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Monday, October 29, 2007

Carnegie Library To Become D.C.'s Central Library?

The Washington Business Journal reports today that library administrators and Mayor Adrian Fenty's office are seriously looking at moving most operations of D.C.'s central library--currently the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library downtown at 9th and G--to its historic home in the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square. The move would necessitate expanding the Carnegie Library (I assume into the surrounding park). A newly commissioned study will determine how much additional space is needed at the Carnegie site.

I think it's a shame that the City Museum did not prosper at the Carnegie site (details here). The National Music Center currently leases space in the Carnegie building but has its eyes on moving to a larger, new facility (details of its plans here). Whether or not this landmark becomes D.C.'s central library, I hope that the surrounding green space remains (although it could be maintained better than it currently is) and that the building and surrounding area brim with new, neighborhood enhancing life. I think a well-executed central libary plan could accomplish both.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pros and cons to the move. Pro: the carnegie building is beautiful and central. It could draw a lot more people in. Con: the necessary expansion could damage its architectural integrity. Perhaps the city could expand underground (a la subterranean plaza at the Louvre). Also a con is the potential fate of the MLK library. Yes, it's in need of some serious repair but it's also the only Mies Van Der Rohe we have the area. Some new windows, lighting, and flooring and it would be an amazing space (yes, I admit that's practically conceding to gut the building).

Shaw Rez said...

anon - I share a similar assessment.

vb said...

I wonder if the focus on the library is a bit misguided. Who's using the current library? Would moving it to a prettier building make people use the library more when lots of people now buy paperbacks? I agree too that the Mies Van Der Rohe building needs repairs and shouldn't be abandoned.

What would be great to have there is a museum that shows some of the collections at the other Smithsonians (I bet they only show a small fraction of their collections). Then, people going to conferences could pay some money to do what would be a mini tour of our great museums.

keg said...

The city should lease the place out to make it a restaurant or tavern. The current model hasn't worked - the city can't keep up the grounds which are constantly strewn with garbage and squatters. The area is a mess and reeks of urine. It's a terrible first look at the city as conventioneers go to/from the center to get hassled and yelled at by the panhandlers. All this as we naively hope the conventioneers travel north on 9th to frequent other businesses. DC has a massive problem keeping its public "amenities" clean, safe, and functional. I would not wish a central public library on this neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

The architectural value of that Mies Van Der Rohe building is lost on me...but everyone seems to want to save it, so it must be me? Or is it the Emperor's new clothes?

Shaw Rez said...

Anon @ 1:08 - you're definitely not alone, although I happen to like the Mies Van Der Rohe MLK library and would like it restored (and even expanded--about a year ago I saw renderings for an additional floor or two that looked attactive). I think it's an interesting contrast to the surrounding buildings. I think that if renovated and upfitted with nice finishes, it could be a really pleasant library experience in the heart of downtown.

KEG - it seems too big to be solely a restaurant or tavern. I agree that its grounds currently present a bad first impression to the area (the encampment of bums, the path-worn lawn, etc.).

Rob Goodspeed did an interesting assessment of Mt. Vernon Square a few weeks ago--check it out here:

http://goodspeedupdate.com/2007/2100

rr446 said...

the folks in charge at the library have enough incompletes already. they must have a ton of money to do all these studies. why can they repair the Georgetown library, consolidate the WestEnd library, construct the new Shaw library, renovate the Cleveland Park library, build a new Northwest One library, build a new Benning Road Library before they waste more money on another study. somebody must be making a mint off these library studies. ha. I think the brains at the library should take a course in proportionality.

i like the carnegie restaurant idea and also why not turn 501 NY Avenue into an inn as well.

Mr. Ray said...

I would like to see the Carnegie Library restored to its original function as a Library -- but move the Washingtoniana Branch there and to work in tandem to share the space with the Washington Historical Society library. Perhaps move the video and sound libraries and internet rooms there too. Leave the other collections in the Van der Rohe ediface with its urine-stenched backstairs and elevators. It's ironic that one wants to save that rusted hulk. Historic Preservation would have never approved it if they had existed back when it was built.