D.C.'s Central Library will close for three years to undergo a major modernization. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
D.C.'s Central Library will close for three years to undergo a major modernization. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

The District’s central library is slated for modernization in the spring.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will close for renovation after regular business hours on Saturday, March 4.

During construction, the library’s services will be provided across the city at temporary locations, though could take up to two months for interim services to begin, library officials said.

Construction will begin in the summer and is expected to be completed by 2020. However, the nearly three-year renovation project will not disrupt most services.

“The D.C. Public Library is committed to offering library services during construction, especially those services that are unique to the MLK Library,” said a DCPL statement. “The overall renovation budget must cover both the costs for the new library and costs for temporary services. Therefore, the library will not be able to replicate all central library services during construction.”

Most items in the MLK Library will be accessible during renovation in other branch locations or by placing holds that can be picked up at any library.

Its most popular special collections will be available at partner organizations such as the Historical Society of Washington, Library of Congress and the Georgetown Library Peabody Room. The closure will be used to digitize a huge selection of backlog items, which will be available on the DigDC website within months.

“Many services and items will be available at the 25 branches throughout the city,” DCPL said.

The renovated Capitol View Library will reopen in the fall with over 40 public computers and a computer instruction lab. The new West End and Palisades libraries are also scheduled to open in the fall.

Fifty additional laptops will also be dispersed to branch locations to accommodate increased traffic.

Operating hours will expand at all branch locations and an interim retail location, “Library Express,” will open at 1990 K Street NW to provide services including an Adult Literacy Resource Center and Center for Accessibility. It will have a “small collection” of popular books and 30 public computers.

MLK Library’s Memory Lab will move to Northeast Library, but plans for relocating the Studio and Fabrication labs are still being finalized, officials said.

MLK services such as the College Information Center, Community Tax Aid, Tango Pratica and video visitation for families with of individuals in the D.C. jail will be held at various library branches.

DC Tech Meet Up and Co-working partners will be suspended.

DCPL will also continue to offer social services throughout its system.

“The DC Public Library provides support to many of the District’s most vulnerable populations,” the system said. “Many of these services are provided out of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It is expected that there will be an increase in use at select library locations when the MLK Library closes. Staff at these locations will receive additional training and support.”

Libraries will partner with day shelters to provide service in shelters and programs for homeless people. The Department of Human Services is also working to supplement social services for the homeless population that frequents the MLK Library.

The renovated flagship library will have a transparent entryway, sculpted stairs, an auditorium and conference center, spaces for music and art production, a ground-level café with a patio, newly designed research spaces and a rooftop event space with a terrace.

“The $208 million rehabilitation, once complete, will become the center of activity for the already-vibrant Chinatown area,” DCPL said. “The aim is to go beyond a library that is merely transactional — a place where you go simply to checkout a book — to create a library that truly transforms lives, a world-class library for the 21st century.”

Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her...

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