MLK Library Renovation Community Forum

Compilation of Community Comments

The Library hosted a Community Forum on Monday, May 19. The architects presented design concepts for community feedback.

Q: In concept design, have you considered people with special needs (beyond people in wheelchairs)?
A: Accessibility is a priority in design. The design will be fully ADA compliant. In addition, the design team is exploring ways to make the building welcoming to all customers.

Q: Why have you not passed out handouts of the design to the public?
A: Designs were posted online before the meeting.

Overhead lighting can be a problem/it is limiting. Having spotlighting and other lighting choices would offer more flexibility

Q: Is it possible to install solar panels on top of the library?
A: sustainable design is a goal of the project.  Solar panels are an option. The project will meet a minimum of LEED Gold Certification.

Mies designed the building to accommodate two additional floors. It might be simpler to take the building straight up rather than adding an offset beam design on top (as Mies envisioned).

Please include storage space for staff and Friends groups.

Q: Is the space for staff flexible to add more space if staff were added?
A: Currently staff space in the building is excessive. We have gotten much smarter about how to consolidate space.

Q: Can you give an idea of the time frame for deciding whether or not an addition will be pursued?
A: Best thing we can do at this point is to really determine what the appetite is for pursuing this approach.

Q: How will natural light be extended to the lower level – teen space and the innovation space? Want to be sure that the teens are relegated to a space without natural light.
A: the design proposes to bring light in through openings. Some aspects of innovation space will be better served without natural light.

Q: Library on first floor should be full of people. On first floor what attractions will there be beyond a café?
A: The goal of the architects is to make people want to move up through the building. The exact layout of the program that will fill these spaces is still being thought out. Exhibitions, possibly a mini ampitheatre and other reasons to enjoy the Great Hall space.

Communication is very important. Not everyone uses computers to get their information. Please notify all 8 wards so that they can have the opportunity to provide input.

Q: What are the opportunities for children in this building?
A: The proposed floor plan greatly expands the children’s space. Specific programs for spaces is still under development. The architect’s job is to create the core for those activities.

Don’t forget the history that we have in this building.

Is there an opportunity to create more permanent high-tech co-working space? Could it be an opportunity to generate income for the library or the city?

Q: Have you planned anything to accommodate homeless customers?
A: customers without homes are certainly stakeholders. Our goal is to make the building welcoming for everyone.

Q: You mention a lot of space outside. Have you considered a dedicated parking area to drop off and pick up customers. Currently, it is hard to do this.
A: We will be looking at creating a drop off/pick up area. We will work with DDOT to accommodate such a space.

Q: Will there be additional meeting rooms in the renovated building?
A: We will have a wide range of meeting spaces to accommodate a range of group sizes. They will be located in various floors.

Design we are seeing tonight is exactly the same as the design that was shown at the competition in February. It is not built by the community. We don’t understand why there is still discussion about adding floors when that was proposed as a way to fund the project. No understanding of who participated in the focus groups. Round table in April some people thought the design was a “done deal.”

Q: Remembering marches on Dr. King’s birthday. This building feels like sacred ground. When you are finished with this renovation, will it still feel like sacred ground?
A: We are trying to very respectful in how we are approaching this project.

Q: What specifically will be in the design that will ensure we still get that feel that we are on sacred ground?
A: One thing we are looking at is where the historic collection/heritage of DC is kept/displayed. Legacy will be more celebrated/showcased by placing it on the top floor, rather than in the basement.

Q: Create a MLK/Civil Rights Archive. Use example of Shakespeare Room at Birmingham Library. What is it that is in the basement celebrating MLK that needs to be brought up?
A: The Library is keenly interested in highlighting MLK/History of D.C. with a strong emphasis on the African American influence in D.C. The collection is in dire need of better space.

Q: Lower level currently is one of the more depressing floors I’ve ever been in anywhere. How are you going to make it wonderful without increasing the floor-to-ceiling height?
A: The ceiling height is actually the same as on the upper floors. It feels lower because the lighting is poor. The design will greatly enhance the lower level and make it an inviting space.

Love the activation of the outdoor space, proposals for G Place, closing loading docks, examining staircases. Love opening the back of Great Hall to the public. Missing – spectacular reading room. Is there some way to make that happen? Need more than an auditorium – need a film room. It is up to the DC Government and Trustees to decide whether project will have additional floors. It seems premature.

Need to recognize the reality of the regulatory agencies that have oversight over this project and the limits of funding. Is there a place online where residents can get all of the information in one place? There are services that we would like to see that are beyond the scope of the library to provide. Social services co-located near library. Have a rotating staff of people who specialty is working providing these services. Example of Denver.

Lot of great ideas here. Seattle Public Library isn’t the best library, but it is impressive. This process seems to have moved forward without a plan. The issue of co-location still hasn’t been addressed. The Central Library is the single most civic/cultural facility in a city. Idea of co-location includes all kinds of options. It could be for-profit, or it could be cultural. CSPAN Book TV. Book store. WPFW. The failure of planning isn’t just on the library – it is on the city for the whole downtown area. There is no comprehensive plan. This is a once in a two or three generation opportunity. We want the greatest civic/cultural institution in the U.S. for local residents. We risk missing an opportunity to have a quantum leap not just locally, but nationally.

Currently, this Library doesn’t have enough quality other than digital resources. Need freedom of information. The future of the library is digital. Need to ensure customer privacy.  When digital is the future why do we need to expand this library?

Libraries are vastly expanding their digital offerings, but physical space is proving to be essential. Many cities are opening new central libraries that are the life blood of the community/city. People want to be engaged.

This is a landmark for Dr. King and there should be some reflection of his legacy in the design.