So everybody wishes the NE branch library renovation was done already. The project was delayed a year, then delayed more after the contract finally went out.

But the good news: the work looks very good and the building should be back in action early next year.

Now a look inside , courtesy of the DCPL staff:

Stay tuned for more. ~ Vince


So the "Digital Commons" room at the main library for DC, the Martin Luther King downtown library, has opened to the public. Since the NE branch is closed until the end of this year/beginning of next (stay tuned!) we decided to check out the digital offerings atMLK.

Very impressive!

I had no idea that the library provided so many opportunities to DC residents and visitors to use digital technology in so many varieties.

First off, the Commons now has many more computers so waiting time for people who want to go online is much shorter.

But they've complemented what they used to have by adding a range of Apples with big monitors that can be used for graphic design, etc.

In addition, they have a selection of Kindles, Nooks, Ipad minis. etc - just about any type of reading device you can image. They are all hooked up and ready to be used for reading.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, they have a series of small shared workspaces for people who are starting a business. The spaces are quiet and bright and can be easily reserved each day. People were working in them the day I visited.

The coolest thing: they have a 3D printer that can be used by anyone at any time for a minimal price.

We didn't use it the day we were there because they had to order more "ink" so we plan on returning.

But I can't speak highly enough about what a great asset this new Digital Commons room is for the people of the District of Columbia.

3D printer with some of its products.
The entrance to the Digital Commons on the first floor of the MLK Library downtown. Nearest metro: Gallery Place.

Renovations continue at the branch, with an eye towards completion by the end of the year.


The District has been doing many great things at branches and also at Martin Luther King downtown. Starting this week, the "Digital Commons" opens. The DC Public Library is the first to our knowledge to offer this size of space and number of services and programs focused on digital learning, digital literacy, and digital collaboration!  The new Digital Commons technology space is home to 70 public computers.   Additionally, the Digital Commons will offer many Internet PCs and iMacs, media/graphic creation stations, express computers, eResources discovery station, book espresso machine (in progress), eReader Device bar with several types of readers, 3D printer, Skype station, video phone for ASL, smart boards,  a 50 person meeting area and several conference spaces.   This space will offer many possibilities to residents, community partners, and entrepreneurs --- with a focus on digital literacy and digital collaboration. Check it out!


So this summer will mark exactly one year since the doors of the NE branch closed for the most significant renovation it's ever had. The project completes a renovation effort that started 3 years ago with the exterior work that included brick/morter work and window restoration - and of course the beautiful outside garden patio that has become a neighborhood favorite.

Some highlights:

* a new entrance

* a new elevator

* new study rooms

* larger children's space

* a bigger teen space

* more computers

* a large community meeting room

And more!

The goal remains to reopen NE early next year meaning construction would wrap this fall.

I hope to soon post photos of the interior to this site. Check back soon.

-- Vince

FONEL President Vince Morris testified at the DC Council Committee on Libraries, Parks, and Recreation on March 29, 2012. His testimony is below:  Hello Chairman Wells and other members of the committee My name is Vincent Morris and I am testifying in my role as the President of the Friends of the Northeast Library.

The Friends is a non-profit that works on behalf of the branch to raise money and awareness while also seeking ways to increase usage within the community.

Although I am speaking on behalf of the Friends, I am also a parent and a frequent library visitor who can attest first hand to the many ways in which this branch has played a part in the broader hill neighborhood.

On many days the library is packed with toddlers, either with their parents or other caregivers.

An entire generation of young children on the hill can probably talk about the music and movement classes they participate in, one of the most popular activities at the branch each weekend.

I'd also bet that hundreds of young children in Ward 6 got their first library card came from Northeast and can probably show off some of the elaborate art work or designs they built with construction paper or popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners during the frequent kids’ activities at the Northeast branch.

Despite all that, the branch itself is in sorry shape. The plumbing is bad, at least one bathroom has been out of commission for many years, the elevator moves imperceptibly slow, the carpet is worn through in some places and furniture is broken or missing.

That doesn't even touch on my biggest frustration with the branch which is the chronic leaks in the roof during the last several years.

Despite DCPL investing $1.5 million for a total exterior renovation in 2009, water has during the last two years repeatedly leaked into the library - flooding the children's area and gushing downstairs to the storage area used in the basement by the Friends.

Those periodic floods have ruined hundreds of books, most of which belong to the Friends. Of course, those same books are the primary source of income for us to invest into the branch.

More damaging during last year’s flood was the closure of the children's area. Although it has reopened, if you visited the library today you'd see the second floor ceiling is water stained in multiple places.

Thankfully there is hope for progress. After multiple delays, a larger interior renovation is on the way.

I am disappointed that only $10 million has been set aside to accomplish it. Although it sounds like a lot at first blush, it is a drop in the bucket compared to what has been spent in other parts of the city and compared to what would be required to do a proper full scale renovation.

For example, the Georgetown Library has turned its attic space in a wonderful space for history and surplus books and prints from the Washingtonia collection of the main Martin Luther King Library. At NE, which also has a large sized attic, that same space is going to be used – according to the renovation specs – for nothing more than cooling and heating vents.

The proposal renovation concept, which at this point is largely set in stone, does not do justice to the history behind the Northeast branch and the compelling need to restore the branch to its one-time grandeur.

It's my hope that if any additional funds are available that this project could be revised upwards so that a proper renovation can be accomplished.

Aside from our sense that we may be missing an opportunity during this renovation, I was say that the Friends and most other neighbors of the branch are largely satisfied with the direction of the DCPL and I give Director Ginnie Cooper credit for that. We have noticed improvements in library branches across the city and Washington is a better place for all that.

Additionally, we are happy that the budget right now is protecting six-day a week service at the branches and that needed renovations are happening at other locations around the District.

Thanks for your time and I am happy to answer any questions.

The branch marked 80 years in operation this month with a birthday party for the community.