Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library to Close March 4 for Modernization

News Releases

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library to Close March 4 for Modernization

Today, DC Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan announced that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C.’s central library, will close on March 4 for a complete modernization. Reyes-Gavilan also released final renderings and floor plans for the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and will update the community on how Library service will be provided during construction at a meeting this evening.

Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will start in Summer 2017 and continue until 2020.  When the $208 million transformation is complete, the Library will become the center of activity for the already vibrant downtown area. The building will feature a new, inspiring, and transparent entryway; sculptured monumental stairs; large auditorium and conference center; creative spaces for fabrication, music production and art creation; ground level café with patio; double-height reading room; large, interactive children’s space; expanded special collections space for researchers and local history enthusiasts, and a rooftop event space with terrace. Public art will be solicited for the reading room, the vestibule and the plaza in front of the building. The art installations in the vestibule and the plaza will honor Dr. King.

As the Library prepares for construction, Reyes-Gavilan outlined plans for interim services. Neighborhood libraries, which are currently closed on Thursday mornings, will open at 9:30 a.m. A retail location, “Library Express”’ will open at 1990 K St. NW to house Adult Literacy Resource Center and Center for Accessibility as well as provide a small browsing collection of books and public access computers. Special Collections, including parts of Washingtoniana, will be available at the Washington Historical Society, the Georgetown Library’s Peabody Room and the Library of Congress. The Labs, which include the Fabrication, Memory and Studio labs, will be modified and relocated. The Memory Lab will be housed at the Northeast Library, 330 7th St., NE. Fifty laptops will be dispersed to neighborhood libraries to accommodate increased traffic. In addition to opening a Library Express location at 1990 K St. NW and expanding operating hours at all neighborhood libraries, many items that are unique to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and books that are in good condition will be available at the District’s neighborhood libraries.

Today’s announcement concludes the community engagement that began in 2013. More than 70 community and stakeholder meetings and 13 focus groups were held across the city, hundreds of surveys submitted, and more than 4,000 people were reached in person or online. The project has been approved by the National Capital Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Review Board and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Library Lovers Encouraged to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s 46 Years of Service

As the DC Public Library prepares to renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Richard Reyes-Gavilan encouraged the public to participate in a series of events celebrating the well-loved and well-used building.

Once the library closes in March there will be a few public and private events allowing the public to close the current chapter in Library service at the flagship building.

On March 1, the Library will screen the documentary film “A legacy of Mies and King.” The film follows architect Francine Houben, creative director of Mecanoo Architecten, as she investigates the past and present in order to design the library of the future. Houben delves into the archives, meets contemporaries of Mies and King, speaks to current library visitors and participates in the District’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade to understand how to give the District’s central library a new future.

On March 16 after the library closes, the DC Public Library Foundation will host its annual Story Time Gala reception. The Library Foundation partners with leading chefs, bartenders, artists, performers and D.C. notables to reinterpret classic stories in new ways to support children’s programs at DC Public Library.

The final event for the original library, a concert by the Morehouse College Glee Club, will be the March 24th also after the library closes.  Dr. King’s alma mater, Morehouse College is the only all-male historically Black institution of higher learning in the United States. The Glee Club has shared the stage with opera great Jessye Norman, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Trisha Yearwood, the Christian vocal jazz group Take 6, and soprano Indra Thomas. They have performed at such events as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, Super Bowl XXVII, a concert of excerpts from “Porgy and Bess” with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and a premiere of the work “Of Dreams and Other Possibilities” written by Patrice Rushen. The Library performance will include spirituals, gospel and Yuroba selections.