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.

Leave a Reply.