The Issue: Is the new Mt. Pleasant Library plan not taking the neighborhood into account? Renovation of the library on 16th Street NW, near Lamont Street, is part of the citywide library expansion project; construction is slated to begin in 2010. Among other changes, the plan includes renovating the accessibility ramp for disabled and elderly users and expanding the building to the library property line. But some oppose the new ramp, and the District Dynamos, a library oversight group, says the expansion cuts off emergency access to apartment buildings in the back. Advisory neighborhood commissioners believe these issues are part of a larger problem: the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) failing to involve the local communities in the project.

Renovate the Renovations: At least 10 organizations, including the Equal Rights Center and ADAPT, have expressed opposition to the new ramp on the grounds that it’s three times as long as the old one and forces disabled and elderly patrons to enter through the back of the building. Ward 1C ANC Commissioner Chris Otten proposes keeping the old ramp and chopping off part of the expansion to keep the fire lane open. He tells City Desk: “They’re simple suggestions, money-saving suggestions.” Ward 8C ANC Commissioner Theresa Jones adds: “DCPL is persevering without the community. They’re on the fast track to do whatever they want.”

We’re Listening!: DCPL says that the ramp complies with guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act and that it is addressing the other concerns. DCPL spokesman George Williams told City Desk: “The experience of those entering on the ramp will not be different than the others. We are moving things in such a way that everyone can access services at the same point.” The jury is still out on the emergency access issue.

Next Step: Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham is organizing a meeting with DCPL, the architect, and seniors and residents with disabilities in the next couple of weeks.

Photo courtesy of DCPL