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The Issue: The saga between neighborhood residents and the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) battles on. Mount Pleasant Public Library in Ward 1, set to close on Saturday for renovation and expansion, is the latest in the spotlight of the library wars. For the past two years, DCPL and the community have been discussing the renovation of the historic Italian Renaissance-style building, says George Williams, public information officer for DCPL. Plans include expanding the library to the property line and building a new accessibility ramp that winds around the side of the building toward a rear entrance. During construction, residents will have access to an interim library at 3164 Mount Pleasant St. NW, which opens April 26. The new library is expected to open fall 2011. What could be wrong with a facelift?
Stop!: Neighborhood residents argue the problem isn’t the renovation but the lack of community input into DCPL’s plans. The last community meeting was June 2009. Many residents expressed concern over the height and placement of the accessibility ramp, and the fire hazard the expansion may pose to neighboring apartments. DCPL has failed to address these issues, says local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) commissioner, Chris Otten. He says the expansion—“which nobody has asked for, by the way”—would “block emergency access points” because it places the renovated library 15 feet from the closest buildings. DCPL responds to questions with “no, that’s not possible or we’ll look into it,” leaving resident questions unanswered, Otten says.
For the Love of Books: “We believe that the community wants and deserves a new and renovated library,” Williams says. Mount Pleasant Public Library is the only one in Ward 1. The community needs this expansion, he says. The proposed accessibility ramp will be 120 feet long, with a 7-foot incline versus the current 3-foot incline; it was approved by the D.C. Office of Disability Rights, he adds. He says the community has had a chance to engage in discussion over the library’s design. “Glad renovations are finally moving forward, though the amount of neighborhood bickering over it has been ridiculous,” writes DCist commenter CrookedRiverwoman.
What’s Next: Community residents are planning a rally/flash-mob outside and a “SaveDaLibrary Danceathon” inside the library on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Talks of a sit-in are in the works, Otten says.
Rendering courtesy of DCPL