May 22, 2022

Public Libraries: “D.C. Library System’s Crown Jewel Revamped”

From ENR Mid-Atlantic:

Over the past three years, members of the project team modernizing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.—a Mies van der Rohe-designed landmark—have aced an array of challenges. They have had to convert a deteriorating 48-year-old building that suffered from years of deferred maintenance into an information center that fits the changing roles of 21st-century urban libraries. Then this year, as the project entered the home stretch, the team was hit with perhaps its biggest challenge of all: the coronavirus pandemic.

The $211-million job entailed replacing outdated mechanical systems and a failing exterior envelope. It also required balancing new interior reading areas with event and technology spaces while respecting Mies’ modernist design.


The team recently reinstalled two murals depicting the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in the library’s ground-floor entrance. They had been stored off site during construction. To create an informal performance space in front of the murals, the project team pushed back the mural wall 4 ft and installed risers for people to sit on during performances. The team also restored the entrance’s original brick interior walls and reception desk while adding modern ceilings and light fixtures.

[Peter] Ege [Peter Ege, project executive for the Smoot|Gilbane joint venture] says he often thinks about the thousands of people, especially children, “who will come through here after we’re done and will be inspired by this new modern library.” He adds, “It’s not just another project in D.C., it’s improving the heart of the city’s fabric.”

Read the Complete Article, View Images (Approx. 1890 Words)

Learn More: Direct to DC Public Library Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Modernization Info Page

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.