Library Advocates Frustrated By Closed Libraries
Renovations, New Construction Behind Schedule
WASHINGTON -- Several D.C. libraries have been closed for almost two years, and residents are wondering what's going on and whether their library will ever be open again.
Four of the city's 26 libraries are closed for renovations and new construction. Since the closures, there has been a lot of retooling in the library system, including a new director, who started three weeks ago.
For almost two years, the Benning Road, Anacostia, Tenley-Friendship and Shaw libraries have been closed. Some library advocates said that with 37 percent of D.C.'s adult population lacking basic reading comprehension, all of the libraries need to be open.
Two years ago, a new building for the Shaw library was planned for September.
"They haven't torn the building down yet," said Alexander Padro. "They just put the fence up two weeks ago."
On Benning Road, residents were promised a renovated library, but those renovations haven't happened.
"If any logical, reasonable administration wanted to renovate the libraries, they don't have to close them down," said library advocate Rick Tingling-Clemmons. "And if they decide to renovate libraries, they should come to the community."
"There isn't a member of the D.C. Public Library Board who doesn't say, 'Gosh, if we knew then what we know now, we might have done things differently,'" said chief librarian Ginnie Cooper. "But we will reopen those libraries."
Officials aren't saying when the libraries will reopen, but they are sharing details of an interim solution. Beginning the first week of September, bookmobiles with eight computers each will be parked near the closed branches. Before the end of the year, module units will serve as temporary libraries near the closed branches and will have computers and books.
Library activists said this isn't a good solution when there are perfectly good buildings to use.
"For our community, our seniors, our young people, everyone, to have spent two years waiting for something and to just get a bookmobile is outrageous," Padro said.
When the libraries reopen, they may be reopened as mixed-use spaces so the city can make some money out of the space. The library director is not opposed to that as long as the library is the focus of the space. Advocates said they are fine with whatever they decide, as long as the community is a part of it and is heard.
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