Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday closure of DC Public Library main branch as another illustration of planning failures

I don't read the Washington Informer that much, so I missed their reporting in June ("MLK Library set to close Sundays") that starting in the FY12 fiscal year, DC Public Libraries are going to eliminate Sunday service hours, which currently are offerred only at the main branch of the library system, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, downtown. The new Huffington Post DC page alerted me to the issue, in "D.C.'s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Cutting Sunday Service."

From a standard "planning" perspective, which we apparently don't do much in DC, you would organize the service profile of the DCPL system into at least 4 dimensions:

• Central library;
• neighborhood branches;
• open hours by daypart (morning, afternoon, evening) and day of the week.

-- Current schedule of hours, DC Public Library system

-- DC Public Library Services and Facilities: A Framework for Continuing Success
A Library Services and Facilities Report

-- Summary report, DC Library Master Plan (2006)

Eliminating a day of service, particularly Sunday, disproportionately impacts people who can't use libraries during the day during the week.

I don't see how the DCPL could do such a drastic change to their schedule without there having to be hearings.

The 1-5pm Sunday period of library service at the Central Branch should be inviolate, because it is the only public library open (excepting college libraries, most but not all of which are open to the public) during that time in the entire city. Plus this library has a variety of special collections which provide additional service to residents.

A change of this nature in the Library system's service profile is so significant that I would argue that it's comparable to changes to bus or rail schedules and service on the part of local transit systems, which because of FTA requirements, automatically triggers hearings.

(In fact Dr. Gridlock had a big piece about that in the Sunday Post, "Metro proposes changes to bus lines," and in a first, at least in my memory, the article listed ridership statistics for each of the affected lines.)

And yes, there was never an adequate public vetting of the DC Library Master Plan, which was released in 2006.

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