Library Trustees Issue Mixed Message Regarding Mixed-Use Policy


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Library Trustees Issue Mixed Message Regarding Mixed-Use Policy The Board of Library Trustees passed a new policy regarding mixed-use at public libraries, including that of DC’s central library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, at their bimonthly meeting on Wednesday May 28. The new policy and a set of principles for renovation of MLK were developed by the Trustees’ Facilities Committee and presented to the full board of Library Trustees. The new policy was not available for the public to read until about noon, six hours before the Trustees meeting, where it passed after brief discussion. It replaces a 2007 policy. ·

New Policy ·

Old Policy

Citywide Advisory Neighborhood Commissions were not notified per ANC Law about this major policy change before the final decision at the Trustees meeting.

Conflicting Policy Positions

The new Mixed-Use Real Estate Projects Policy presumably would apply system wide and takes a seemingly passive approach: “The Board of Library Trustees is open to exploring mixed-use opportunities, where appropriate, for libraries as a way to increase visibility and access, and generate revenue.”

However, a second document — MLK Renovation Principles — indicated that library staff would be pro-active in looking for mixed-use for the central library: “DCPL will seek mixed-use options.” The policy further stated, “All options will be judged from a financial, programmatic and ownership framework,” but offered no guidelines for types of mixed-use desired or the controversial issue of public versus private partnerships.

Trustee Myrna Perralta, a veteran of the mixed-use wars at Benning and Tenley, but who is not on the Facilities Committee that developed the new policy, gave an immediate strong caution saying, “It is ironic that we are discussing this at Benning, where residents didn’t want mixed use… And where it got ugly, to say the least.”

Residents’ opposition Perralta recalled, “was because they didn’t want the library diluted. That sentiment gets repeated whenever we talk about mixed use.”

Trustee Bonnie Coen weighed in about the first of the MLK Renovation Principles, “DCPL will optimize the utilization of the historic landmarked MLK Library.” She asked that the phrase “as a library” be added.

Trustee Valerie Mallet concurred and wider discussion ensued. The phrase “as a central library” was ultimately adopted.