Two important events regarding the future of MLK Library

Wednesday September 19 at 6 PM
MLK Library, 901 G Street
The public is invited to attend a special Board of Library Trustees meeting featuring a presentation by architects and library experts about how make the District’s central library ” world-class.”  The program is part of what Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper has said will be a “continuing conversation” about the historic Mies van der Rohe designed building, now landmarked.

Thursday September 27 at 11 AM
Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, Room 500
Roundtable on the Future of the MLK Library
DC Council Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation, and Planning  The powers that be at DCPL do seem intent on bringing the city a smaller central library.  A Library press release last spring, announced the selection of an the architect of record for MLK, “The Freelon Group will explore how the building can be configured to share space with other tenants.”

Since then, however, Library Committee Chair Tommy Wells assured us he had asked that possibilities also be considered for keeping the entire building as a library.

If you are interested in the MLK Library, try to come out for one or both of the events above.  If you can’t, the Library and DC Council provide live and archived coverage. We will report about them here, too, so check back.

Heretofore, DCPL’s approach to library transformation has included only the most superficial type of community inclusion in planning, no different from other agency planning. Basically, the public is given a chance to see designs and make comments. There isn’t a lot of back and forth, although in some cases there have been a lot of meetings.  For a meeting to help resolve issues there has to be substantive discussion and the possibility of change must be real, otherwise why discuss?  Sometimes preliminary plans have already been approved by various official boards and commissions, before the public weighs in.  This was especially problematic in Mt. Pleasant where a much loved and much needed historic Carnegie Library was at stake.

DCPL’s Intergovernmental Affairs Head Archie Williams promised six years ago that the library would provide a “model process” for public involvement.  So far, DCPL has not.  After some sustained criticism in this vein, Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper herself eventually testified to the Library Committee that DCPL might have “overstated” the extent to which public comment would be acted upon.

DCPL has proven an adept learner (a good thing) in the course of this mostly hugely successful system transformation.  Promises by Chief Cooper about an ongoing “conversation” around MLK are the right thing to say.  But so was “model process.”  Let us hope we are hearing more than lip service this time and that there will be a true concerted effort to identify and respond to the public’s wishes regarding renewal of the District’s central library. It is, after all, the library for the whole city. Everyone’s ideas and expectations deserve genuine consideration before any plans have been set.

Tenley Friends Accepting Books for Sept 22 SALE

The Friends of Tenley-Friendship Library announce that they are again accepting donations of used books to sell to benefit library programs.

Their next sale will be Saturday September 22 at 10 am.

Donations of used books, CD’s and DVD’s — in good condition only — are welcome. Please note: reference books, including dictionaries, encyclopedia, textbooks or VHS tapes cannot be accepted. Likewise books in bulk that are left over from other sales.

Please leave all book donations with a member of the Tenley Library staff. Please   DO NOT leave donations in the the library book drops.

Also, a selection of books are for sale on an ongoing basis from the library cart on the second floor.

Contact: Mary Alice Levine, [email protected]

Press Release: Expanded Library Hours Put Forward by Jack Evans

July 10, 2012
Contact Robin Diener
202 431-9254

Expanded Library Hours Put Forward by Jack Evans

Ward Two Councilmember Jack Evans introduced legislation today, to restore library hours to the full schedule residents have advocated for, and which the FY2013 budget failed to provide. The bill calls for 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM hours Monday through Thursday, 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5:00 PM on Sunday.

According to a press release from his office, Evans said “I hear from residents around the District on a regular basis about our inadequate library hours and this bill is the first step in fixing the problem. I am confident that out of our $10 billion budget, we can find $10 million to make this a reality.”

“These hours are needed to realize the return on investment of the District’s $180 million library transformation over the last five years,” said Robin Diener of the DC Library Renaissance Project, an advocacy group that has lobbied extensively for the restoration of hours. “They bring DC in line with the best library systems around the country, such as Seattle’s, which also invested heavily in rebuilding its library system in recent years.”

Diener commended Evans for his responsiveness to library users, noting that Ward Two has three new libraries – Georgetown, Northwest One, and Shaw. Plans for the future of the city’s central library, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, also located in Ward Two, are currently being studied by an outside consultant.

Since the legislation was introduced during the final DC Council session before summer recess, it’s not clear if the funding for hours could be legislated in time for the start of FY2013 (on October 1, 2012), but Evans’ spokesperson Andrew Huff indicated by email that Evans had been in discussion with DCPL’s chief librarian about hiring timeline should the hours be approved. Also unclear is how the legislation would affect the Council’s funding “wishlist,” which included Sunday hours for libraries citywide, subject to availability of additional revenue to be identified by the District’s Chief Financial Officer in a quarterly report that is anticipated shortly.


Sent from Robin Diener
DC Library Renaissance Project
1530 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Why Build New Libraries to Keep Them Closed?

Over the last five years, DC Libraries have undergone a $180 million capital investment in “transformation”: 14 new buildings with more space, improved energy efficiency, greatly expanded computer access. It stands to reason that we need more money to support a system that is larger and serving far more people than it was in 2008 (the last time DC had a full complement of hours including all mornings, four evenings, and Sundays).

It should not come as a surprise that the modernized libraries are leaner, greener, and more efficient. The Board of Library Trustees’ request for $10 million over last year’s bare bones budget — for a return merely to 2008 funding levels — would be a 13% savings when adjusted for inflation! This is an amazing bargain, especially considering the increased numbers of people being served.

In 2006, during the Library Listening Sessions of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, people prioritized “being open.” So much so that then-Library Committee Chair Kathy Patterson fought to open library branches on Sunday. Sunday proved to be the Library’s busiest day of the week. The cost to open DC’s branch libraries on Sundays in FY2013 would be only $1.8 million.

The Task Force recommended that new Libraries be regarded as “gathering space.” Notable libraries across the country were described as the nation’s new “living rooms.” Four District libraries that had been closed for rebuilding in 2004 had to cancel and redesign their plans because residents demanded more meeting space.

Coming in second after “being open” was everything else: collections, literacy, computer access, and programs for children, teens, seniors, handicapped, and homeless patrons.

It’s impossible for libraries to provide any of these when they are closed.

Activists to Lobby Council for a World Class Library

June 4, 2012
Contact Robin Diener
202 431-9254

Activists to Lobby DC Council for a World Class Library

Library advocates will be on hand tomorrow, Tuesday June 5, before the 10AM DC Council session, to press for an additional $5M to increase library operating hours in FY2013.

“Over the last five years the District has spent $180M for new buildings that are closed during high demand periods such as Sundays and most evenings,” said Robin Diener, Director of the DC Library Renaissance Project. “District residents were promised a world class library system. A world class library system needs to be open.”

Library advocates remain dissatisfied that their number one priority has not been met – expanded operating hours. Currently all branch libraries are closed five nights a week, two mornings a week and Sundays. Sunday is the busiest day of the week for libraries nationwide and was the busiest day per hour open when branch libraries were last open on Sunday in DC (2008).

WHAT:           Press Conference for a World Class Library

WHEN:         Tuesday June 5,  9:30 to 10 AM
Thirty-Seventh Legislative Session of the DC Council

WHERE:       John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Report on Council Visits re Extending Hours

During our visits to City Council members and staff on Wednesday we were disappointed to learn that all but one did not recall seeing the Library Trustees full request for funding, as had been presented to the public at Trustees’ meetings and to the Federation of Friends of the Library — so many of whom turned out for the oversight and budget hearings in support of the full request.

In addition, the Council Budget Director also had not seen it and was as dismayed as we were that she was seeing it for the first time at this late hour. It seems clear that council members voting on the Library budget were not aware of the public’s top priority – being open.

The bulk of the $10M request for increase over last year is for restoring hours to branches and to MLK. You can see the breakdown on the DCPL  website.

We emphasized to Council members that the Library is an incomparable value and that the first priority of library users is that the facilities be open.

We urge library advocates to take moment to send a note to your representatives before the second reading of the budget on Tuesday. You can see a sample letter here to edit or send as is, and you can choose your recipients.

Call to Action for Wednesday May 30

Dear Library Supporters,

Last week many of you wrote to our officials about your support for increasing library hours in 2013.  Thank you.

On Wednesday night at the Board of Library Trustees meeting, we learned that they read your letters — because the Trustees quoted from them — but, alas, we have not yet achieved our goal of increased operating hours.

No Increase to Operating Hours
We are sorry to report that although increases were authorized to the book budget, security, and librarian training opportunities, as well as the support for four new branches that will come on line in 2012 (Bellevue, Francis Gregory, Mt. Pleasant, and Christian/Langston at Rosedale) the total funding does not even equal the 2008 levels the Trustees had requested.

The Trustees’ request for funding broke out hours as you can see on their “fan chart”. We cannot understand why the Mayor and City Council chose not to increase any of them – Sundays, weekday mornings, weekday evenings. For just $1.5 million, for example, we could have Sundays at all 24 neighborhood libraries.

The District is Thriving
There’s ample evidence that the District is doing much better than most
jurisdictions in the country. We must insist that our splendid new  facilities — which came at the cost of $180 million in bonds — be open maximum hours in order for District residents to get our return on investment.  Award-winning libraries garner kudos for Mayors, Councilpersons, Trustees, and Architects whether they are open or not. However, when they are closed, they cheat their public underwriters — we taxpayers and library users.

We Insist On Libraries Being Open More Hours
The second reading of the budget will take place on Tuesday June 5, 2012. There is still time to let officials know your priorities and to insist on the restoration of at least some of these hours at some locations.

On Wednesday May 30, join the DC Library Renaissance Project and District Dynamos at the John A. Wilson building to visit our elected officials
who will be gathered for the 40th Anniversary of Home Rule Celebration
and insist on Sunday hours in our neighborhoods. Out of an $11 billion budget, we know the Council and Mayor can find $1.5 million dollars for Sunday hours, at least.

WHAT:  Visit the Council and Mayor to Insist on Sunday Hours
WHEN:  Wednesday, May 30, 9:00 AM
WHERE: Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW; Meet in the front
RSVP: Robin Diener, [email protected], 202-431-9254

Library Trustees March Meeting

Wednesday March 28, 2012 at 6 PM
Chevy Chase Library

Six of eight trustees present. Donald Richardson and Brenda Richardson absent. List of Trustees

Agenda and other meeting documents

Call to Order

Introductions: New DCPL Security Chief Mark Polk — a lawyer and 25 year law enforcement professional, who also serves as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Summary of Actions: Two votes taken
1) Resolution to request $1 million for another study of MLK central library
2) Resolution to name the meeting room of the new Francis Gregory Library in honor of Elizabeth Holden “for significant contributions” to the library. Holden bequeathed approximately $1 million to the Francis Gregory and Woodridge branches specifically to “enhance, increase and enrich the use of these libraries.”

Public Comment  Rosedale ANC Commissioner Gladys Mack and President of the Rosedale Grassroots Coalition Sondra Phillips-Gilbert brought forward a request from their community — to preserve in legacy the names R. L. Christian and Langston at the soon-to-open Rosedale Library and Recreation Center.  Until August 2009, the Rosedale neighborhood was served by library kiosks named for the two men.

President’s Report  John Hill reminded attendees about tomorrow’s Budget Hearing by City Council’s Library Committee. Hill reiterated his view that DCPL has always adhered to its allotted budget regardless of financial pressures, unlike other agencies that seem to overspend with impunity. He noted also that cuts to DCPL’s operating budget, made under previous Mayors, have not yet been made up in the Gray administration. Mayor Gray proposed an increase of $6 million over last year, falling short of the Trustees’ request for $10 million to restore DCPL to its highwater mark of $44 million in 2008. The Trustees had also asked for $210 million in capital funds over five years to complete the transformation of the library system, but the Mayor proposed only $55 million.

DC Reads  A committee of librarians has selected 3 books to consider for the annual DC Reads program:  Enique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario; The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu;  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

The Trustees were asked to vote by email for their choice. Trustee Cohen observed that last year’s book The Other Wes Moore was particularly readable. For more information

Library Performance Measures Data from this report included an 11% increase in use of — an on-line homework service available to students. The report also gives circulation numbers by branch.

Finance Cmte Chair Bonnie Cohen expressed disappointment that more library users do not attend Trustees meetings.  She urged Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park residents to support the Trustees capital budget request because it would include the rebuilding of their neighborhood libraries. Agency CFO Eric Coard reported that the Mayor’s budget allotment for books was the same as last year:  $1.7 million.  Chief Librarian Cooper expressed her worries that new library users will not return if they do not find what they want on the shelves.  It was noted, however, that the Mayor has specifically prioritized (among the top 25) an additional $1 million for DCPL collections if additional revenues are found.

Facilities Cmte Chair Richard Levy commended Facilities Director Ed Hampton for outstanding maintenance work.  “We inherited a system in deplorable condition,” but now all buildings are fully operational. Levy moved forward the request for $1 million to consider the Urban Land Institute recommendations for MLK “more globally.”

Director of Capital Projects Jeff Bonvechio reported:

  • that a design for the Woodridge Library rebuild had been selected,
  • plans for the NE Library would go before Historic Preservation Board soon,
  • the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development will pay for the “fit out” and rental of space for the interim West End Library (and Firehouse)
  • a storefront space on M Street has been identified by DCPL for the WE interim library,
  • developer Eastbanc has set November as the date for DCPL to vacate the WE Library.

DCPL Foundation  Library Foundation President Linnea Haggerty reported that the Foundation was in the process of expanding its board. Two new members have been named: Susan Haight, President of the West End Library Friends and of the Federation of Friends of DCPL; and Neil Albert, former Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development under Mayor Williams and engineer of the West End redevelopment deal that included the West End library.


Press Release: ULI’s Tentative Recommendation to Keep MLK a Library

November 20, 2011
Contact Robin Diener
202 431-9254

ULI’s Tentative Recommendation to Keep MLK a Library

Washington, DC — It has taken 12 years, but library advocates appear to have scored a partial victory in the struggle to restore and improve the long-degraded Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building and to keep it as the location of the city’s central library.

Over a decade ago, in 2000, award-wining local architect Kent Cooper and the Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects released their pro bono study of how to correct the MLK library’s long acknowledged design flaws.  Though cited often in the years since, the AIA/Cooper study was ignored by then-Mayor Williams, who wanted a new library on the old convention center site.

Earlier this year, DC Public Library (DCPL) hired the Urban Land Institute (ULI), at a cost of $120,000, to do another MLK study – this time exploring ways to “leverage” the value of the building in order to afford to build a new central library or find ways to pay for renovation to the 40-year-old landmark, which was designed by Mies van der Rohe.

The ULI’s preliminary report, presented on Friday, favors co-tenancy, either residential or office, over sale.  

Ironically, their design suggestions relied heavily on the AIA/Cooper 2000 report solutions, including what appears to be uncredited use of the drawings.  

That the central library is likely to remain in the MLK building comes as a relief to library activists. But they’re disappointed that the ULI panel proposed shrinking the city’s central library from its current 440,000 sq ft to about 225,000 sq ft. to accommodate a co-tenant. Smaller central libraries are supposedly a “trend,” but most of the acclaimed new central libraries, built in recent years in cities comparable to DC, are substantially larger than 225,000 sq ft.

Moreover, the report by the panel’s financial expert, Mike Reynolds of the Concord Group, depicted the District’s financial health as excellent. This undercut the central premise of the panel’s work: that the District must find ways to “leverage” the value of MLK building.

In his brief presentation, Reynolds did not even mention the city’s AAA bond rating, the $180 million taxpayer investment in beautiful transformations of 14 neighborhood libraries across the city over the past five years, or the announcement by Library Trustees President John Hill on Wednesday that another $100-million-plus is expected from the FY 2013 round of capital budget planning to rebuild the remaining 10 branches.

Residents may wonder why a city doing so well can’t afford to renovate its historic central library. They might address that question to the DC officials listed below — and perhaps cc ULI Chair Wayne Ratkovich, who might include that query in the ULI’s final report to be issued in 60 days.

Library Committee Chair Tommy Wells (Ward 6), [email protected]

Finance and Revenue Committee Chair Jack Evans (Ward 2) [email protected]

Library Trustees President John Hill, [email protected]

Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper [email protected]

Mayor Vincent Gray  [email protected]

Wayne Ratkovich, Chair, ULI Panel  [email protected]