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GPO Turns a Page on Its Revamped Bookstore

After closing its doors last spring for reconstruction, the Government Printing Office bookstore reopened Monday with a completely new look.

From modernized lighting, carpeting and bookcases to a new display featuring the history of printing, the 3,000-square-foot bookstore that sells government publications feels more like a modern commercial bookstore.

The new space includes a children’s corner, which introduces kids to Squeaks, a mouse that tells the history of printing, comic book style. Federal documents and books are organized in labeled sections such as military history, environment, Congress, law enforcement, health and science, and coffee table decorations.

There’s also a kiosk for visitors searching for a particular text, and in the center of the store, a new retail center allows several people to buy books simultaneously.

A 9-by-12 mural on one wall depicts the history of printing in a timeline from Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press invention in 1454 to digitalized printing in 2010. Other walls are dedicated to GPO history and include pictures of GPO employees typing away in keyboard and composing rooms and working with machinery in the early 20th century. Tools used to bind books and metal frames used to press print are also on display in the history section of the bookstore.

“The most beautiful part of the renovation is that the updates were done completely in-house,” said Davita Vance-Cooks, publication and information sales managing director. “Employees built the bookcases, took the photographs you see on the walls and designed the entire new look.”

An act of Congress authorized the GPO to sell and print government documents from the legislative, executive and judicial branches in 1895. The bookstore opened its doors at its current location — 732 North Capitol St. NW — in 1921 and was last renovated in the late 1940s.

“Since then, we slowly molded into what we were last year,” Vance-Cooks said. “We really needed to modernize.”

Vance-Cooks said GPO employees also hoped to interest more locals in government documents.

“Most people don’t come here to browse,” she said. “They come to pick up what they need and leave. We wanted to give the bookstore an atmosphere that invited people to stay, look around and enjoy the bookstore.”

She thinks the renovations have been a success because more than 400 people visited the bookstore Monday between its opening in the morning and 2 p.m.

The bookstore is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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