Washington DC Mayor Bowser Cuts Ribbon on New Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Washington, DC (STL.News) Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and District leaders celebrated the completion of the three-year, $211 million Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization.  In 2016, Mayor Bowser accelerated the project funding by two years to allow for a 2020 reopening.  Ultimately, the project, delivered on time and on budget, took a total of just more than six years.

“We are proud to unveil the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as a world-class facility in the heart of our city and the crown jewel of a library system undergoing a renaissance,” said Mayor Bowser.  “Our investments will continue to transform our libraries into beautiful spaces where residents can learn, gather, and engage with their community.”

Designed in the late 1960s by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the architect team of Mecanoo and OTJ Architects modernized the building.  The renovation resulted in a significant expansion of public space and includes, among many new features, a dramatic set of monumental stairs, an auditorium and conference center, a rooftop event space and terrace, dedicated exhibition spaces, co-working spaces, a double-height grand reading room, a colorful children’s room and playground slide, a café and patio, and a creative lab for music production, emerging technologies, and a dance studio.

“The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library has been fundamentally transformed to accommodate the vast array of services that define the modern public library,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library. “The inspiring new space invites residents to learn, explore, and delight in ways that were simply unfathomable in the building that closed in 2017.”

In addition to the variety of new services offered at the library, the building will also showcase art by established and emerging artists from the District and elsewhere. Original and commissioned works by renowned artists such as Alma Thomas, Xenobia Bailey, Nekisha Durrett, and Martin Puryear will grace the new building. Don Miller’s King mural in the building’s Great Hall has been cleaned and restored to reflect its original brilliance.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization represents DC Public Library’s most ambitious capital project since the beginning of its building renaissance in 2009.  More than 20 libraries have been built or fully renovated in the past decade. Additional neighborhood libraries are either in design or construction.

OTJ Architects is an established firm that has extensive experience with historic modernization projects, including DC’s Takoma Park and Georgetown libraries.  Mecanoo is a Dutch-based firm whose work includes central library projects in Birmingham, England and the New York Public Library.

Smoot|Gilbane Joint Venture served as the construction manager at-risk for the project. Jair Lynch Development Partners served as the owner’s representative and is one of 37 Certified Business Enterprise companies that worked on the project.

Phase Two Library Services
During Phase Two of the District’s reopening, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will offer limited in-person services.  Access to most of the building’s interior will be prohibited. Residents will be able to access the building’s main floor only to:

Pick up books that they have placed on hold.
Apply for a Library Card: Customers can apply for a Library Card at an open branch and online via the Library’s website www.dclibrary.org.
Use a computer:  The Library has reduced the number of public computers to ensure six feet of social distancing.  In addition, computer sessions are limited to 45-minute sessions to allow for cleaning and for more people to access the internet.  While photocopying and scanning are not available, customers can also send documents electronically for free printing.
Borrow Grab & Go Materials: Curated book titles and bundles of books will be available for checkout near the circulation desk.  Customers can ask for a specific item, and the staff member will retrieve it.
Precautions and Safety Measures
The District has put in place the following measures at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and other District libraries during the public health emergency:

  • All libraries are closed from 2 pm – 3 pm for cleaning.
  • Face masks required for staff and public.
  • Hand sanitizer available at each location for staff and public.
  • Quarantine returned materials for 96 hours before it is re-shelved.
  • Regulated entry and occupancy.
  • Reconfigured branches to promote social distancing.

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