MLK library in DC when it was new

I’ve shown you my sad set of MLK’s Library photos from when I went to DC. My friend Mary Early has found an older, niftier looking set of photos of the same library back when it was new and lovely and full of hope and promise. I wish the Save DC Libraries site looked like it was still alive. The DC Friends site is still kicking, albeit with bad news and the DC Public Library Foundation looks like they spent all their money on web design. Meanwhile DC Public hires teens to shelve books and answer phones which seems like a real good news/bad news situation in a library dealing with massive underfunding and understaffing.

DC Public

I’ll put up some pictures later but I’m using the wifi in DC Public before heading out to hang out with my pal Chris from Libraryola. Yesterday I went to a tasty and fun lunch with Dorothea and then had a great chat with Ron (who I met on MetaFilter) who works at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library. After the conference I also got to hang out with my friend Tom Hyry who was on the SAA Program Committee who is the reason I was in DC in the first place. I’ve got a list of libraries I’d like to hit in Baltimore and then I have to find a place to stock up on books for the trip home.

I have this to say about DC Public: it’s all true. I had been reading about the sorry state of the library system here for a while but I don’t think I’d ever been to the big downtown branch. It’s hot here, and dirty here. One bank of elevators isn’t working and I have yet to see a staff person who isn’t reading a book or idly surfing the web. There are a lot of people here, though they tend towards the middle-aged men demographic. There are no families, no older people that I’ve seen, and no people my age. This place is the place that time forgot. I had to go through a metal detector and empty my pockets before I could even come inside. I like being able to use the wifi but I only discovered it because I opened up my laptop, not because it’s advertised or publicized in any way. I’m the only person here using a laptop, I think in the entire library but I won’t be using it much longer because there is barely any air conditioning and the sweat is affecting my typing accuracy. The lobby smells like diapers and disinfectant. Everyone I have talked to that lives in DC doesn’t use the library, they either buy books or find a way to use the suburban libraries or ones at the local schools. This is a big problem, and it’s still unclear what is being done to straighten it out.

xtreme bookmobile @ DC Public

The DC library system is rolling out its Xtreme Mobile library as a stopgap measure while they get new library facilities opened in places in the District with no library service. It’s a neat idea, but is providing a little bit of a library going to slow up plans to get a real library to those areas?

Saccocio [head of the Friends of Tenley Library Association] believes a 32-foot bus can never replace everything that a library building provides.

“This bus, it’s just sort of insignificant. It’s very little service here that’s being offered to a neighborhood. It’s very insufficient,” she said.

Saccocio and other library volunteers worry that the continued stopgaps — the bus and the temporary storefront libraries — will delay the reconstruction of libraries that closed a year ago in Anacostia, Shaw, Benning and Tenleytown.

The bookmobile goes to five locations once a week for a maximum visit of 4 1/4 hours and a minimum of 1 3/4 hours at a time. So, in the least-visited area, that’s only seven hours of library services a month. You can see what the hours are at the rest of the DC Public system here. [thanks dsdlc]