A sign taped to the window of the MLK Library that reads, "This Library will be closed for construction on Saturday, March 4 @ 5:30pm"
credit: Ken Martin

On March 5, the main branch of the D.C. library system—the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library—closed. A major renovation is planned that will take about two years to complete. There will be a large auditorium, a café and an outside seating area, among other changes.

I will miss the library. It seems that the present support it gives to the community outweighs any advantage that would come from remodeling. Children and teenagers have a computer room; there are plenty of CDs to choose from. There are a few pay phones and a public restroom available. In summer evenings, there are free sandwiches and weekly coffee and a regular get-together in the computer room.

There is also a state-of-the-art computer lab, which hosts computer technology and practical classes like how to mend your clothes.

The library has been a gathering place for the homeless and a place to receive dental care as well. A social worker is sometimes available to help people with problems.

During the renovation, a few computers will be added at each of the other branches of the library. The displays, interactive exhibits, concerts, lectures and discussion periods will be missed. The books will, also. I read Barack Obama’s autobiography by borrowing a copy from the MLK Library. There are all kinds of books, plus some law encyclopedias available but not local or federal law books.

It is a good place to have access to your email to keep in touch with others. The services there help the homeless, the lonely and those who really want to be involved with the community. There is a room that had books suited for people who had trouble reading or wanted to learn more about subjects they may have forgotten or not learned while going to school.

I started coming to that library about eight years ago. The 15-minute use of computers in the lobby was convenient for quick research. At that time there were not many computers in the library. Street Sense became involved about four years ago with the issue of whether big bags could be brought in with visitors. Street Sense worked with the library to allow big bags to be brought in.

The ability to come in from the cold and rain and see a welcoming face meant a lot to people who were or are homeless. Maybe they were homeless, maybe they were not, but there was an agreeable warmth inside. Hopefully, the library will reopen and continue to be a positive experience for all citizens.

It seems that any place that can help people is out of place here. I bid the staff and other visitors farewell and hope that all goes well for all of us.

 

Gwynette Smith is a Street Sense vendor.