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I couldn’t agree more with Stephanie Mencimer’s commentary on the dilapidated, unattractive Martin Luther King Memorial Library (“A Novel Proposal,” 11/5). As a law librarian working in a firm near the library, and a lunchtime browser, I have often thought that it should be replaced. The elimination of the pedestrian mall means that I no longer have to walk through “Pee Park” to get to the library, but the building itself, as your article pointed out, is a blight on the cityscape.
In the past decade, several other cities have replaced/restored/upgraded their main libraries. Chicago built a huge new edifice, San Francisco cleverly adapted an older building, Los Angeles restored its art deco main library, Denver built a new one, and so on. It’s time for D.C. to have a modern, attractive, functional main library building. Although a lavish, neo-beaux-arts structure is unlikely, the library patrons of our city at least deserve something that vaguely resembles a cultural institution, perhaps even with some sculpture in front, as well as clean bathrooms. A vacant historic building could be restored and adapted to library use—for example, the old Hecht’s department store or the Tariff Building—or a new building could be constructed. The soulless Mies van der Rohe building, with a story or two added on top, would make a lovely generic office building; it would be far more successful in that role than it ever can be as a library.