City-Wide Investment Pays Off: D.C. Librarian Receives Architecture Award

Ginnie CooperThis week, the American Institute of Architects awarded D.C. Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper the 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, making Cooper the first librarian to ever receive the prestigious award.

Since becoming chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library in 2006, Cooper has recruited world-class architects to modernize and transform the city’s libraries into modern and iconic destinations.

As a result of the revitalization the library system, an exceedingly large number of city residents have taken a new interest in their local branches. According to city data, the number of library books borrowed has more than tripled since the start of the modernization campaign. In addition, more than 10,000 children now visit the library per month for story times and other early literacy programs.

“We commend Ginnie for leading the recent renaissance of the D.C. Public Library,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan in a statement. “By overseeing the design and development of high-quality architecture, Ginnie has inspired city-wide appreciation for libraries and transformed public beliefs about the important roles that they can play in our communities.”

Much of the library’s success can be credited to the funding support the library has received from the city government over the past six years—the library received $42 million in funding in 2012.

The D.C. Public Library is one of a long list of libraries that are using architectural expression to bring residents in to their local libraries. Boston Public Library’s Grove Hall Branch recently underwent construction changes in 2009. Within the first year of the library’s reopening, branch circulation rose 40 percent and nearly 1,200 residents signed up for library cards for the first time. Across the country, the number of checked-out books and other materials at the Seattle Public Library grew by more than 136 percent from 2000 to 2009 after the library developed a new central library and renovated 26 smaller branches.

“We thank D.C. city officials for supporting Ginnie Cooper, and we congratulate the District of Columbia for the city’s commitment to public libraries,” said Sullivan.

Cooper will receive the award in March. To learn more about the award and Cooper’s work, visit http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2013/thomas-jefferson-award/gcooper/index.htm.

Jazzy Wright is the Press Officer of the American Library Association's Washington Office. Email her at jwright@alawash.org.

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