SE Library Team Denies FOSEL More Space for Book Sales – Tweaks Design
by Larry Janezich
Posted July 24, 2021
Last Wednesday night, the design team for the renovation of Southeast Library told the Friends of Southeast Library that they weren’t getting any more space to store donated books for their monthly book sales which benefit the Library. The Friends currently have 125 square feet of space to store the several thousand donated books which end up in the sales, but would have half that after the renovation. The Friends say it isn’t nearly enough. Designers said that they are trying to maximize public use – that prioritizing others is the best use of space they have.
Capitol Hill Corner reached out to several members of FOSEL for reaction to the refusal to provide more space for the Friends.
Long time FOSEL member Bob Gellman said, “The library provides the Friends with a room to store books for the book sale. It’s about 125 square feet, and we use all of it, with books often piled as high as possible. If we don’t have the same space in the new library, we won’t be able to run monthly book sales.
The new library will have twice the space of the current library, but it appears that library management is set on stopping the book sale by giving the Friends about half the space we have now. One theory is that library management doesn’t like it that the Friends can raise and spend money on the SE branch without management control. The SE branch librarians and patrons have always welcomed the support, however.
The reasons that management give for reducing the space for the sale don’t make much sense. In the course of a year, somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people participate in the sales as buyers, donors, or workers. The book sale is a major community activity that the library should welcome and support. Everybody likes a book sale, especially when most books are a dollar each. The Friends are not asking for more space. Other branch libraries have bigger Friends rooms, and some don’t use their space at all.”
The meeting started with some 25 attendees and an indeterminate number later joined the virtual meeting to hear the design team give an update on changes made based on community input from previous meetings.
For the most part, the tweaks the team made were minor.
- Adjusted site design to simulate original design, minimizing interruption of the earth berm
- Updated the new South Carolina Avenue public entry to improve visibility and safety and discourage afterhours use
- Relocated the Book drop from D Street side to the new Sorth Carolina Avenue public entrance
- Established procedures to study “light trespass” as design progresses
- Addressed noise concerns regarding mechanicals in the service court behind the library
Here’s what will happen next:
- Prepare formal submissions to DC Office of Planning, DDOT, State Historic Preservation Office, Commission on Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission
- Presentations to the Historic Preservation Review Board and ANC6B
- Application to the Bureau of Zoning Adjustment seeking Lot coverage variance.
Several of those venues provide opportunities for the Friends to appeal for more space, but would risk alienating administrators of DC Library.
The current library is closing at the end of 2022 when the renovation will begin. The renovated library will reopen in the spring of 2024.
(Full disclosure: The editor of Capitol Hill Corner is a member of FOSEL.)