It would have been difficult for anyone to doubt the drawing power of area libraries at the Feb. 23 grand opening ceremony for Loudoun's newest public library branch: Gum Spring. Hundreds of eager South Riding-area residents packed the atrium of the new building Saturday, eager to pour through the stacks of the county's largest library.
Approaching the Millstream Drive facility, Loudoun Sheriff's Office deputies clad in thick raincoats could be seen patiently directing traffic, as one carload after another inched into the parking area. Most of the residents who will now be served by the Gum Spring branch hold Fairfax County Public Library cards—that system's branch in Chantilly was more convenient to visit than Ashburn Library, the Loudoun branch closest to the South Riding/Lenah Run neighborhoods. As throngs of people young and old braved the rain and cold for their chance to explore the new Gum Spring facility, the excitement of finally having a big, beautiful library close to home was palpable.
"This is a huge moment," Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said Saturday.
"It's a lot more than just a library. [Gum Spring] is a gathering place...it's a unifying place for all age groups. This library has the county's largest children's section, there's a teen center upstairs, a gathering place for older folks with a sort of cafe-type atmosphere. People can come here and gather for all kinds of reasons."
County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) took time during the opening ceremony to remind the community of the hard work that went into making Gum Spring Library a reality, saying pointedly to attending children, "Use it, don't abuse it."
"This facility is here for you and your parents to be further educated. Use the equipment to better your and others' lives," he said.
York thanked representatives of Van Metre Homes, who entered into a public/private partnership with the county to construct the library. "This all started in 2003 with the efforts of Supervisor Steve Snow, who has sadly passed away, who worked with Van Metre to make this facility a reality today," York said.
Gum Spring Library is the eighth branch in Loudoun's public library system and houses some 80,000 books and other materials—"many of those will be checked out today," Nancy Nuell, Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Trustees, joked during the opening ceremony.
"Those who worry libraries will someday become a thing of the past—your presence here today can be no greater testament to the fact that libraries are alive and thriving," Nuell said.
Karen Montgomery, Chair of the Friends of Gum Spring, or "Frogs," received many accolades Saturday, as York, Letourneau, Nuell and others credited her tireless work in advocating the project. Through a beaming smile, she acknowledged what an "exciting day" it was for the Dulles South community.
"This started as a labor of love for my three children—now, even though you're grown, this goes to show how you're never too old for the library," Montgomery said.
As soon as dignitaries cut the ribbon leading to Gum Spring's second floor, volunteers went to work handing out library card forms, which were quickly snapped up by attendees. All computer terminals—whether for library staff use or that of the public—were occupied by folks searching the catalog or waiting for their new cards to be issued.
Young Tyler Potock went right to work after being issued his Loudoun County Public Library card. "This is his first for Loudoun—usually we go to the Fairfax library," mom Susan Potock said.
"I'm excited to get all kinds of books," Tyler said. Likewise his sister, Molly, expressed eagerness to volunteer at the new branch and noted her Girl Scout troop's recent book drive, which netted more than 1,300 books to benefit the new library branch.
Children—often followed by fatigued parents—could be seen toting huge piles of books out of the stacks. Twelve-year-old Aurora Sperry clutched a stack of Harry Potter books almost as tall as she, carefully navigating her way to the checkout desk Saturday. Mom Rachel Sperry said her daughter was a fanatic for the series, but the Lenah Run residents were hard-pressed to get their hands on all the titles. "We went to Middleburg to get them, and often they were out. Aurora couldn't wait for this library to open," Sperry said.
According to the Gum Spring Library Facebook page, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., about 6,500 people visited the new branch, 14,000 library items were checked out, and 1,106 new library cards were created.
Gum Spring Library is located at 24600 Millstream Drive in Aldie. Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-5 pm. Friday and Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.