In preparation for a major modernization effort, D.C. Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan announced on Feb. 3, that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will close on March 4. In addition to providing a final rendering and floor plan of the proposed changes, Reyes-Gayilan, offered an update on management of services for the city’s central library location.

Once reopened, the new MLK Library will offer magnificent views of the downtown D.C., as well as new technology hubs, theaters and shops. (Courtesy photo)

Once reopened, the new MLK Library will offer magnificent views of the downtown D.C., as well as new technology hubs, theaters and shops. (Courtesy photo)

Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will start in the summer of 2017 and continue until 2020. When the $208 million transformation is complete, the library will become the center of activity for the already vibrant downtown area. The building will feature a new, transparent entryway and sculptured stairs. Public art will be solicited for the reading room, the vestibule, and the plaza in front of the building. The art installations in the vestibule and the plaza will honor Dr. King.

The closure, said Gayilan, should be relatively smooth, with historical documents and other resources parceled out to other library locations and sites across the city. “We will be looking to make access to those collections used most frequently, and while we don’t have a written in place, we are excited about the possibility of having the Historical Society serve as a temporary location for some of our staff,” Gayilan told the Washington Post.

Neighborhood libraries, currently closed on Thursday mornings, will open at 9:30 a.m. A retail location, “Library Express” opens at 1990 K St. NW to house the Adult Literacy Resource Center and Center for Accessibility as well as provide a small browsing collection of books and public access to computers. The labs, which include the Fabrication, Memory, and Studio labs, will be modified and relocated.

The Memory Lab will be housed at the Northeast Library, 330 7th St. NE. Fifty laptops will be dispersed to neighborhood libraries to accommodate increased traffic.

Jacintha Gray, a graduate student examining the orphanages in the District between the turn of the century and 1920, said she is excited about the changes, and remains hopeful that she can continue her research at one of the other locations. “The overhaul is necessary and is obvious to anyone who utilizes the library for concentrated research. From the elevators to the bathrooms, the whole facility turns into trying to navigate homeless people, and trying to get comfortable in less-than-inviting surroundings,” Gray told the AFRO. “This move by the library executives and the community at large, shows their commitment to making the facility conducive to real learning.”

More than 70 community meetings and 13 focus groups were held across the city, hundreds of surveys submitted, and more than 4,000 people were reached in person or online. The project has been approved by the National Capital Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

As a final endeavor, on March 3, the library will screen the documentary “A Legacy of Mies and King.” This film follows architect Francine Houben, creative director of Mecanoo Architecten, as she delves into the archives, meets contemporaries of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed the library, and King, speaks to current library visitors and participates in the District¹s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, to better envision the new building.