Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mount Pleasant Library Closed, For Now

The Mount Pleasant Branch Library closed last week and will remain so for more than one year while renovation and an addition are completed. Meanwhile, the temporary library at 3164 Mount Pleasant Street NW (pictured below) will open in three weeks on April 26.

The renovation and addition plan for the 85 year old building has been a contentious issue the last two years. Most of the issues have been over the amount of input time made available for residents: specifically on the reconfiguration of the accessibility ramp and the expansion by addition of an entire new "wing" behind the existing structure. While it is "our" library, it is the only library in all of Ward One. Its location on a busy thoroughfare at 3160 16th Street and its unique history and architecture have made for a bumpier road to change than I'm sure DC Public Library would have wanted.

Obviously the issue of the accessibility ramp has merit. If residents can't comfortably get into the library --by walking, wheelchair, or other-- then, what's the point? On the other hand, I am all for modifying historic buildings to meet ADA requirements. Usability should trump decades old bad policy. That being said, DCPL had to make some tough decisions about making the library ADA compliant and keeping the means of egress safe, comfortable and attractive enough that people will actually want to use it.

Expansion of a library that serves an entire Ward seems like a great idea. We spent millions on Nats stadium, so why not spend money on libraries and schools. But this expansion is on what amounts to a sliver of land directly behind the current library. See the full mock ups here.
I'm all for expansion, but only if the claims that emergency vehicles would be hindered during a fire are proven untrue. I do trust the Distrcit to ensure htat our neighborhood's safety comes first.

For the most part, I am happy that our library is getting attention and expanding. I do expect that city agencies like DCPL will hear residents' concerns and react accordingly. I don't expect that each and every resident is going to be satisfied at the 100% level. At some point I'll leave the agencies to do what they are directed to do and trust that the execution will match the plans. As long as they stick to the timeline... spring of 2011, here we come?