MLK Library Renovation Focus Groups

MLK Library Renovation Focus Groups

Comments from Special Collections Customers

8 participants
Zip codes:

Q; What would make the building and its entry experience a more welcoming place to visit?
-Need to feel safer coming in. There is too much loitering outside
-Entrance should communicate that this is a library. Currently, it does not announce itself as a library
-The first impression is that this is a homeless shelter
-the security desk is the first thing you encounter when you come in. It would be more welcoming to have a welcome desk greet customers. Or friendly/engaging security staff
-walls are cold. Need to add warmth
-Exhibits would help liven up entrance
-warmer lighting – not fluorescent
-It takes too long to get to the books at present. Customers should encounter LOTS of books right as they enter
-Things in the Great Hall need to be over-sized to match the size of the space
-Use Great Hall to celebrate DC with books and displays about the city’s history – see the example at the Philadelphia airport
-The new clutter-free look of the Great Hall (without the Books Plus Store) is better.
-New look is more transparent – it is more obvious that this is a library from outside
-A Café would add warmth/interest
-Public Art would help warm up/fill up the space

Q: Thinking specifically of the Special Collections, how could the physical space be configured to best provide the services that you want and need?
-comfortable seating
-need a range of flexible spaces for meetings, programs, research, groups, etc.
-the current set up with good access to materials is preferred. Wouldn’t want it to become like the National Archives where customers have long wait times to view materials
-current set up with a plastic chain restricting access is tacky and ineffective. A central reception desk that serves the dual role of info desk and access control would be better
-amount of seating is generally adequate, but micro-film area can feel crowded. A few additional stations would be helpful
-need a meeting/classroom space to allow groups to come and use the collection
-need space to process materials (staff and volunteers)
-Need more power outlets at tables
-Add computers for use by researchers or have laptops available for check out while in Washingtoniana
-less harsh lighting. No fluorescent
-More natural light. Seating for people should be by the windows as much as possible

Q: If Special Collections could be located anywhere in the building, where would that be?
-floor is not important. What is important is natural light and easy access to materials.
-Do not put Special Collections in the basement
-should be highlighted more in the building, not tucked away

Q: How important is exhibit space for Special Collections? What types of exhibit space should there be? Where in the building should exhibit space be located?
-Washingtoniana should definitely have some exhibit space
-Building should have exhibit space in other public areas where a broad range of customers will see them as they pass through
-A space for community-curated exhibits would be good
-Some exhibits should be visible from the outside of the building. Could even just be a teaser to draw people into the building
-Public art/exhibits on the exterior of the building would held liven up the entrance
-Open Storage for the archival collection could be another way to have exhibits. Essentially storing materials in a way that they are on display
-Digital stations in the library could be a way to create/increase interest in the Special Collections

Q: Thinking about partnerships with community organizations, are there spaces that could be created to facilitate these relationships?
-Community-curated exhibit space
-programming space/lecture hall/classroom
-Need a range of flexible spaces for small and large groups. Currently, some of the meeting rooms are too large
-Bring DC Archives to MLK Library.
-Historical Society is in need of a temporary home
-Need a space where children can play. Downtown lacks a playground and the library could offer an indoor activity space

Q: Is a mixed use project a good idea for this building? If yes, what types of organizations/uses make sense?
-no gym or pool
-Office space could work
-No ground floor retail that would detract from the transparency of the building or that would take away from the prominence of the building being a library
-A café would be great. It should open both to the exterior and interior to connect with the library. Customers should be able to take check out library books into the café
-Studio space for artists. Perhaps shared space to maximize revenue
-School either charter or private
-higher education entity, like a university. Many schools are looking to have a DC presence (satellite campus)
-If the two uses/spaces are permeable (blend into one another) then there should be some complementary mission
-Great Hall could serve as a space where both entities come together (common lobby)
-The Library should be cautious in entering into a partnership. Partner could potentially undo all the efforts to make the space more welcoming. The example was given of organizations that rent their space for private events. Set up for these events can force you to close early or restrict public access to certain areas.
-Whatever the partnership is should honor the culture of the city
-A roof terrace is a great idea. The public should have access to this amenity if it is included.
-One approach could be to divide the building down the middle (rather than by floor)

Overall comment – think long-range about the importance of Washingtoniana. It may prove over time to have increasing importance whereas space for physical books may have decreasing importance. That said, the role of the librarian will have increasing importance in helping customers navigate/curate information.