Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Don Miller’s mural, unveiled in 1986, cleaned, restored, and brightened during the renovation; Credit: Josh Axelrod

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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

After a decade, D.C. finally has a flagship library branch befitting its bookish residents. The $211 million Herculean undertaking to overhaul the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is finished and the modernized space, complete with a rooftop reading terrace and even a children’s department slide, reopened to the public last year. Visitors interested in learning about the project, which commenced in 2011 and broke ground in 2017, can take an hour-long tour with a library docent twice a week. On the tour, they’ll walk from the building’s brand-new fifth floor all the way down to its basement fabrication lab, where library card holders can reserve 3D printers and laser cutters. Over the project’s years of planning and three and a half years of construction, library officials were made to walk a narrow line, navigating three different regulatory agencies and the input of community members at more than 60 stakeholder meetings. The project had to maintain both the character of the building, designated a historic landmark in 2007, while breathing fresh new life into the Penn Quarter space. The result includes stunning new art from community creator Nekisha Durrett, juxtaposing the building’s namesake icon with a likeness of student protesters—the work flanks visitors as they enter the vestibule. The space also includes a José Andrés-sponsored workforce development cafe, a 290-seat auditorium, an open-air reading room, and a conference center, as well as go-go and punk music archives. The basement labs also feature a recording studio for burgeoning podcasters and a memory lab to digitize old home videos. Tours take place Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. Free.