December 17, 2017

District of Columbia: DC Public Library Board Adopts Resolution Supporting Stand-Alone Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with Fifth Fl. Addition

From the DC Public Library:

Wednesday, Jan. 28, the DC Public Library Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization design approach as a stand-alone library with a fifth-floor addition.

The board recommended the fifth-floor addition approach instead of the three-story, mixed-use addition after considering the requirements for a modern library, factoring in community feedback and reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of adding three new floors.

“After months of listening and learning, the Board had several goals,” said Gregory M. McCarthy, president, of the DC Public Library board of trustees. “First and foremost, it was essential to make possible additional space for programming in a spectacular central library. We also wanted to create a hub for educational, cultural and civic expression for the whole city and we wanted contribute to the social and economic activation around MLK in downtown.  The concept we’re advancing does all of that.”

Modernizing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with a fifth-floor addition could accommodate the library’s building program with the option of including mixed-use, like a café and restaurant as well as space for non-profit and government partners.

In 2012, planning for the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library assumed that a new library would need only 250,000 square feet. In December, the Library revised its program to incorporate new library uses and to include ideas from more than 3,000 District residents. The new program will require the entire 400,000 square foot building plus a fifth-floor addition.

The additional space will be used to provide new and expanded services such as:

  • Classrooms and Training Facilities. Library staff and partners will provide instruction to better prepare district residents for school and career readiness. A larger space for children’s programming and books to address the larger number of children that visit the library regularly and for story times.
  • Creativity Commons for Innovation and Prototyping. Access to and training on an impressive suite of tools that will address the growing need for spaces to incubate the next generation of scientists, technologists, and engineers. Studio space and creativity software that will empower D.C.’s burgeoning creative community with the means by which to innovate.
  • Experiential learning spaces for children and teens. Stimulating activities and environments that facilitate early childhood literacy, support for students, and college and career readiness for teens and young adults. The focus of the library’s work with youth is to make learning exciting and to stress informal programs that complement the work of schools and other partners.
  • Reading Room and Library. An inspiring and natural light-filled area for books, readers, and researchers. A haven and sanctuary for quiet and solitary learning.
  • Large Gathering Spaces for Performances, Readings, and Civic Engagement. The library will be a destination for cultural events, discussions, community meetings, musical performances, and readings.
  • Washington DC History Center. An archive, special collection, and exhibition space focusing on Dr. King’s legacy in DC.  A repository for the collections of notable Washingtonians.
  • New Fifth-floor Addition. A new floor with rooftop terrace that will be used for reading and library programs.

With the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library needing the entire building for library service, adding three floors will likely generate revenues of less than 10-15 percent of the total project costs. This percentage would likely be decrease when considering the impact of adding three floors to the existing historic structure which may also prompt a legal review by the Mayor’s Agent.  In addition, the three-floor addition was found to decrease space for new library services and was not likely to increase library usage significantly.

The District Government has committed $208 million in the FY 2015 ($14.5m), FY 2017 ($4.5m), FY 2019 ($76.5m) and FY 2020 ($113m) capital budget, enough to cover the cost of the modernized library with the fifth floor addition the Library Board supports in its resolution.

Primary Documents

See Also: Preliminary Design Ideas For DC Public/MLK Public Library Renovation Project Released (February 7, 2014)

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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