Summary of Community Feedback
Community engagement is a critical part of the design process for the renovation of MLK Memorial Library. To that end, the Library is gathering input in a number of ways.
- The MLK Renovation Idea Community, where residents can post ideas and see what others have posted.
- Focus groups with adults, teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders.
- Surveys – both online and on paper in libraries.
Feedback Totals to Date
- Online and paper survey responses: 850 (plus 2,663 survey starts on dclibrary.org)
- 15 focus groups held
- Crowdsourcing participation: 1,211 users; 105 ideas posted; 291 comments; 3,058 votes
- 207 comment cards on architect finalists submitted at neighborhood libraries and at MLK library, Feb 8-14
- 250+ in-person attendees at Feb. 15 Library Design Forum; 75+ online viewers
Sample Comments from Ideascale
“I always thought it was a nice building, just worn out. I would hate to see the library lose any of its practicality for the sake of adding glamor or pizzazz. When I go there, I want to be able to find what I'm looking for easily, and I want a safe, quiet, and comfortable place to browse through a book or do some writing.”
“The entire library should be a public space.”
"It would be lovely to see a Dream Cafe' in the MLK Library where customers could have light meals and refreshments right at the library."
Library Design Forum (Saturday, Feb. 15) Comment Card Feedback
The Library Design Forum was held Saturday, Feb. 15 in the Great Hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The Forum was widely promoted through online advertising, neighborhood listservs, local media, elected officials, direct email, community events and social media. More than 250 people attended the Forum in person, with another 75+ participating online. Most cards contained more than one comment or question so the breakdown of positive, negative and neutral comments does not equal total number of cards received, but rather the total number of comments. Read all the comments.
Summary of Feedback on Library Programs and Services: Surveys, Focus Groups and Ideascale
The following feedback is organized by theme.
How to Create a More Welcoming Place
We asked customers, which item would welcome you into the library and encourage you to stay awhile? The chart shows the top responses.
Customers feel the building could be much more welcoming both on the outside and in the Great Hall. Many mentioned adding landscaping to soften the exterior, adding more lighting and improving signage. Some suggested art and tables and chairs as a way to activate the exterior.
Many respondents were enthusiastic about the idea of a café, emphasizing that it would be something that would encourage them to stay longer. Many said the Great Hall feels cavernous and empty. Suggestions for making the space feel more lively included more seating and adding books to the Great Hall, better lighting (including skylights), public art, more signage and making stairs/elevators more prominent so that it is clear how customers get upstairs from the lobby.
Some respondents, especially teens, felt the entrance is intimidating, even scary, with people loitering outside. They would like it to be brighter and suggested a greeter at the entrance would make customers feel more welcome upon entering.
Overall, customers want plenty of access to computers, free WiFi and state-of-the-art software. Customers would like more opportunities to learn about new technologies. Some mentioned a maker space where customers can collaborate and create.
Spaces and Services for Adults
Customers want to continue to see more of the services currently offered including plenty of books and ebooks, lots of computers, themed book clubs, classes and other special events.
Customers want open spaces and to eliminate wasted space. They want a range of seating options, including plenty of comfortable chairs for reading. Older customers would appreciate seating that is higher and/or easier to get into and out of. They want more electrical outlets, particularly at tables, to facilitate the use of laptops and other electronic devices. Customers would appreciate the ability to check out headphones for use in the library to listen to audio content on computers.
Customers want a greater variety and number of meeting spaces, including technology-enabled classrooms, quiet study rooms, conference rooms and a large auditorium or theater. Some suggested soundproof practice space for musicians.
Customers want plenty of natural light and views to the outdoors from the reading rooms. They want warmer lighting inside, including task lighting.
Other ideas included more technical education, a business center, a maker space and more technology training.
Spaces and Services for Teens
Teens want to feel welcome when they come to the library. They would like a large, open space with comfortable seating and teen-centric furniture (round tables, chairs with wheels and bean bags chairs, for example), plenty of computers and the latest technology, small meeting rooms for group study and gaming stations.
Teens also want to feel safe when they come to the library. Teens would like teen-only bathrooms inside their space, as well as their own small area where they can eat. They would like more control over who comes into teen space. Teens prefer to be located away from the younger children and with easy access to the adult collection, especially the non-fiction and reference collections.
Teens would like to see expanded programming, including clubs/classes for pursuing hobbies, teen-created programs and classes on technology. They would like the college and career center to operate more closely with the teen space.
Spaces and Services for Children
Customers feel the design of the children’s space needs to balance safety with a welcoming feel. Easy access was a big concern, with many asking for the children’s room to be either on the first floor or easily accessible by both stairs and elevators without having to traverse other areas of the building. Parents appreciate the family bathroom in the children’s space and want to keep that feature.
Customers feel the children’s area should be more than a reading space. It should be engaging and imaginative with spaces for exploration, reading nooks, programming space and separate spaces for the different ages. Some suggested carving out a distinct area for tweens who aren’t quite ready to make the transition to the teen space.
Adaptive Services/Accessibility Issues
Customers who use the adaptive services at MLK Library expressed strong support for continuing the current range of services. Many felt it would improve access and raise awareness of adaptive services by moving the space to the first floor. Customers encouraged the designers to incorporate best practices in universal design, including automatic sliding doors, quiet HVAC systems, task lighting for low-vision customers and adaptive technologies available in areas such as Digital Commons.
There was strong desire for helping adaptive services customers feel welcome in every area in the library.
Customers who use Special Collections would like better lighting that is more conducive to examining historical documents. They would like seating near the windows to take advantage of the natural light. Customers would like computers in the Special Collections area so that researchers can use them. A classroom adjacent to Special Collections would enable teachers to bring their classes to the space to learn about D.C. History.
Safety & Security
Many comments mentioned concerns for safety and security, particularly outside the building under the canopy, in stairwells and in bathrooms. Teens especially expressed concern about not feeling safe, requesting bathrooms inside the teen space and better control of who comes into and out of the teen space.
Many respondents commented that there is a large population of customers at MLK who appear to be homeless and mentally ill. Many commented that people loitering outside the building make it feel unsafe, especially for children and teens. People would like to see a better solution to balance the needs of all customers while remaining welcoming. Some suggested working with the city to provide social services for mentally ill and homeless customers. Others think creating a homeless services advisory group with representation from organizations around the city would be a good idea.
Opinions and Ideas on a Mixed-Use Project
Reactions the idea of a mixed-use approach to the project were generally positive. A strong majority of respondents loved the idea of incorporating a café on the ground floor as a way to make the space more inviting. Many were excited about the idea of a roof terrace, but cautioned that access should not be restricted to a private tenant.
Reaction to the idea of residential or office space was generally positive, though a number of respondents preferred a partnership that would complement the mission of the library. Suggestions included sharing the building with an educational organization, such as a charter school or satellite site for a university, sharing space with the D.C. Archives, conference space that would generate revenue, workforce training, incubator space for business start-ups or a professional theater company.