For Immediate Release
Mayor Vincent Gray’s office Friday announced that Sunday hours at the MLK Library would not be cut. The central library had been scheduled to close on Sundays for the coming fiscal year beginning this weekend October 2. (Press release from Mayor’s Office at link below.)
A rally to protest the closure will become an occasion to announce the restoration of funds. The Library has invited the public to a celebration on Sunday at 1 pm at the MLK Library. Council member Tommy Wells and Mayor Gray are expected to be on hand.
Wells, the newly assigned chair of the Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning, took the lead in publicly pressing the Mayor to reconsider a move that would have left the District without any Public Library open on Sundays. All neighborhood branches libraries have been closed on Sundays since 2009.
The Federation of Friends of the Library — a citywide advocacy group — also played a large, ongoing role in the restoration. Members from across the city testified at budget hearings and lobbied insistently behind the scenes. During their Citywide Book Sale Preview at MLK on September 8, Wells was publicly asked to keep the building open.
A few days later, at the Board of Library Trustees meeting, Wells vowed to “do everything in my power” to find the money to keep the MLK library open on Sundays. At a breakfast meeting with the Mayor and DC City Council a few days ago, Wells pointedly raised the subject, causing a tweeting furor by reporters that further raised the profile of the issue.
One day later, the DC Federation of Civic Associations issued a resolution calling for the Mayor to “reverse this decision.”
Over the last several years, the city has spent approx $180M in capital funds to rebuild or restore 14 libraries throughout the city, while at the same time severely cutting library operating funds.
“This is the first step towards reversing the cuts in library hours sustained in recent years. We should commit to keeping these valuable buildings in operation as many hours as possible — a relatively small cost — to fulfill the promise of a costly building program that is succeeding in bringing patrons back to the libraries in droves,” said Library Renaissance Project Director, Robin Diener.
“The new libraries have dramatically increased usage. That was the goal in building them. We have to support that.”