D.C. Library Closing 5 Neighborhood Kiosks

By David Betancourt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Five neighborhood library kiosks are being closed in the District after an evaluation by trustees determined that they are little used.

The kiosks, built in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are plexiglass-and-metal booths no larger than 1,400 square feet, about the size of a two-bedroom apartment. They originally were built to serve neighborhoods that lacked adequate library service and were intended to last no more than seven years.

Larger libraries are expected to be built in neighborhood recreation centers and other multiuse buildings. Library officials said other libraries can be reached without much inconvenience.

"We know there are better libraries no more than a few miles away, and since 1970 with the development of the Metro system, library users have easier access to more libraries," Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the D.C. Public Library, said in a statement.

The kiosks were 25 percent as busy as the least busy neighborhood library, Cooper said. Because of their small size and limited weekday hours, average daily circulation at the kiosks was 15 to 20 books. Computers were used 30 percent of the time, compared with 70 percent or more in larger libraries, and there was no space for such programs as workshops, community meetings and story times for children, Cooper said.

Each kiosk, with utilities, costs $100,000 a year to operate.

Nancy Davenport, interim director of library services, said cost was not a factor in the decision. She said residents have more options than they did when the kiosks opened.

"The libraries around them have improved so much since the late '70s, early '80s, that I really don't want people in those neighborhoods to think that this is all the D.C. Public Library can offer them," Davenport said.

But Tijwanna Phillips, who works with an advisory neighborhood commission in Ward 8, said many residents like the kiosks because of the convenience.

"I think they should leave them open because it gives people a place in the neighborhood they can go without using public transportation," she said. "It's a lot easier to get to the kiosks than the larger libraries."

Of the five affected facilities, two are in Ward 5, with one each in wards 6, 7 and 8. They are: Deanwood on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE; Langston on Benning Road NE; Parklands-Turner on Alabama Avenue SE; R.L. Christian on H Street NE; and Sursum Corda on New York Avenue NW.

Deanwood has been shut. Parklands-Turner will close once a suitable library location is identified. Langston, R.L. Christian and Sursum Corda are to close by Jan. 1.

Eventually, improved libraries should be in neighborhoods once served by kiosks, officials said. In Sursum Corda, a 5,000-square-foot library will be incorporated into Northwest One on L Street NW. A new Deanwood Recreation Center will have a 10,000-square-foot library one mile from the Deanwood kiosk. The Langston and R.L. Christian kiosks could merge with the planned Rosedale Recreation Center.

Staff, computers and books at the closing kiosks will be reassigned to libraries.


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