Shhhh! No Library Controversy, Please

Some communities not too excited about new libraries

By Tom Sherwood
|  Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009  |  Updated 12:38 PM EDT
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Calls to Ban the Building, Not the Books

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Calls to Ban the Building, Not the Books

Mayor Fenty opened one of several new libraries planned for the District Monday, but not everyone is happy with the pace of the reform.
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Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chief Librarian Ginny Cooper were "whooping" it up Monday to celebrate the opening of the new Northwest One branch library at First and New Jersey Avenue NW.

Cooper literally began "whooping" as she and the mayor cut the ribbon. Startled and amused, the mayor asked that Cooper warn him the next time she's going to do that.

It was a light, funny moment for Fenty and Cooper who are spending $250 million to renovate 17 library facilities in the city.

The new library is in a community that's seeing a lot of gentrification. Old public housing buildings are being torn down, with promises of new and modern places for people to live.

The library fits right in. It includes a computer lab with computers that will help local residents do research, find jobs and or just keep up with friends and relatives.

The mayor said the libraries are just part of his effort to repair and restore schools and recreation centers, too.

Some communities are not all that happy with the library effort. There have been long battles in Tenleytown, Mt. Pleasant and other neighborhoods.

In the Ward 8 community of Washington Highlands, some local activists object to their planned library. They want the old, 1950s-style library on Atlantic Avenue restored and renewed with an addition. They say the modern library planned for their site doesn't fit into the neighborhood of modest brick homes.

But the Washington Highlands branch was closed Nov. 30 and the library plans to open a nearby temporary home on Martin Luther King Avenue.

The city's chief librarian said she recognizes that building new libraries can be unsettling to neighborhoods but they're worth it in the long run because the old building can't handle the new technology that new libraries require.
 

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