Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

On Saturday, April 22, the D.C. Public Library (DCPL) closed four of its branches—the Capitol View, Chevy Chase, Francis A. Gregory, and Woodridge Neighborhood Libraries—for volunteers to participate in a “Fix It Up” day. “What we were trying to do was to go above and beyond what [custodial staff are] physically capable of accomplishing…such as painting and planting and things of that nature,” says DCPL spokesperson Monica Lewis.

But some of those who slogged through the rain that day were instead tasked with general housekeeping that appears to overlap with the duties of janitorial staff. From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., about a dozen volunteers at each location were asked to wash windows, clean tables, scrape off tape, throw out old furniture, and pick up litter.

“I’m constantly amazed at how little maintenance has been done over the years,” says Richard Huffine, president of the Federation of Friends of the D.C. Public Library, who oversaw the Chevy Chase cleanup. “The sad thing is what [the volunteers are]…doing is what the library should be doing on a regular basis anyway.

The turnout might have been better had the spring cleaning not coincided with Earth Day—or with a 1 p.m. town-hall meeting at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Lewis says that the meeting didn’t affect turnout, and that the volunteers’ efforts were appreciated. “They take care of a lot, the facilities people,” Lewis says. “They have to keep branches clean, maintain the mechanics of branches, and that’s a full time job, there, in itself.”