20 November 2006

Your Input Needed on the "Library Transformation Act of 2006" by Tuesday, November 21st

WHAT MLK MEMORIAL COULD BE: This renovated downtown flagship library is the vision that the mayor doesn't want you to see! Image from the DC Library Renaissance Project.
You may or may not be for the proposed new central library on the old Convention Center site. Personally, I wish we'd further investigate the potential of the old Carnegie Library (formerly the City Museum of Washington and currently a party rental). Whatever your feelings on this often contentious debate, please consider making your opinion known by contacting the DC Council’s Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation. The following - clearly against the bill - is from Robin Diener of the DC Library Renaissance Project, but full of useful information even if you disagree and want to share your thoughts within the next two days:
Critical Vote To Save Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - 5 DC Councilmembers Need to Hear From YOU!

The DC Council’s Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation is scheduled to vote on the fate of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLK).

When: Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 at 3pm
Where: Room 123, John Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Legislation: Bill 16-734, the “Library Transformation Act of 2006”

The bill allows the city to lease MLK to a private entity for 99 years, and construct a new library at the former Convention Center site ("old CC"). The five Councilmembers on the Committee need to hear from you now in opposition to the bill.

In Person: Attend the hearing on Tuesday, November 21st at 3 pm, and bring friends. A packed room of MLK supporters may convince the Councilmembers to vote no on Bill 16-734.

Contact the 5 Councilmembers: e-mail, call or fax . . .

Councilmember Marion Barry:
Phone: (202) 724-8045 / Fax: (202) 698-2388

Councilmember Vincent Gray:
Phone: (202) 724-8068 / Fax: (202) 724-8097

Councilmember Phil Mendelson:
Phone: (202) 724-8064 / Fax: (202) 724-8099

Committee Chairman Councilmember Kathy Patterson:
Phone: (202) 724-8062 / Fax: (202) 724-8118

Councilmember Carol Schwartz:
Phone: (202) 724-8105 / Fax: (202) 724-8071

Talking Points:

· I urge you to oppose Bill 16-734, the “Library Transformation Act of 2006.”
* Reopening the four closed branch libraries, and revitalizing the rest of the neighborhood libraries, is a higher priorty than a new central library.
* The proposed library on the old CC site would be smaller than MLK.
· The old CC site is a second-rate location with no Metro stops within 800 feet (2 blocks). MLK is within two blocks of five stops, serving all Metro lines!
· We have seen only one line drawing of the library proposed for the old CC building. It shows 9 small floors of awkward triangular spaces, with admistrative offices in the basement. MLK is the gold standard for flexibility with a rectangular layout that can accomodate change now and in the future.
* The library system is predicting huge increases in library usership based on the amount of housing being built downdown, yet the proposed old CC library has no provision for future expansion. MLK is larger and engineered to have a fifth floor added.
· MLK is a stand-alone facility. The old CC building would be a mixed-use facility, and could include offices, condos, or a shoe store.
· MLK was dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1971 and it has served as an annual gathering place to honor his legacy. It is not just a plaque to be attached to another building.
· The funding plan for a library on the old CC site is not sound, aspects criticized by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, among others. The city can lease or sell the old CC site and apply that money to renovate MLK.
· There has not been adequate public discussion of possibilities for a new central library.
* The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Libraries has not produced its report (it's been two years). How can Council decide without having seen the report they allocated funds for two years ago?
* It's not clear how parking would be provided for a library on the old CC site. MLK already has its own parking garage.

Sample Letter:


Dear Councilmember __________:

*I urge you to oppose Bill 16-734, the “Library Transformation Act of 2006”* that would authorize leasing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (“MLK”) for 99 years and building a new central library on the old convention center site (“old CC”).

Acceptable rationales for abandoning our architecturally significant and advantageously sited MLK library have not been presented. Nor do I accept assertions that funding possibilities will be lost if we do not make haste. Financial backing for a good plan can always be found.

As a District resident and library patron, I support further exploration of alternatives for renovation of MLK, which I believe will be less costly. I would also like to see a greater level of community involvement in the process of planning for library "transformation."

Of primary importance, MLK was dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1971 and has served as an annual gathering place to honor his legacy. It is not just a plaque to be moved form building to building.

Finally, I believe that reopening the closed branch libraries should be prioritized over any new central library facility.

For these reasons, I urge you to vote "no" on Bill 16-734.


/_Feel free to personalize. Please forward this message._/

Thank you!!!!

Robin Diener
DC Library Renaissance Peoject
1530 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036


  1. the old Carnegie building is far too small, which is why they left it to begin with. It's not a party rental building right now. The National Music Museum, a start up, is leasing most of the building from the Historical Society of Washington, which still maintains the Kiplinger Library Room and Albert Small gallery. The lease is for up to 5 years. Semi-full disclosure, I am working with the HSW on revivification planning.

  2. Bah - how much smaller is it than the smaller-than-current library they want to build on the old convention center site? And couldn't a (tasteful) annex be added?

    Last time I was inside, it was for a Google party at during BEA...didn't know someone finally took a lease. Though I do think you mean The National Music Center and Musuem Foundation - whose website states that they intend to be part of the old convention center development - rather than the The National Music Museum ;) Have they put a sign up yet?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.