DC Public Libraries have come a long way in the past decade. Circulation has tripled since 2006 and 14 branches have been rebuilt or renovated.
Two of the new libraries, William O. Lockridge/Bellevue and Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Libraries, won Royal Institute of British Architects International (RIBA) awards this year for architectural excellence. But not all DC Public Libraries libraries are brand new structures; some are housed in beautiful historic buildings including the Petworth and Mount Pleasant Libraries, which were recently renovated. After the fire in 2007, the historic Georgetown Library was completely renovated, which also allowed for the addition of more space. Construction is currently underway at the historic Northeast Neighborhood Library at 330 7th Street NE.
The new libraries are not just spaces to store books. They are meant to be functional gathering places for the community with architecture that supports varied uses. The new layouts provide a great deal of open space as well as meeting space for outside groups, library programs, and people who want to collaborate.
The DC Public Libraries will be increasing their hours in the fall. Starting on October 1, every location in the city will open seven days a week. Plus, each neighborhood library and the main branch, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLK), will also be open four evenings each week.
In mid-July, the MLK location will have a new Digital Commons on the first floor with various technologies including a 3-D printer. The Digital Commons will also contain a bar with various devices, like a petting zoo for technology, so patrons can access downloadable materials.
Additional future preservation and development is planned for the historic MLK building designed by world-famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The five-story, 440,000-square-foot building at 901 G Street in Northwest in the heart of Penn Quarter has a slew of maintenance and infrastructure concerns and is thought to be almost twice the size necessary for a downtown central library. Due to budget constraints, it is hoped that perhaps a developer may take on this building as part of a larger project, especially since there are fewer than 15 sites remaining in the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID).
If funding continues as expected, four more libraries will be renovated in the next five years. Check out the progress (and maybe a book too) at DC Public Libraries.