Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Opening in 2020: Modernization Progress Continues
In 2020, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will open after undergoing a $211 million modernization. The building will not only redefine how a central library serves District residents, but it will also celebrate Dr. King’s life, recount his unique work in the District and support the values that made him a champion of civil rights and equity.
“The modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library gives us the opportunity to ensure that one of the city’s most important civic buildings embodies the values of one of our country's most important leaders,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library. “When people walk into this building next year, they will be awed by the amazing new spaces and inspired by how our new services advance the ideals of the ‘beloved community’ that Dr. King imagined.”
New or enhanced spaces will add 100,000 square feet of public space to the modernized library. To capitalize on this increase, the Library is developing plans to activate every public space in the building every hour of every day it is open. Here are some of the changes that are part of the building's modernization:
A hole has been cut into the original top floor to create a large auditorium and a new rooftop event space with a terrace. Since the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library first opened, local and national organizations have used the meeting rooms for conferences and community meetings. With these new showcase spaces, those organizations will be able to have more flexibility in the kinds of gatherings they can host.
The old parking garage exit has been closed, and concrete has been poured to make way new ground-level cafe and patio space. This area will allow a food and beverage operator to run the new 4,300-square-foot cafe and workforce development program, giving District residents training opportunities in the food and hospitality industry, along with education and public programming related to local foods and entrepreneurship. The Library is in the process of identifying a vendor to manage this program.
The Library will have an expanded special collections space for researchers and local history enthusiasts to learn about the unique history of Dr. King in the District. In addition to the March on Washington and other national demonstrations, Dr. King was an advocate for D.C. Home Rule. The new special collections space will include moisture and climate-controls.
While all of these new or enhanced spaces will contribute to the building embodying more of the values associated with Dr. King, features that the community has known and loved will return. The 56-by-7 foot oil mural the building’s historic mural depicting the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement will return to the great hall. It was painted by Jamaican-born artist Donald Miller and was installed on the anniversary of the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The mural is being cleaned and stored for the during the modernization.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization was designed by the team of OTJ Architects 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 through Certified Business Enterprises.
The modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is an integral part of the DC Public Library’s “Know Your Neighborhood" strategic plan, and will help the Library ensure that 75 percent of the city’s residents have active library cards, five million visits occur every year at its facilities and library events, and five million books and other items are borrowed annually.