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MLK Jr. Memorial Library Closes for $208M Renovation

Wed April 19, 2017 - Northeast Edition #8
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Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will start in Summer 2017 and continue until 2020.
Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will start in Summer 2017 and continue until 2020.

On March 4, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, DC Public Library executive director, announced that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C.'s central library, will close for a complete modernization. Reyes-Gavilan also released final renderings and floor plans for the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will start in Summer 2017 and continue until 2020. When the $208 million transformation is complete, the Library will become the center of activity for the already vibrant downtown area.

The building will feature a new, inspiring and transparent entryway; sculptured monumental stairs; large auditorium and conference center; creative spaces for fabrication, music production and art creation; ground level café with patio; double-height reading room; large, interactive children's space; expanded special collections space for researchers and local history enthusiasts, and a rooftop event space with terrace. Public art will be solicited for the reading room, the vestibule and the plaza in front of the building. The art installations in the vestibule and the plaza will honor Dr. King.

As the Library prepares for construction, Reyes-Gavilan outlined plans for interim services. Neighborhood libraries, which are currently closed on Thursday mornings, will open at 9:30 a.m. A retail location, “Library Express”' will open at 1990 K St. NW to house Adult Literacy Resource Center and Center for Accessibility as well as provide a small browsing collection of books and public access computers. Special Collections, including parts of Washingtoniana, will be available at the Washington Historical Society, the Georgetown Library's Peabody Room and the Library of Congress.

The Labs, which include the Fabrication, Memory and Studio labs, will be modified and relocated. The Memory Lab will be housed at the Northeast Library, 330 7th St., NE. Fifty laptops will be dispersed to neighborhood libraries to accommodate increased traffic. In addition to opening a Library Express location at 1990 K St. NW and expanding operating hours at all neighborhood libraries, many items that are unique to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and books that are in good condition will be available at the District's neighborhood libraries.

The announcement concludes the community engagement that began in 2013. More than 70 community and stakeholder meetings and 13 focus groups were held across the city, hundreds of surveys submitted, and more than 4,000 people were reached in person or online. The project has been approved by the National Capital Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Review Board and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

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