Friends of SE Library (FOSEL) Campaign to Save the SE Library Book Sale

Friends of SE Library (FOSEL) Campaign to Save the SE Library Book Sale

By Larry Janezich

Posted September 12, 2021

This weekend, Friends of SE Library (FOSEL) launched a “major public and political campaign to generate support” for continuing monthly book sales at Southeast Library.  The current plan for the renovation of the library, FOSEL maintains, will leave it without adequate space to continue managing the monthly book sale.  In a letter to Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director DC Public Library, FOSEL President Neal Gregory stated FOSEL’s position: 

  • The monthly sale attracts thousands of visitors and raises thousands of dollars annually.  All of the funds are used to benefit the DC Library system – most are spent for children’s programs at SE Library but funds are also made available to other branch libraries and programs supported by DC Public Libraries.  
  • FOSEL operates the book sale using space at the SE Library. The Friends’ room is about 175 square feet.
  • The latest plan for the library renovation would allocate only 86 square feet of space for FOSEL after the renovation.
  • All activities in the new library will have more space except FOSEL which will lose 50% of its space.
  • FOSEL does not believe that the Library’s plan to restrict book donations to the week before the sale and allowing those donated books to be stored in a study room is a viable approach.
  • FOSEL will continue discussions with Library management and states clearly that FOSEL’s goal is to end up with at least the same amount of space in the new library that it has in the old.
  • FOSEL does not believe it is possible to operate a successful monthly book sale with less space than it currently has.

Copies of the letter went to Mayor Bowser, CM Charles Allen, and ANC6B Chair Brian Ready.

On Saturday, FOSEL started circulating a petition urging DC Library to grant them space at least the size of the space they now have.  In 24 hours, the petition garnered more than 400 signatures. 

Last July 21, DC Library officials told FOSEL that their allotted space for staging of the monthly book sales would be half of what they currently have.  At the time, the Friends told the design team it would not be nearly enough.  Designers said they were trying to maximize public use and that prioritizing others is the best use of the space they have. 

FOSEL member Bob Gellman told Capitol Hill Corner, “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.”

Despite hopes that the renovation of Southeast Library could be finished before the library’s 2022 anniversary date, on March 5, 2020, officials announced that the start of construction had 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.

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.

(Full disclosure:  The editor of Capitol Hill Corner is a member of FOSEL.)

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