C. Wilkinson Branch, located in the public school of the same name at Pomeroy Road and Erie Street SE in Anacostia. The new library is the first full-fledged public library to be located in a public school here.
More than 200 people attended the ceremony and toured the large, sunny library on the second floor of the school.
"We've actually been open three months and so far out best customers have been children," said Clara Williams, the branch librarian. "Perhaps after today, we'll get more adults, now that they know we're here.
"The children who use this library don't only come from this school. They come from the other elementary schools in the neighborhood and from the junior high and high schools are well."
The library, which has 22,000 books and receives 130 magazines, also has records and audio visual materials, a free community meeting room which will seat 100 persons and another small public conference room, according to Williams.
"In addition to the regular library functions, we can also answer questions phoned in by the public. In our Community Information Service; we keep a file on local resources of all kinds," she said.
"No one knows more than I that Ward 8 is too often at the bottom of the list when it comes to city services," said city council member Wilhemina Rolark (D-8) in her dedicatory speech. "I want to thank the (library) board for making us first thie time, for giving us the first public library in a public school."
Hard Franklin, director of the library, said the Wilkinson library is the only one planned for a school so far.
"The experience in some places where libraries have been put in schools has not been very successful, mainly because of problems of public access," he said. "Usually, the schools in which libraries are put aren't easily accessible. But the school here is built close to the sidewalk so people will have asy access."
The library is accessible from the street as well as from the school. There is also an elevator from the ground floor entrance, he said.
The library is named for Garnet C. Wilkinson, an educator and civil leader who gave more than 50 years of service to the city, according to Franklin.
Wilkinson, who was raised in Washington, attended public schools in the District, graduated from Oberlin College and earned a law degree from Howard University. He was assistant principal of Armstrong and Dunbar high schools and then became assistant superintendent and first assistant superintendent of schools here. He retired from the school system in 1951.
Wilkinson, who died in 1969, was also a trustee of the public library from 1959 until 1965.
His widow, Caroline Wilkinson, told the audience at the ceremony, "I am very glad to live to see this beautiful building dedicated to the memory of my husband.
"I hope a time will come when a building like this can be dedicated during the life of a man so that he can see what his fellow man thinks of him."
The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday. It is closed on Thursday and Saturday.
The phone number for the Community Information Service is 767-7338.