Public Forum on the West End Library and Fire Station Deal

WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 11:30AM – 1:00PM
WHERE: The West End Library – 1101 24th St. N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)
N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)

Come learn the facts about the District’s plan to “sell” the public properties housing the West End Public Library, Special Operations Police Station, and West End Fire Station to private developer EastBanc-W.D.C. Partners, LLC, in what amounts to at least a $70 million giveaway.

The plan was touted as the only way to “redevelop” these public properties, because the City doesn’t have the money otherwise.

Under the proposed deal — a land for construction swap — EastBanc will pay no cash for the public property it acquires, which is worth an estimated $100 million, according to the CFO’s financial impact statements.

What will taxpayers get in return for this $100 million gift? EastBanc will include a new library on the ground floor of a luxury condo development, and a new fire station on the ground floor of the another housing development  over the firehouse, with easements for public access to each one.

EastBanc will then own the formerly public properties.

Does the City need to do this deal in this way? Couldn’t the City sell these public properties at fair market and reinvest the tens of millions into city services (including expanding library hours and finishing the library transformation process)?

Does this really sound like a good deal? Come learn the facts, and help rectify the $100 million taxpayer giveaway to EastBanc.

Hosted by: The D.C. Library Renaissance Project / West End Library Advisory Group

For more info: 202-387-8030

The West End Library & Fire Station Deal: Bargain or Rip-Off?
WHAT: Public Forum on the West End Library and Fire Station Deal
WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 11:30AM – 1:00PM
WHERE: The West End Library – 1101 24th St. N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)
N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)

Irish Book Giveaway — for the love of literature and literacy

You may not have known it but Monday was exactly half a year from St. Patrick’s Day. In honor of this not-quite occasion, a local group called Solas Nua handed out 7500 free books to passersby at Metro stops and libraries around the city making it, well, quite an occasion.

For inveterate readers, a free book is treasure and Irish literature is especially prized.

The mission of Solas Nua, which means new light, is “to give voice in America to contemporary Irish artists and writers.” Solas Nua volunteers have been distributing free Irish books on St. Patrick’s Day for seven years running. This year marked the first mid-year giveaway, christened “Another Craik at St. Patrick’s Day.”

An additional first time aspect of Monday’s book bonanza was an almost invisible focus on adult literacy. Some of the books handed out were part of the Open Book series, a publishing project by Gemma Books, which commissioned bestselling literary authors like Maeve Binchy and Roddy Doyle to write extremely short books that would entice reluctant readers and low-literate adults. The books are charming pocket sized editions designed in slightly larger-than-usual print, which appeals to struggling readers although it might not be noticed by good readers.

The reward that comes from opening one of these small packages, whatever your reading ability, is a great story that the most sophisticated readers will appreciate and that slower readers will be able to digest. The stories succeed marvelously in their intent not to condescend. The characterization is complex, the dialogue realistic, and the poetic power in full force.

If you didn’t get a book, you can check on what you missed at Solas Nua, and if you like what you see, you can check them out of the DC Public Library. The Adult Literacy Resource Center on the third floor of MLK has multiple copies to lend. Center Director Marcia Harrington embraced the book giveaway enthusiastically. Two of her personal passions — for literacy and for all things Irish – came together in the Solas Nua project.

If you did get a free book, you also got a bookmark that asks you to consider becoming a literacy tutor. If you are interested in finding out more, the Resource Center can help point you to a program that needs you, one  that suits your skills and your schedule.

If you love literature, don’t miss another Irish Book day. Sign up with Solas Nua be reminded. Don’t let another “craik” at a free book go by.

And light a candle in thanks for the presence among us of Dennis Houlihan, the head of Solas Nua’s board, who organizes this wonderfully “craik” event every year.  Thanks be to Dennis.

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]

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

Calling All Book Clubs and Reading Groups

The Literary Friends of the Library and the Friends Groups at branch libraries have joined forces to sponsor eight literary events in April and May as part of DC’s BIG READ.

The BIG READ is a month-long, citywide series of events centered

on one classic novel. The concept originated at Seattle Public Library in 1998 as

“If All of Seattle Read the Same

Book," and was later promoted by the Library of Congress Center for the

Book as “One Book, OneCity.”

After a 2004 study, Reading at Risk,found that reading for leisure was declining even among

literate Americans, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, poet Dana

Gioia, adopted the popular idea for the NEA, which this year will provide

funding for more than 80 US cities and towns to hold BIG READ’s.

The DC Humanities

Council, recipient of an NEA grant to develop the series for DC, chose Their

Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston — an important writer of

the Harlem Renaissance who lived part of her life in DC.

Each event will feature readings or a speaker, followed by a discussion, and end with sharing experiences about reading groups. Book clubs and reading groups are a special focus of the series which will highlight the role libraries can play in supporting those groups. Individual members as well as whole groups are encouraged to attend.

Friends of the Library events are as follows:

Date Library Featuring
Wed April 25 at 6:30 pm Northeast Branch 330 7th Street, NE at Maryland Ave Pontheola MAck Abernathy and the Reverend Paul Abernathy
Wed May 2 at 6:30 pm Woodridge Branch 1801 Hamlin Street, NE at Rhode Island Ave Actress/playwright Joy Jones
Sun May 6 at 2 pm Petworth Branch 4200 Kansas Ave, NW at Georgia and Upshur
Mon May 7 at 6:30 pm Mt. Pleasant Branch Author Gayle Wald and Jennifer James