Monday, November 17, 2014


Along with plans for daylighting Willetts Branch Stream and a potential new elementary school, the idea of relocating Little Falls Library to the Equity One redevelopment on Westbard Avenue is one of several intriguing ideas floated in the early Westbard Sector Plan process. I happen to like the current library, its architecture - and large side window, and forested setting. It is perhaps the ideal suburban library. Despite my nostalgia, I would begrudgingly admit it is growing outdated.

One of several public meetings held last Friday sought to get feedback from Montgomery County Public Libraries and nearby residents on the feasibility of relocating the library, and what features the ideal library would have.
Rita Gale (foreground) of MCPL
discussed what the ideal new
Little Falls Library would be

Rita Gale, Public Service Administrator for Facilities and Capital Projects for MCPL, discussed potential floorplans and designs with planners Marc DeOcampo and John Marcolin. Gale said MCPL is on board for the idea of libraries as anchors of public squares, with the Rockville Memorial Library being the most notable existing example. How would a potential land swap and construction of the new facility occur? It would likely be a public-private partnership between MCPL, Equity One and Montgomery County Public Schools, should the current library site become a school site.

Gale explained that the library system utilizes 3 year strategic plans. She mentioned that MCPL recently shifted from complete renovations of libraries every 20-30 years to mini-renovations every 7 years. The reason for the shift was the inability to keep up with technological changes on a 20-year calendar. If the relocation were to go forward, the existing library would remain in operation until the new building was ready to move into.

What would that new building be like, ideally? 23,000 square feet on a single floor, said Gale. Why a single floor? Staffing one floor is far less expensive than multiple floors. Meeting space would preferably be on a separate level, as that does not require the same level of monitoring by employees, Gale said. The existing Little Falls Library is far smaller at 10,000 SF, while the Rockville Library is 63,000 SF by comparison. Having the library at street level would also be important, as is free parking for patrons. I have to say that paid parking at the new Equity One development on Westbard would be a non-starter.

In regards to the second options planners have outlined - adding an addition to the existing library - Gale said that would require removal of several mature trees, and "generally taking down trees is not something that's appealing to folks. Of course, if the site becomes a school, those trees would come down anyway. Neither clearcutting sounds like a good idea at a corner of Bethesda known for its forested surroundings.

Residents who have spoken to the potential library relocation seem to be cautiously favorable in their opinion about it. One detractor at the meeting said a library would be a terrible choice for what is being touted as a vibrant public space. He argued the new library would be a "dead space in the evening. Leave the library where it is. [Relocating it] makes no sense to me whatsoever." He noted that a similar library upcounty, which has residential units facing it, has become a hangout for drug dealers after hours, and a magnet for crime in general. DeCampo said Equity One would likely take steps to secure the site, particularly with residents living in close proximity to it.

I thought the man did have a valid point, as - assuming the library operates on the typically-limited MCPL hours - the space around it could become a dead zone after 6:00 PM. Banks are another notorious vibrancy killer in urban settings. It would seem that other more active tenants would have to be located close to the library in order to prevent that from happening. Having said that, I don't think anyone expects the Equity One "town center" to be a noisy city that never sleeps. This is a bedroom community in the suburbs, not a true urban area, and should tone down the volume at night anyway.

The other thing those comments brought to mind, is the need to recognize that public areas - of which there are currently none on Westbard Avenue - need policing, as well as upkeep such as that which Bethesda Urban Partnership provides downtown. That should be considered during the design phase, as security costs money, whether it is public or private.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"I don't think anyone expects the Equity One 'town center' to be a noisy city that never sleeps. This is a bedroom community in the suburbs, not a true urban area, and should tone down the volume at night anyway."

Translation: "I covet Millennials! Except in my back yard."

Anonymous said...

there is a library already there that is not very busy. libraries are a ting of the past, now they house homeless during the day and perverts troll the free internet service.

Anonymous said...

7:20AM: Millenials have formed families and have children. Not all Millenials are single and just graduated from college.

Woodmont said...

I tend to think libraries are of the past, but the downtown Bethesda library is very active and in demand.

Anonymous said...

what in the hell?

1. "I would begrudgingly admit it is growing outdated."

Haha. The Little Falls Library was outdated 15 years ago. It still has a bomb shelter for godsakes.

2. Drug dealers at libraries at night?

What in god's name? The resident who said this should be named and publicly humiliated. What a complete fool. Check out the Rockville Library for an example of what a library in a civic square can do for a community and just wait until the Silver Spring library is finished.

3. Only in Montgomery County are there NIMBY's AGAINST A LIBRARY!!!!!!

That's just such an astounding (and depressing) statement for our county.

Anonymous said...

My eyes fell on the middle of the headline: "...LITTLE FALLS LIBRARY BE LIKE..." and I had the delightful image of several librarians fainting as they read that.

Anonymous said...

"Only in Montgomery County are there NIMBY's AGAINST A LIBRARY!!!!!!"

Same mentality that believes that folks in PG County are waiting for the Purple Line to be built so that they can come rob your house.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:23 AM - There is no library "already there" in the Westbard commercial strip. The Little Falls library is about a mile away, on Massachusetts Avenue.

" homeless during the day and perverts troll the free internet service."

LOL, what portion of the patrons of your local library actually falls into those two categories? I've only seen one patron viewing porn at a library, and that was several years ago.

Anonymous said...


Robert Dyer said...

7:20: The housing planned for Westbard is not within the price range of most millennials, so your criticism is off base.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure they could preserve most of the mature trees on the current property if they were to expand the current library.

Anonymous said...

What library were they talking about that attracted crime outside? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:31 PM - After a quick look at the library sites on Google satellite maps, the most likely site appears to be Germantown. That one is situated in a garden-apartment complex.

Anonymous said...

7:39. Okay, thanks!

Robert Dyer said...

8:00 I believe 7:39 is correct.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Green Shirt Guy is so cute, especially his dainty little hands. Maybe when the new library is built, he can take me on a guided tour of the restroom.