Escape summer heat, hustle in Alterspace reading pop-up

There’s a new way to escape the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, and it involves a trip to the mall.

Through Aug. 2, the Arlington Public Library is popping up inside the recently redeveloped Ballston Quarter to offer locals a new way to engage with books, sign up for library cards and learn about the library’s programs and services in a nontraditional space.

“We always want to attract the general public to library spaces, and part of the great thing about the mall is that it’s only a couple of blocks away from our central library, but we’re getting an entirely different clientele here than we get at the library,” said Michelle Fernandez, program and partnership librarian at Arlington Public Library.

“I’m seeing a lot of people walking by with their children; they don’t know about our story times, they don’t know that three blocks away you can walk and check out garden tools for your home at Central Library. So a lot of it is spreading the word.”

Ballston Pop-Up Library
Through Aug. 2, the Arlington Public Library is popping up inside the recently redeveloped Ballston Quarter to offer locals a new way to engage with books, sign up for library cards and learn about the library’s programs and services in a nontraditional space. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

The pop-up has everything from picture books for children, to biographies and fiction for adults. All of the featured materials are new and can either be checked out or enjoyed on-site in a beanbag chair.

The Ballston Quarter pop-up library also includes a more quiet, meditation-minded area, called Alterspace, where visitors can control the light, color and sound of the room “to create your ideal environment for whatever it is that you come to the library to do,” Fernandez said about the immersive concept, developed out of Harvard University’s Library Innovation Lab.

“It’s a cool, nice little space where people can kind of unwind.”

Ballston Pop-Up Library
The Ballston Quarter pop-up library also includes a more quiet, meditation-minded area, called Alterspace, where visitors can control the light, color and sound of the room. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Youth can also enroll in the library’s Summer Reading Challenge, which offers prizes to school-aged children who pledge to read a minimum of 25 days over the summer.

“Studies show that children who don’t continue reading over the summer don’t just stagnate; they actually actively lose learning and they’re at a disadvantage for the next school year. So a big, big push that all libraries are always doing is summer reading,” Fernandez said.

Ballston Quarter Pop-Up
Visitors can read, color, meditate and more at the pop-up public library in Ballston Quarter. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone said the BID has partnered with other organizations to host pop-ups at Ballston Quarter in the past, including an art exhibit with a local middle school, and plans to continue them in the future.

“We really see Ballston Quarter as our place for people to connect and convene, and that’s why we’re working so hard to create these programs and events and activities to bring people together, bring the community together,” Leone said.

The Ballston Quarter pop-up library is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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