Renovation of SE Library Pushed Back – Closing Late 2022 & Reopening Early 2024

Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director, DC Public Libraries, (right) said, “Walking through a library with hundreds of thousands of books is a beautiful thing, but we’re faced with a question of priorities.  What do you give up?”  The process produces a health tension –  not everybody will get everything they want.  There will be compromises.  That reflects the fundamental level of tension in a neighborhood library.”  At left, Chuck Wray, Quinn-Evans Architect’s design team leader.

CM Charles Allen told community members , “The project will be better with your input…the library of today is not the library of 50 years ago…we can set something up for the generations coming behind us.”

Allen engages in hands-on community input with SE Library activist Jill Lawrence and others.

Some 40 residents turned out for the community meeting – organizers judged this a low turnout, noting conflicts with other meetings that night and further competition from Super Tuesday results.

Renovation of SE Library Pushed Back – Closing Late 2022 & Reopening Early 2024

by Larry Janezich

Despite hopes that the renovation of Southeast Library could be finished before the Library’s 2022 anniversary date, the start of construction has been pushed back to late 2022 making spring of 2024 the target for reopening the library.  The Library will remain open until late 2022 instead of closing in late 2021.

At the first community meeting on the renovation last Tuesday night in the North Hall at Eastern Market, Chuck Wray, head of Quinn-Evans Architect’s library renovation design team, said that the complexity of the approval process for work on  the historic Carnegie Library caused the adjustment of the project timeline*.

There are no answers yet to the two most frequently asked questions:  “What will the new library look like and how much bigger will it be?”  Wray says, “We’re champing at the bit to start designing,” but the design process won’t start until late 2020 after extensive data collection and engagement with the community.

Some 500 community members have responded to the on-line survey seeking input on how the library is used.  One take-away from the survey was that although residents think the library is important they don’t like to spend time there.  85% of potential library patrons find Southeast Library more convenient but 65% don’t go there, preferring the newly renovated Northeast Library.  “Environment” was the reason Wray cited for the preference for another library.

Wray says the 21st century library is an agent of civic engagement, simultaneously a learning center, a social center and a cultural center.  Designers will focus on accommodating Southeast Library’s diverse population.  Some of that population is the library’s homeless patrons.  Wray said that one of the challenges will be designing the library for a diverse population, noting that “when you create a popular attractive space, if everybody wants to be there, will everybody be comfortable with everybody there?”

The goal is to connect patrons with collections and each other – to enhance communications between people.  According to Wray, one measure of the success of the project will be the degree to which that is connection is achieved.

Councilmember Charles Allen was on hand to encourage residents to provide input to get the best library possible.  Allen said that “Southeast library is a great opportunity and a challenging one…we worked hard on the timing to coordinate the project with the renovation of the Eastern Market Metro Plaza…and pushed Richard (Gavilan) to think about the Plaza as part of the extension of the library and to incorporate additional outdoor space into the design.”


Winter 2020 – Programming and community engagement

Spring/Summer 2020 – Concept development

Late 2020 mid 2022 – Design

Late 2022 – early 2024 – Construction

Spring 2024 – Reopen


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2 responses to “Renovation of SE Library Pushed Back – Closing Late 2022 & Reopening Early 2024

  1. W

    I hope there’s more outreach with the SE library user community than this meeting would indicate. There’s a striking lack of people of color in that room. The library serves a critical roles for many high needs citizens and their perspective should be included in the design process.
    (Ed. Note: Organizers said they were also seeking input from focus groups, including SE Library’s Coffee and Conversation program – which attracts a diverse population, as well as student groups and caregivers for young children.)

  2. Hillcurmudgeon

    Maybe residents don’t like encountering people hanging out on the front and rear steps while smoking weed and shooting heroin? Just a thought.