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Mayor Bowser Highlights the Modernization of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Thursday, June 8, 2017
Removal of the Martin Luther King Jr. Mural Marks Beginning of the $208 Million Project

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off construction at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library by lowering the building’s historic mural depicting the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement. Mayor Bowser was joined at the event by former Mayor Anthony Williams, Councilmember David Grosso, Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Board of Library Trustees President Gregory McCarthy, and Library stakeholders.

“My Administration is committed to expanding learning opportunities for residents of every age, in every neighborhood, and one way we are doing that is by building and renovating libraries across the District,” said Mayor Bowser. “Earlier this year, after 44 years of service, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - the first public building in the country named for Dr. King - closed its doors for a complete $208 million renovation. When it reopens in 2020, the MLK Library will offer tremendous learning opportunities to more than one million visitors each year.”

In 2015, Mayor Bowser accelerated the funding to renovate the central library in her Fiscal Year 2016 Budget. On March 4, 2017, the library closed for a complete modernization. When the $208 million transformation is complete, the building will feature:

  • a new, inspiring, and transparent entryway,
  • sculptured monumental stairs,
  • a large auditorium and conference center,
  • creative spaces for music production and art creation,
  • a ground level café with patio,
  • double-height reading room,
  • a large, interactive children’s space;
  • an expanded special collections space for researchers and local history enthusiasts; and
  • a rooftop event space with a terrace.

The 56-by-7 foot oil mural contains nearly 100 images, buildings, and events. It was painted by Jamaican-born artist Donald Miller and was installed on the first anniversary of the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The mural will be cleaned and stored for the duration of the library’s renovation, and when the building reopens, it will be returned to the library’s Great Hall. In addition to the mural, public art honoring Dr. King will be solicited for the library’s vestibule and the plaza in front of the building.

“In the year 2020, we will be standing here in the Great Hall at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, under a beautifully restored mural,” said Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan. “The modernized MLK Library will be a hub for many of the District’s education, innovation, and cultural programs.”

The modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is an important part of the DC Public Library’s “Know Your Neighborhood" strategic plan, and will help the Library ensure that 75 percent of the city’s residents have active library cards, five million visits occur every year at its facilities and library events, and five million books and other items are borrowed annually.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library was designed by the team of Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo.