Amid fanfare over the many new and recently renovated libraries around the District, debate continues over proposed changes to the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The latest proposals include opening a central core to add more light and air to the space, originally designed by modern master Mies van der Rohe. But how to pay for the renovations and maintain the building’s character are among the issues still to be resolved.


  • Ginnie Cooper Chief Librarian, D.C. Public Library


  • 12:06:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, it's your turn, whether you'd like to discuss the presidential race, the Senate race in Virginia or your take on how to resolve the issue of replacement referees in the NFL. But first, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is the District central library and headquarters.

  • 12:07:19

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's the only building in D.C. and the only library designed by world-renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Completed in 1972, many considered the building a modern masterpiece, but after 40 years, the library is in need of some serious and expensive updates to bring it into the 21st century. This debate over whether and how to renovate the historic landmark building has been going on for years.

  • 12:07:48

    MR. KOJO NNAMDINow, planners hope two new proposals will pass muster with preservationists and the community at large. And paying for those renovations, well, we'll get to that. Joining us to discuss the MLK Library and others is Ginnie Cooper. She is chief librarian for the D.C. Public Library. Good to see you again.

  • 12:08:07

    MS. GINNIE COOPERGood to be here.

  • 12:08:08

    NNAMDIAnd if you'd like to join the conversation, the number is 800-433-8850. Do you think preserving historic architecture is more important than updating a building like the MLK Library? 800-433-8850. The District has completed renovation of 13 of the 24 neighborhood libraries with several others underway. Can you talk a little bit about the overall goals and what's been accomplished so far?

  • 12:08:33

    COOPERAnd actually, Kojo, it's 14 now.

  • 12:08:36

    NNAMDII knew you'd say that. Every time I give a number, you have one more.

  • 12:08:39

    COOPERWell, that's because last week, we opened the Mount Pleasant library...

  • 12:08:42


  • 12:08:42 historic Mount Pleasant. So that was a great day for all of us.

  • 12:08:46

    NNAMDIAnd that's a building with a historic mural, right, (unintelligible). Talk about that.

  • 12:08:49

    COOPEROh, an incredible, incredible mural. Yes. The building opened in 1925, and about nine years later, in some -- in a program that preceded WPA, a local artist was hired. And he did incredible murals of animals with very lifelike expressions and antics going on by those animals. They're in the children's room there. Battaglia went on to work for somebody you may have heard of, named Walt Disney.

  • 12:09:23

    NNAMDIOh, yeah.

  • 12:09:23

    COOPERAnd you can see the early ideas for Dumbo and several other characters in those wonderful, wonderful murals, and they are even more available for people to see now than they were.

  • 12:09:36

    NNAMDITalk about renovations that are in the works. You've completed Mount Pleasant. You still have Rosedale?

  • 12:09:43

    COOPERThe new Rosedale library, which is a part of a recreation center, opens on the 15th of October. We've been waiting for the books to arrive after the money was appropriated to do that, so...

  • 12:09:53

    NNAMDIWest End?

  • 12:09:55

    COOPERWest End is -- we hope to be underway soon. That's a private-public partnership, and there will be housing on top of that library. We're looking now for an interim library that will serve that neighborhood for a few years while that building is being constructed. Lots of community involvement in that one, and we're very excited about that.

  • 12:10:15

    NNAMDICan you talk a little bit about how effective these renovations are or might be in attracting patrons?

  • 12:10:22

    COOPERYou know, it's a really wonderful thing because I think for -- in some cases, where people may have lived in a neighborhood for a long time and never used their library, a new building gives them an impetus to come in, and there, they discover the way, that -- if I can steal your tagline -- we connect their neighborhood to the world. And we do that at the libraries in really wonderful ways.

  • 12:10:46

    COOPERAnd what we're seeing is that people are using their libraries more. About three times -- a little bit more than three times as many items get checked out now. They're finding the new services that we provide and offer. At least 50 weeks a year, there are several story times for various ages of children in every single one of our library locations. And we now have books you can download onto your iPad or your iPhone or any of those tablet devices or your computer. And that's for free, so all of that's great.

  • 12:11:22

    NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with Ginnie Cooper. She is chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library, and we're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you use your neighborhood library? Why, or why not? Or how would you like to see your local library improved? 800-433-8850. It's not just about updating facilities, I guess. What are the needs of D.C. library patrons, and what kinds of services are being upgraded to meet those needs?

  • 12:11:51

    COOPERYou know, the new buildings are really wonderful, and they do give people a reason to come in. What goes on inside the building is what really matters. And for many people, it's what we offer for children. Lots of people may come to their library for meetings. At some of our busy libraries, we might have as many as 50 gatherings in one week. We've got spaces that allow for at least 100 people to spaces where two or three can gather.

  • 12:12:16

    COOPERThose meetings might happen on purpose, or they might happen by accident that a group of people come together at a library and start a conversation, and that's a good example of a meeting. All of those things are a part of why they come to their library.

  • 12:12:30

    NNAMDIAdult literacy programs.

  • 12:12:31

    COOPERAdult literacy programs. ABE material, which means adult basic education material, at every single location. Lots available on the Internet now for people learning to read, and that's a big issue for us all. We know that a very small fraction of those who have identified themselves as having trouble reading will ever go to a class or work with a tutor, so we try to give them as many ways to find that as possible.

  • 12:12:57

    COOPERIt might be that they're getting -- they're downloading a cooking or car repair video or a presentation on their computer or on their iPad in something other than English, for example.

  • 12:13:10

    NNAMDITo tell you what I found surprising, a 2010 study found that 40 percent of computer users at D.C. Public Library were researching jobs, and 20 percent reported that they found jobs as a result. You're offering English language classes, GED preparation tutoring, databases of test for licensing and certification, all part of something you call the Ready to Work Initiative.

  • 12:13:32

    COOPERThat's exactly right. And we join with Mayor Gray and the rest of the city government in knowing that get our residents back to work or to work for the first time is a key goal for all of us. So we work with our colleagues in city government, and, indeed, our technology is a primary way to do that. We have over 900 public access computers throughout the D.C. Public Library. And, of course, we've got robust and free Wi-Fi at every location. Those resources are used amazingly well.

  • 12:14:04

    COOPERNow, please don your headphones because we're going to be talking first with Liz in Washington, D.C. Liz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:14:13

    LIZHi, Kojo. First time caller, long time listener.

  • 12:14:16


  • 12:14:17

    LIZWe just wanted to call in. I wanted to call in to say thank you because I live here in Ward 3. We're in Glover Park, and we use the Georgetown library a ton for our moms' group. You guys have so much wonderful meeting space. I don't think everyone knows that you guys have this gorgeous free meeting space. And all winter, we used it for our moms' group (unintelligible) we brought toys. And everyone played together, and it was such a great community place for us to go.

  • 12:14:41

    NNAMDIAnd you just wanted to say thanks to Ginnie Cooper for this?

  • 12:14:43

    LIZWe just want to say thanks and let everyone know that your library has such a great place for everyone. And for all the kids in your neighborhood, it's a great way to meet moms and friends.

  • 12:14:50

    COOPERAnd not to mention wonderful children's librarians and other staff as well.

  • 12:14:54

    LIZThey're so wonderful.

  • 12:14:54

    NNAMDIMaybe we will have our next meeting of the procrastinators club there, or we can put it off for another time. But go ahead.

  • 12:15:01

    LIZI don't know if you guys always get a thank you, so we just want to publicly say thank you.

  • 12:15:05

    COOPERThat's lovely to hear. Thank you so much, Liz.

  • 12:15:08

    COOPERHave a good day.

  • 12:15:08

    NNAMDIAnd thank you very much for your call. 800-433-8850. Here is Eileen in Washington, D.C. Eileen, your turn.

  • 12:15:16

    EILEENYes. Thank you very much. I belong to the Cleveland Park Library. I've lived here for many years. And lately, I've noticed an absolute lack of books on the shelf. I go looking for, you know, classic writers like Hemingway and John Cheever and so forth, and they're missing. Nobody knows where they are, or, you know, we don't have that anymore. Apparently, the shelves have been decimated.

  • 12:15:42

    EILEENAnd, yes, I understand you're, you know, you're thrust to move forward with media and all of that, but we want books on the shelf as well. And we want a very, very comprehensive, you know, listing of books that we can absolutely, you know, get when we go there.

  • 12:16:02

    NNAMDIGinnie Cooper?

  • 12:16:02

    EILEENI wanted to know, what is the plan for Cleveland Park Library and for the friends of Cleveland Park Library?

  • 12:16:09

    NNAMDIGinnie Cooper?

  • 12:16:10

    COOPERYes. Well, certainly, books are still what people expect when they come to the library and what we spend the majority of our materials budget on. And we do find that a lot of people use the resources that are available throughout the District, and that's a real plus, too. We've put a real emphasis on making sure that we do have those classic authors, the ones that you just mentioned and many others as well.

  • 12:16:32

    COOPERAnd maybe when you come in, you find that other people have already -- are already borrowing them. It's good to know that either at the library or from home you can put a hold on a book and get it delivered and find it there. We're working to make sure that our catalog more accurately represents what we actually own, too. That was another part of the deferred maintenance that we've been dealing with over the last years. And, yes, you will still find books at your library.

  • 12:16:57

    EILEENAlso, what are your plans for Cleveland Park Library?

  • 12:16:59

    COOPERYou know, at this point, nothing is funded to do anything with that library. It is one of seven where we have not yet seen work begin or funding available, but I was very pleased with what I heard Mayor Gray say at the opening of the Mount Pleasant Library where he talked about his willingness to move forward with the libraries that have not yet been funded. We've made...

  • 12:17:22


  • 12:17:22

    COOPER...some good improvements there, new lighting, new painting, new ceiling, got rid of all that popcorn ceiling that have been on top of there for a good long time. And, trust me, there's lots of books at that library.

  • 12:17:33

    NNAMDIHow is the city paying for new buildings and renovations?

  • 12:17:36

    COOPERWe are a part of the city's capital budget, and that's how it happens that we have money for the libraries that we have been doing. At one point, the plan was that we would move through all of the libraries, and we have, as I've mentioned, seven left to be funded. I'm very hopeful that that will happen.

  • 12:17:52

    NNAMDIYour capital -- your website says that the capital budget as of 2011 did not include funding for the remaining neighborhood libraries to replace -- to be replaced or renovated. Is that still the case?

  • 12:18:02

    COOPERIt is the case for those seven, but the three that are underway right now -- West End, we talked about as a private-public partnership, so there's no public money there. But Woodridge and Northeast were funded by Mayor Gray, and we're moving forward with those. Woodridge is under design now. And we've had several community meetings on that one. And in Northeast, the exterior is done, and we're about to begin the interior.

  • 12:18:28

    NNAMDIEileen, thank you for your call. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is D.C. central library and home to your office. Talk a little bit about the current conditions of the building and why a renovation is necessary.

  • 12:18:41

    COOPERYou know, that is an amazing building, and it is, as you mentioned earlier, the only library Mies van der Rohe designed and the only Mies van der Rohe building in the District, and it is historically landmarked outside and a portion of the inside too on the first floor. So after 40 years, it's time to replace so many of the systems that are outdated now and may not have worked well to start with. I'll give you one of my favorite examples. The windows all around that building are single pane glass. There's no thermal barrier between the outside and the inside.

  • 12:19:16

    COOPERMy husband jokes that my office is 125 degrees summer and winter, and that's partly because of those windows. Anytime it's sunny, it's warm wherever we are, and anytime that we do need to use heating or air-conditioning, it is a single pipe system, which means it's on or off. So we don't have very good zoned heating. People may have had that experience going to meetings and other things in that building. And it will cost us about $12.5 million to replace those windows. There are other similar costs. The building has never been repainted.

  • 12:19:53

    COOPERThat will be about a little over $3 million because it's a lead-based paint, and that needs to be contained. So the real question we asked -- and we asked it with the help of the Urban Land Institute last November -- is, can that building be made not just an adequate library for today, but a really fabulous, I say, knock-your-socks-off library? So that was the subject of work that Mayor Gray funded, explore those options a little bit further. And we did that and made a presentation to the Library Board and the public last week on Wednesday.

  • 12:20:26

    NNAMDIWe're going to hear more about that. But first, we have to take a short break. Our guest is Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think an overhaul of the MLK Library is a priority? Or do you think there are more pressing issues facing the District? You can send email to, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website,, and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:22:42

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library, more specifically about plans for the central library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The Library Board met last week to hear proposals for the MLK Library. Can you talk about the proposals?

  • 12:22:59

    COOPERYes. And what we did was go a little bit further with some of the options that the Urban Land Institute had given. We first heard from library consultants, experts, really, who said, so do we really need a central library now, and what would that do? The last time this country had a major building of central libraries was about 15 or 20 years ago. We miss that rebuilding. But think of how the world of print on paper has changed in that time and is likely to continue to change.

  • 12:23:29

    COOPERSo they talked about the role of a library of any size to create, to provide meeting spaces, gathering spaces, the opportunity for people to be in and of their community as well as check out books and see the other services that we have available. We then heard from architects, The Freelon Group. The Freelon Group have done a good amount of work. We were talking a moment ago about the Tenley Library and the Anacostia Library. They're both designed by that firm.

  • 12:23:59

    COOPERAnd they are among the firms involved in the African American History and Culture Museum, the new Smithsonian under construction. So our assignment to them was, OK, it can be an adequate library, and we know we need to spend money on it whatever we do.

  • 12:24:12

    COOPERAnd I gave you an example earlier of those $12.5 million we need for the windows. And we said, can you really make it a fabulous library? And, you know, they did. And I tell you, I began that conversation very much as a skeptic. Six-and-a-half years in that building has not made me love being there for the problems that we need to take care of.

  • 12:24:33

    NNAMDIYeah, I've read about your furniture -- the furniture in your office, too. But that's another story. Is there agreement as to whether these new designs -- there are two options, it's my understanding, on the table -- those designs preserve Mies van der Rohe's original vision?

  • 12:24:47

    COOPERYou know, who knows. And because it's a landmark building, that'll be for our community and for the Historic Landmark Board to review and to determine. And it's two very similar proposals. And, actually, we didn't want to spend so much money to go very far in that process. So we really just have general concepts. But I'll tell you that they go back to an earlier idea some years ago of cutting a hole in the middle of the building.

  • 12:25:14

    NNAMDIA large light well into the center of the building.

  • 12:25:16

    COOPERExactly. Going all the way down to that great hall, that landmarked space on the first floor, to invite you into the building and an open stairway. If you come in that building now, you have no idea how you're going to get upstairs or why you would want to. And what that light well does, and the stairs, is invite you in and up and show you meeting space, library books, all kinds of technology and the kinds of things that are a part of it. I would love to see the people in the District say, yes, that's something we would all need and benefit from.

  • 12:25:50

    NNAMDIWell, some of the people in the District will get the opportunity to have a say tomorrow, Sept. 27, when there's a D.C. Council hearing on the renovation proposals and members of the public can weigh in. The debate about whether and how to renovate the building has been going on for a few years now. One possibility would be moving the central library out of the building. Is that possibility still on the table at all?

  • 12:26:14

    COOPERYou know, the Library Board hasn't met to discuss all of this since the meeting last week, so I don't want to speak for them. I will tell you that it's a singular difficulty to try to find another location, and that building that we are in remains landmarked with the library in it or not. My guess is that the government might be the best stewards of that Mies van der Rohe building. And if it can be a fabulous library in many ways, that's an easier path to take.

  • 12:26:44

    COOPERAgain, the Library Board, and of course, Mayor Gray and the City Council will make those decisions, not me. So I'm giving you my own opinion rather than something that's already been decided.

  • 12:26:53

    NNAMDIShare your thoughts on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library by calling us at 800-433-8850. What do you say to those who feel that making the building functional for the 21st century is somehow incompatible with preserving?

  • 12:27:10

    COOPERWell, that's an interesting question, and I don't think that's so. You know, what I have found in the historic neighborhood library branches like Petworth and Mount Pleasant, Northeast, Takoma Park, several others is that we can preserve that sense of history and wonder and provide library services as they are today and tomorrow. That's really our task. And in the Mies van der Rohe building, the work the Freelon Group did persuaded me, at least as one person, that it could be better than I had ever imagined.

  • 12:27:44

    NNAMDIBack to the telephones. We go now to Mauremey (sp?) in Washington. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:27:53

    MAUREMEYHi. I'd like to thank the guest for her enthusiasm and such dedication to our public libraries. That excites me. And I wanted to ask -- well, I'm working on my masters, and I work during the day. Why is it that the libraries close so early, and therefore, it keeps individuals, like myself, from being able to take advantage of everything that our local library has to offer?

  • 12:28:21

    NNAMDIGinnie Cooper.

  • 12:28:22

    COOPERWe'd love to be open more hours, believe me. We are open two evenings a week at MLK. You can be there until nine on Monday and Tuesday. And every one of our neighborhood libraries are also open, either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday until nine. And, of course, MLK is open on Sunday, and every library is open on Saturday. That being said, I love that we are open six days a week.

  • 12:28:47

    COOPERI'd like to be open six 12-hour days or at least four days when we're open from 9:30 in the morning until nine at night. So that's my goal, too. And it really is that staff is such a critical part of the services that we provide, and we need the funding to be able to do that. Next year, the fiscal year begins the 1st of October. We don't have money for added hours, but we do finally have money for our new libraries to be sure that they are well-staffed. And we have a much better book budget the next year. Thanks both to Mayor Gray and the City Council.

  • 12:29:20

    NNAMDIMauremey, thanks to you for your call. And on to Heather, who wants to start a movement about this. Heather, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Heather, are you there? I'll put Heather back on hold. But I think Heather wants to know how people can push for longer hours to promote the library. Here is Marilyn in Washington, D.C. Marilyn, your turn.

  • 12:29:44

    MARILYNThis is going to sound like a broken record because I have called before about the same issue. I am one of the users of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which is housed at Martin Luther King, and I'm concerned about the potential impact of all of this. That library, that area which was beautifully renovated less than five years ago and has all kinds of special services, it's probably the best library for people with disabilities in the country.

  • 12:30:18

    NNAMDIAnd you are concerned about whether this will continue.

  • 12:30:21

    MARILYNWell, yes, exactly.

  • 12:30:22

    COOPERIt absolutely will. Let me tell you, it is one of the services that we are most aware of the need for. And as the District serves as -- the state, and I am the state librarian, we have the federal responsibility to provide library services for the blind and physically handicapped. And we do it, you are absolutely right, remarkably well.

  • 12:30:45

    COOPEROur staff, including Venetia Demson, who was honored by The New York Times as one of the librarians of the year last year, and all the rest of the staff, not just in that area but throughout the library, understand the importance of that service and of the people we are able to serve there. You can count on that service continuing and actually getting better as we move in the future.

  • 12:31:07


  • 12:31:08

    NNAMDIAnd, Marilyn, but we don't mind you calling about it every time Ginnie Cooper is on the show.

  • 12:31:11

    COOPERYeah. Ginnie Cooper loves it.

  • 12:31:12

    MARILYNI hope you don't mind my calling about it every time she's on.

  • 12:31:15

    NNAMDIThat's fine. Thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Do you use your neighborhood library? Why or why not? How would you like to see your neighborhood library improve? Our guest is Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library. And our number is 800-433-8850. Here is Lauren in Washington, D.C. Lauren, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:31:41

    LAURENHey, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. You know, Andrew Carnegie has built a beautiful facility in New York in Madison Avenue that seems like it could play a role in all of this. The building is not being used. What's the possibility there?

  • 12:31:56

    COOPERI'm happy to respond to that. Yes. He did give the money for that building and, actually, four other libraries -- no, three other libraries in the District, including the Mount Pleasant library that just re-opened. We have looked at that building. The city asked us to do so, four or five years ago. And it's a pretty small building. The District outgrew it as a library in the '30s or '40s according to the newspaper publicity that's posted in the window of the MLK building right now, celebrating the 40th anniversary of that building.

  • 12:32:30

    COOPERAnd we talked about an addition or additions on both side that might move forward. It's a pretty expensive proposition, and it's just a matter of what really serves us all the best. It could be that that's possible. It could be that MLK, the Mies van der Rohe building, is the best location.

  • 12:32:52

    NNAMDIWell, it's in such a central location that I suspect that building is coveted by a wide variety of people. We'll have to see what happens with that. Lauren, thank you very much for your call. One of the challenges the MLK Library faces is the number of homeless people who congregate there. Some feel it discourages other patrons from using the library. How do you address that?

  • 12:33:10

    COOPERYou know, we don't actually ask people if they have homes or not when they come in the building. They're all welcome there. That's part of the important role that the public library plays. We do have a series of behavior rules, and those must be followed by everybody, and we do enforce them. But I'll tell you, the thing that makes the biggest difference is when the people who might come in who would like to spend the day there are really joined by so many others in the community that they are a part of the group that is there.

  • 12:33:39

    COOPERAnd I think if you go into our libraries now, you see that happening at a greater level because so many more people are coming in the library. You and I spoke earlier about the Shaw library.

  • 12:33:50

    NNAMDIYep, the Watha T. Daniel.

  • 12:33:51

    COOPERI know several people who spend the day there. I know a couple of bloggers who like to use that as the location from which they send their regular daily updates. And the more people that are in our buildings, the more it's clear that it's everybody's library. And we welcome everyone there.

  • 12:34:07

    NNAMDIUnlike the other recently renovated libraries, the MLK is located downtown D.C. which is now more commercial than it is residential. So that doesn't seem to be a natural constituency, if you will, for the library as there is in other neighborhoods. Is that a challenge at all?

  • 12:34:23

    COOPERYou know, it's still our busiest location. Without any doubt, it is the busiest library in terms of the number of computers that are in use on a regular basis and the number of books that are checked out. And there are some natural constituencies, and some of them are under 3 feet high as I watch the daycares that come several times a week to that building. Individuals are there every day.

  • 12:34:46

    COOPERI passed a group, as I was on my way here to see you, that were little ones in those carts that -- where the little ones sit about six to a cart and get pushed, and they're at the library on a regular basis. Weekends are also very busy. Because it's so centrally located, we find that teens that are independently mobile will come to the teen center there, that little ones will come, especially with daycares, and that workers will come on the noon hour and after work. And it's a pretty busy place.

  • 12:35:17

    NNAMDIHere is Karen in Washington, D.C. Hi, Karen.

  • 12:35:22

    KARENHi, Kojo. Thank you so much for taking my call. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak because the Anacostia Library is actually right next to where we bought our house, and it was actually one of the key factors when purchasing our home because it was just so vibrant. And you could really tell that it was going to change the community around. We actually use the meeting place for our home owners association meetings as well. But it's just a really great part of the community. And I want to thank you for updating it.

  • 12:35:55

    NNAMDIShe bought the house, she and her husband, because it was close to the library.

  • 12:35:59

    COOPERYou know, I've heard that from more than one person. It's really lovely to know that libraries really are playing an important role in those neighborhoods. And I love that meeting happening there, too. That's also the kind of thing that we love to see.

  • 12:36:11

    NNAMDIKaren, thank you very much for your call. Janet in Washington, D.C. has a request. Janet, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:36:18

    JANETThank you, Kojo. I love your show. Could you, when you do these new libraries or renovate, try to make them warm? I mean, I'm living near at the Tenley Library, and it's just so cold. There's pipes all over and long, high stairs, and, you know, are there plans to do something to make that warmer?

  • 12:36:44

    NNAMDIWhat would you consider an innovation that would make the building warmer? And by warmer, what do you mean, warmer literally or warmer in terms of the embrace you feel when you enter the building?

  • 12:36:57

    JANETOh, definitely the ambience. I don't -- drapes, brighter colors, less of the feel of pipes. I feel like -- and when I go in there, that's what I -- I feel like, I don't know, like I'm going into a spaceship or something.

  • 12:37:13

    NNAMDIAnd, Ginnie Cooper, care to address that issue, the ambience?

  • 12:37:16

    COOPERYou know, it's often a matter of taste. Our goal is lots of natural light and lots of books on display. And you certainly have that when you go into Tenley. And it might be that a library like Petworth, for example, or the new Mount Pleasant Library, a historic library that's been renovated, would retain some of what was the characteristic warm, dark wood in many of those locations.

  • 12:37:43

    COOPERYou know, if you're on the -- at the Tenley Library and on the second floor where the lounge seating is near the periodicals and you're looking out over Wisconsin Street and the -- or Wisconsin Avenue and that empty space that's there, I think there's no more pleasant or a warmer place to be than that. But I recognize that the architectural styles differ from person to person.

  • 12:38:08

    NNAMDIAnd it's a matter of taste. Janet, thank you very much for your call. Anisse (sp?) in Washington, D.C. You're on the air, Anisse. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:16

    ANISSEYes. Good afternoon. I'm a native Washingtonian. I've been using the library since I was 3 years old at the Carnegie location, and I did want to complement what has been done with the libraries now. But I'm -- and I'm also really happy to see you're going to preserve the location that kept that as historic. But I wanted to know, what is being done to preserve the collections, the Washingtonian archives and also the black history because the hot-cold is very bad for those collections. And also the staff, the staff has had a tremendous change, and I wanted to know, why is that happening?

  • 12:38:58

    NNAMDIWhy are there staff changes? And what are you doing about the historic collections?

  • 12:39:02

    COOPERYeah. The Washingtonian collection is really a jewel, isn't it? And I love hearing from people who've been in the District a long time and used the library for a long time. And you are right about the conditions not being ideal for those materials. We have some ability to keep some of the rare and precious material in climate-controlled storage areas. But the whole area needs to be renovated and redone, and that's a part of the cost of staying in that location, whether we are able to modernize it in a major way or not.

  • 12:39:33

    COOPERAnd we are well aware of that and understand the importance of that resource. And of the black studies area as well, we had some help from the private sector and from other government agencies at the federal level to redo that area. It's one of the most pleasant places to just sit and spend time now in the -- in that whole building. And I see people who have found that as their favorite location and use it on a regular basis.

  • 12:39:58

    NNAMDIAnisse, thank you very much for your call. On to the MLK central library again, can you tell us what the next step will be after tomorrow's public meeting, and is there a renovation timeline?

  • 12:40:08

    COOPERThere isn't a timeline yet. There isn't funding, and there isn't really a decision. So I look forward to tomorrow's opportunity to hear more from the public about what they'd like to see. Ultimately, it'll be the public and, through them, their elected officials who will make the decision about what happens next. You know, the truth is we need to spend major money on that building, one way or another.

  • 12:40:31

    COOPERThe conditions that you and I were speaking of earlier are not going to get better by themselves. And at 40 years old, that building has done an incredible job, and we need to preserve it. You know, it's one thing to say it's historically landmarked and it's named for Martin Luther King. It's another thing to really respect and honor both that architectural heritage and Martin Luther King. I hope we have a building that's worthy of both.

  • 12:40:57

    NNAMDIFrom buildings to books, we got an email from Phil in D.C. "I would like to hear an explanation of the library's new fine system for overdue books," which Phil calls crazy. "Five dollars after 30 days, pay for the book after 60 days, and no fines for children and teenagers doesn't make sense to me," says Phil.

  • 12:41:16

    COOPERYou know, the library's had a long history of not charging fines for children and teens. We want to make sure that they have every reason to use the library and no reason not to. We do, of course, hold them to account if the books don't come back in time. And we did make a major change in our fine policy a couple of years ago. We decided that both our staff and members of the public were spending too much time with nickels and dimes, and we really just couldn't afford that. There wasn't a reason to.

  • 12:41:44

    COOPEROver 96 percent of the people who check books out return them on time, and we were spending an awful lot of time dealing with those other 4 percent. So we give them a date that the book is due, and we do charge them at the end of that 30-day period what they would have paid if they've been charged during that time. And we do ask them to replace the book, to give us the money to replace the book if it never does come back. That's the short explanation.

  • 12:42:11

    NNAMDIPhil, as an avid reader who's paid a bunch of fines myself, I understand how you feel about this. Ginnie Cooper, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:42:20

    COOPERMy great pleasure.

  • 12:42:20

    NNAMDIGinnie Cooper is chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, Your Turn. What do you think accounts for the opening up of the presidential races in states like Ohio and Virginia? You can weigh in on how you feel the Senate race is going in Virginia and how you think the replacement referees in the NFL might be replaced. It's Your Turn. You can start calling now at 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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