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If you’ve ever fantasized about getting married surrounded by books, you’re in luck: The D.C. Public Library has published regulations allowing it to host events like weddings and nonprofit galas across its 26 locations as a way to generate revenue.
Though the D.C. Council passed the bill governing this new approach in June, DCPL has only recently begun to advertise the program and structure specific revenue-generating activities around it. Among them is a new passport office opening next week at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G St. NW. The office, in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, will process passports for fees expected to produce around $200,000 a year, and will even operate on Saturdays, Jonathan Butler, DCPL’s chief business officer, says. Essentially, the broadly written regulations permit DCPL to rent out its space for different activities, including something like a cafe in the MLK library; the activities are only defined as those that “benefit the public [and] not need relate to library services.”
“There was nothing that gave us the authority to do these types of things before,” Butler explains. “That was a pitfall for us. We wanted to be able to provide these service offerings, but legally couldn’t issue permits; there was and still is demand from the public to utilize [DCPL] spaces for special events, typically held after normal business hours.”
He adds that local entertainers frequently approach DCPL inquiring about after-hours performances on library grounds. Now they will be able to host those activities, though Butler admits the library is still working out the process for rentals, such as whether it will need to establish an events-management arm within DCPL. Rental fees “will depend on the size of the space,” Butler says. “I can assure you it’d be a lot cheaper than renting space at the Convention Center or at a hotel.”
In addition to MLK, people have often asked about using Mount Pleasant, Georgetown, Northeast, and Francis A. Gregory libraries for events, DCPL spokesperson George Williams says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery