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Mayor Bowser Celebrates Milestone on MLK Memorial Library Modernization with Beam Signing

Thursday, September 13, 2018
Ceremony Marks Completion of Structural Exterior Work at DC’s Central Library

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser celebrated the completion of the structural exterior of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization project with a ceremonial beam signing. The library is scheduled to reopen in 2020.

“For decades, the MLK Library has been a valuable community resource – a central gathering place for residents and visitors alike,” said Mayor Bowser. “Washington, DC is proud to be setting the bar higher for what people can and should expect from their libraries. We’re building beautiful spaces that provide residents new opportunities to engage with their community and connect with the resources they need to succeed.”

The $211 million modernization will redefine the very notion of how a central library can serve residents. The new library will open with a 60 percent increase in public space—an additional 100,000 square feet—as compared to the building that closed in 2017. The library will also feature:

  • a new, inspiring, and transparent entryway;
  • sculptured monumental stairs;
  • a large auditorium and conference center;
  • creative spaces for music production and art creation;
  • a ground level café with patio;
  • double-height reading room;
  • a large, interactive children’s space;
  • an expanded special collections space for researchers and local history enthusiasts; and,
  • a rooftop event space with a terrace.

“We’ve spent the past ten years serving residents by aggressively building and renovating libraries in neighborhoods all over the city,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director of the DC Public Library. “With the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Library, we now have the opportunity to build something more than a library – a true life change center designed to meet a variety of fundamental needs not limited to finding a good book, but may include developing a skill, landing a job, connecting with a neighbor, or simply finding some inspiration.”

At the modernized library, residents will be able to access workforce development/training programs, city services, co-working spaces for local startups and entrepreneurs, and connected-learning programs for students.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization was designed by the team of Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo Architecten. The team of Smoot|Gilbane is the construction manager-at-risk. To date, more than 80 percent of the project costs have gone to Certified Business Enterprises.

Xenobia Bailey Selected as Artist for Grand Reading Room Ceiling

Noted artist Xenobia Bailey has been selected as the designer of the grand reading room ceiling. Known for her elaborate designs evoking African and Native American patterns, Bailey’s works can be found in the permanent collections at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Museum of Contemporary Arts and in the Museum of Arts and Design.

The ceiling treatment is intended to represent Washington, DC’s landscape and/or streetscape; create a thematic connection between the third floor grand reading room and the special collections area on the fourth floor; complement the architects’ vision for a light-filled, quiet, relaxing space for reading and solitary study that harmonizes with Mies van der Rohe’s modernist design; distinguish the grand reading room with an iconic visual feature, with the potential to increase a sense of community connection to the Library and its resources; and honor Dr. King’s legacy and love of books.

This grand reading room ceiling is the first of three permanent public art pieces that will go in the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Future calls will be for the vestibule glass and the plaza in front of the building. The Library is partnering with the DC Public Library Foundation, an independent nonprofit that raises money to benefit the DC Public Library, on the public art for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.