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Libraries don’t seem inherently controversial. But in D.C., they always become community powder kegs. I don’t know the intricacies of each case. But every time a library needs to be rebuilt, the drama is epic. Recently I wrote about the Tenleytown library’s board, which has been going back and forth with the city for years about how to construct their branch with mixed-use development.
Well today there is progress on one front. The groundbreaking for the new Benning Library was scheduled for 3:15 this afternoon. The new two-story library will be 24,000 square feet with “multiple meeting spaces for community use” and “at least 30 public access computers, including a mobile laptop cart that can be used for computer literacy training classes,” according to DCPL’s website. The library plans to apply for LEED certification of at least “Silver” for this building.
Earlier today, Robin Diener with the D.C. Library Renaissance Program sent out this press release:
Groundbreaking at last for New Benning Library in NE
WASHINGTON, DC – December 1, 2008 –Mayor Adrian Fenty and officials of the DC Public Library are scheduled to break ground today for the long awaited new Benning Library. More than four years in the making, Benning is scheduled to be rebuilt by 2010 along with three other neighborhood libraries, closed since 2004: Anacostia, Watha T. Daniel/Shaw and Tenley.
Residents hope the new library will help address issues of special concern to Ward 7, such as low adult literacy, high drop out rates, and the deep digital divide. DC Public Library planning processes, however, left many feeling that their requests for classroom space, computers training labs, and adult literacy programming had not been adequately addressed.
Since the Board of Library Trustees canceled the original plans for rebuilding in 2004, problems have beleaguered the redesign. The community was without a promised interim library facility for more than two years. Once the interim facility in Benning opened, it proved to be the most frequently used of the four. In July 2007, the local ANC sued the Library for failure to give notice to the ANC. That suit was settled a year ago.