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.