D.C. Public Library to begin renovations at MLK Memorial

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Local,Michael Neibauer

The District of Columbia Public Library is moving forward with major renovations of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, while designs for a new facility have been tabled — for now.

Improvements to the outdated and long-neglected MLK Library in Mount Vernon Square address pressing needs, said Monica Lewis, library spokeswoman. The library system is expected to spend more than $2 million revamping the restrooms, replacing more than 1,000 ceiling lamps, modernizing three elevators, constructing a 1,800-square-foot, 38-seat technology training lab, and replacing all staff and customer computers.

Some of the projects are under way, some are planned and others are already finished.

Meanwhile, Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration is still considering whether to push for a new central library.

Construction of a new facility was a top priority for former Mayor Anthony Williams, who sought to lease the existing Mies van der Rohe-designed building to the private sector and to construct a state-of-the-art facility on the site of the Old Convention Center. But theD.C. Council rejected his plan just before he left office.

Fenty backed Williams’ project as the Ward 4 D.C. Council member. Those plans have since been shelved, "but not trashed," Fenty spokeswoman Dena Iverson said.

"Regardless of whether or not we are able to build a new central library, these kinds of improvements needed to be made," Lewis said of the renovations. "We needed to make the building more inviting, accessible and comfortable for our library customers and our library staff."

The District first must shore up its neighborhood branches before spending $269 million on a new central library, said Ward 5 Council Member Harry Thomas Jr., chair of the libraries, park and recreation committee.

The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board will hold a public hearing Thursday to consider whether to designate the MLK Library as a local historic landmark.

mneibauer@dcexaminer.com

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Michael Neibauer

D.C. Government Reporter
The Washington Examiner