First Look at Concept Designs for Renovation of SE Library

Here’s a bird’s eye view looking Northwest showing the Southwest corner entry. The current main entrance would remain a public entrance. Also shown is skylight on the roof and skylight on the south side of the building at berm level.

First Look at Concept Designs for Renovation of SE Library

by Larry Janezich

DC Libraries Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan hosted a virtual community meeting Wednesday night on the plan to rehabilitate, renovate, a preserve SE Library.  He opened the meeting saying that the design team had come up with a great solution to preserve the historic framework of the SE Library while also expanding it.

CM Charles Allen joined the meeting, calling the effort “an amazing opportunity and a challenging opportunity”.  Allen said, “One thing we’ve learned during the pandemic is how important community anchoring spaces in our lives are”, and cited both the library and the Eastern Market Metro Plaza across the street (currently under reconstruction).  He said, “My job is to make sure the dollars are there,” noting that the new SW branch of DC Libraries would open soon.

With a goal of increasing library space from its current 8,292 square feet to 18,500 square feet, the concept design anticipates dropping the existing street level floor a few feet and adding a new lower level floor below that and expanding that floor toward South Carolina Avenue.  This floor will have considerable space for children and family activities. 

The street level floor will have conference rooms and meeting spaces. 

The main floor will continue to serve adults. 

The ground floor would be entered through a new universally accessible entrance from South Carolina Avenue at the SW corner of the building.  The current main entrance would remain a public entrance as well. 

The new concept, designers say, will significantly increase incentives for people to spend time in the library.  The expansion will provide:

  • 30% more meeting/conference space
  • 50% more computer space
  • 50% more space for books
  • Triple the space for adult seating
  • Quadruple the space for children and families

Currently, the plan is in the Design/Regulatory Approval stage which will last into 2022.  Construction will start in late 2022 and the library will reopen in the spring of 2024.

Next steps:  builders will continue discussions with regulatory staff, finalize the concept design and start schematic designs, and continue community engagement.  The next community meeting will be scheduled in the spring.

Library staff says that Wednesday night’s presentation will be posted on the project website by close of business on Friday.  See here:


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4 responses to “First Look at Concept Designs for Renovation of SE Library

  1. kandc

    Impressive design and thinking. However, having two entrances will require additional employees–that needs some thought.

    • The historic entrance is not accessible and cannot be made so without altering the historic fabric of the building. That means the only options are a) build a new accessible entrance and close the existing entrance entirely (the Mt. Pleasant Library did this), or b) have two entrances, a new accesible one and the historic, inaccessible one.

  2. Wendy

    There have always been two entrances — north side handicapped entrance and front stairs.

  3. Sally M

    I love the idea of having more space for books, in addition to meeting many other needs. This doesn’t always happen.