Clad in sleek, dark glass, the new building contrasts sharply with the brick exterior of the elementary school next door and the rowhouses surrounding it on Alabama Avenue SE. If all goes as hoped, the District’s youngest library will help boost the neighborhood.
The Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library was the second library in a week to open east of the Anacostia River, following the William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Neighborhood Library, which welcomed its first book borrowers on June 13. For an area of the city with a high unemployment rate and scarce resources, libraries can be an educational and cultural boon.
Kathleen Williams, 64, said she used to go to the Anacostia Library about two miles away, but now she’ll head to Gregory, named for the first black president of the city’s library board.
“We’re closer to this one,” Williams said. “We can walk to it.”
Kerby Valladares, Gregory’s manager, said the library will serve the community’s needs. “We try to become the resource for that community,” he said.
In addition to Gregory’s more than 40,000 books, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks — expandable to 80,000 — the building has two librarians dedicated to helping residents find jobs by offering résuméadvice and other services. The library also has 36 public computers and free wireless Internet, and will offer computer classes.
Those classes were part of the reason Clarice McLeod, 81, who lives nearby in the Highview Terrace area, stepped into the cool interior of the library on its opening day.
“I’m very interested in being able to use the Internet,” she said.
Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, said the libraries are part of the mayor’s effort to improve all areas of the city. Libraries are scheduled to open in Mount Pleasant and Rosedale this summer.
“The underlying goal of ‘One City’ is so that all neighborhoods, all wards — including Ward 7, including communities east of the river — can benefit from the progress that the city’s making,” McCoy said. “That includes great libraries.”
Since October 2007, the city has spent nearly $180 million building and upgrading libraries, said George Williams, a D.C. Public Libraries spokesman. In addition to the openings in the past week, a dozen other libraries have opened in recent years, including the Petworth Neighborhood Library in February and the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library in January.
Both the Lockridge and Gregory libraries were designed by David Adjaye, an award-winning architect based in London. Gregory’s mosaic-like walls and dozens of diamond-shaped windows had many people in awe, Valladares said.
“It’s magnificent,” said Beatrice Clipper, 68. “It’s wonderful.”
The first floor is for adults and young adults; the top floor’s story-time room is designed for children. Hand-woven lampshades were made in Senegal.
In all, the building cost $13.2 million to design and construct.
“It’s really very, very interesting,” McLeod said. “I’ve got to get my husband in here.”
Tristin Martin, 7, a fan of the “Junie B. Jones” children’s books, gave the library her seal of approval.
“I like how they have everything organized,” she said.