Parklands-Turner Library History

Parklands-Turner Neighborhood Library

The Parklands-Turner Neighborhood Library has seen much growth and change over its more than 35-year history. Starting out as a library kiosk in 1976, Parklands-Turner has since served the community as on of four portabranch community libraries built in D.C.. between 1981 and 1993, and now as storefront library at 1547 Alabama Ave. SE.

Parklands Kiosk

In 1973, the DC Public Library imposed a moratorium on the construction of traditional library branch buildings as it reassessed the needs of the city. The Library concluded that a more flexible, innovative way of serving its diverse constituencies was needed, and kiosk library branches and portabranches were proposed. Kiosks were designed to be approximately 120 gross square feet and have a book capacity of approximately 1,000 volumes. They provided stand-up space for browsing, work space for an attendant, book racks and bulletin boards. The intent of these small bookstands was to provide minimal library facilities to a larger number of communities at a relatively low cost. The kiosks would also be utilized as test branches, evaluating the community's library needs.

The Parklands Kiosk at Alabama Avenue and Stanton Road SE opened on Sept. 16, 1976. The success of the kiosk prompted the DC Public Library to propose a more permanent, larger neighborhood library in the vicinity.

A new portabranch emerges

As early as 1967, the DC Public Library had selected a site for Parklands Neighborhood Library at 18th Place and Alabama Avenue SE. Funds for the site were requested in the 1972 budget; however, plans were put on hold as the library again assessed the city's needs and developed its kiosk and portabranch program. By the late 1970s, the performance of the Parklands Kiosk had demonstrated the community's need for expanded services. The ongoing portabranch program offered a way to provide such service.

The instant libraries or portabranch program was first outlined in the Public Libraries' Six-Year Capital Improvements Program, developed in 1974 and 1975. The program called for the placement of temporary, pre-fabricated buildings on publicly owned lands in neighborhoods in need of library facilities. Each portabranch was approximately 1,600 square feet, accommodating 5,000 volumes, and providing space for 25 to 30 readers. 

The Parklands-Turner Library, the third portabranch built in the District, opened April 9, 1984. The new library was a pre-fabricated, circular building constructed of unbreakable glass, steel and brightly colored aluminum panels. The interior contained several innovative features, including circular shelving. Air conditioning, heating and a public toilet were provided. The building was designed by Portastructures Industries, which specialized in portable facilities.

The library was named for its neighborhood, Parklands, and for its location adjacent to the Turner School, which was named in honor of a longtime D.C. Public Schools employee, Anita J. Turner. Turner served as director of physical education in the D.C. school system for 38 years, retiring in 1940. She was much admired for her energy and enthusiasm for her work.

The Parklands-Turner Community Library opened with a collection of 10,000 books. Daily delivery service from the central library, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, brought additional volumes to the library. The branch was open eight hours a day, four days a week, and four hours on Wednesdays.

Parklands-Turner Neighborhood Library

Parklands-Turner ribbon-cuttingHowever, after decades of use, the portabranch closed on Sept. 10, 2009, to make way for a newer library space, a storefront library placed in The Shops at Park Village, across from its former location. The new library offers a great increase in space, with 4,500 square feet, enough room for features such as:

  • 20 public computers
  • Free Wi-Fi Internet access
  • More books, DVDs and other library materials
  • Space for story time and other library programs
  • Free parking

The new space also heralded expanded hours for the location, which has become popular for its high-tech offerings and storytimes.