Re-imagine a New Central Library

The Future of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C.’s central library, will undergo a complete modernization. The new flagship library will house a spectacular new, vibrant and transparent entryway; sculptured monumental stairs; large auditorium and conference center; creative spaces for fabrication, music production and art creation; ground level café with patio; double-height reading room; newly designed special collections space for researchers and research enthusiasts, and a roof top event space with terrace.

The $208 million rehabilitation, once complete, will become the center of activity for the already vibrant Chinatown area. The library will close in Spring 2017 with construction to start in the summer. The new library will open in 2020.

Final Design Meeting

The Library will host a final design meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m.
See the final designs
Learn about plans for closing
Get updates on interim services
The meeting will be at MLK Library in the 1st Floor Dream Lab.

Learn about the plan for library services during construction.

Proposed Design | Regulatory Review | Library Building Program
Interim Library | Community Engagement
Architect Selection | Project Background

The library has hired the award-winning design team of Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo. The library is scheduled to close for modernization in 2017 and will re-open in 2020. The Library convened an Advisory Panel of community stakeholders who provided ongoing input throughout the design process.

In November and December 2016, the Library hosted eight city-wide community meetings to share the latest designs. See the presentation from the first meeting that was held at MLK Library on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. See a compilation of the comments received.

Proposed Design Concepts

View the most recent designs. Share your thoughts in the MLK Jr. Library Idea Community.
Regulatory Review Process

The proposed design for the central library is currently under regulatory review by three agencies. The lead agency is the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which has purview because the building is historically designated and it sits within the central area of the nation’s capital. The other two agencies are the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). NCPC gave final approval to the plans at a hearing on Oct. 6, 2016. The Commission of Fine Arts reviewed and approved the plans at a public meeting on Oct. 20, 2016.

Library Building Program

Through community input, conversations with staff, review of other central libraries around the world and consultations with the architect team, the Library has developed a final Library Building Program. It is guided by four principles:

Balance the joy of reading with space for innovation, creation, collaboration and technology.
Showcase the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Respect the building’s historic designation and the industrial, modern style of the original architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Create a space that is bright, open, flexible and welcoming for all.
In short, the aim is to go beyond a library that is merely transactional – a place where you go simply to checkout a book – to create a library that truly transforms lives – a world-class library for the 21st Century.
Interim Library Services

During construction, the central library will be closed and library services will be provided across the city and at a temporary location.

Learn more about these plans.
Community Engagement

Community input is a critical part of the design process for the modernization project. The Library began seeking ideas about what residents would like to see a modernized central library in the fall of 2013. This process continues as the design process moves forward.

The Library wants to hear your thoughts on the proposed design. Share your ideas, view other ideas and see the proposed design in the MLK Jr. Library Idea Community. Anyone can view public comments, but you must register to post comments.

Community Meetings

The Library has hosted numerous community meetings to share design ideas and gather feedback from residents about what they would like to see in the modernized library.

In November 2015, as part of the design process, the Library hosted a community forum entitled “Dr. King in D.C. — A Community Conversation.”

In September 2014, the Library convened neighborhood meetings to answer questions and get residents’ ideas for the building. Each meeting was hosted by a member of the MLK Library Renovation Advisory Panel. More than 60 people attended the meetings held at Bellevue/William O. Lockridge Library, Francis A. Gregory Library and in the West End neighborhood (at St. Paul’s Parish). In addition, the design team presented the designs at ANC meetings, two Penn Quarter Neighbors’ Association meetings and gave a presentation at The National Building Museum.

Browse comments and questions from neighborhood meetings here.

Focus Groups and Surveys

The Library conducted focus groups and surveys with a wide range of residents including adults, seniors, teens, school-age children, teachers, parents with young children, Spanish-speaking customers and other stakeholders.

Here’s some of what we’ve heard:

Community Forum
Library Design Roundtable
Focus Groups
Letter from First Congregational Church
Architect Selection Process

Martinez + Johnson is a D.C.-based architecture firm that has extensive experience with historic modernization projects including D.C.’s Takoma Park and Georgetown libraries. Mecanoo is a Dutch-based firm whose work includes Boston’s Dudley Municipal Center and the Library of Birmingham in England.

Learn more about the architect selection process

Project Background

Planning for the modernization of the central library began in 2011 and enlisted both local and national experts as well as extensive community engagement. Learn more.

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