When the Martin Luther King Library closes next year for a multiyear renovation, a key historical resource will also close. The DC Public Library is to provide some access during the work, but has no clear plans for full access to the vast Washingtoniana Collection.
This will severely handicap not only professional users, but also the homeowners, preservationists, academics, hobbyists and others who use the collection for their research every day.
Some of them delivered a letter to the library’s trustees and DCPL Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan, requesting full access during the renovation and the formation of a working group.
“This group would be made up of planners and architects of the renovation, the users of the collection and the MLK staff (including from Washingtoniana) and will ensure that this core function of the District Government is not be interrupted,” says Bill Rice, a local journalist.
We are invited to join them in signing the letter and petition.
Why sign? Ann Kessler, who has used the collection to research our own neighborhood’s history, states:
The Washingtoniana Division of DCPL has always played a vital part in making DC history sources available to scholars, students and the public. I first discovered the wonders of Washingtoniana in 1969 – Miss Sue Shivers and Roxanna Deane, the staff at that time, were both dedicated to collecting DC history as it occurred. Washingtoniana has only grown since then – expanding their map and atlas collections, vertical files, archives, and, of course, making the Evening Star photo morgue available to the public.
In my research of Forest Hills history I have regularly used Washingtoniana’s vertical files to find articles and documents that wouldn’t be readily available anywhere else. To have these valuable resources hidden away while MLK is renovated does a serious disservice not only to local history scholars, but also to students, business researchers, house historians and genealogists who regularly use the collection. Until recently I had volunteered in Washingtoniana for a number of years, and I can truthfully testify that it is a well-used collection that needs to stay accessible for all of us.
Visit Washingtoniana.org to sign the petition and let DCPL officials, the DC Council, and Mayor Muriel Bowser know you support keeping this collection open to the public during the renovation.