Christine Madrid French's Aug. 9 letter, "An Icon for Readers and the District," cited Union Station and the Pension Bureau Building as works of architectural art to which, secondarily, we have attached functions. She put the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in that category, too, because it was designed in a famous style by a famous architect.

First, however, the building needs to function as a library. With its humongous card catalogues sitting on the main floor because they are too expensive to remove, along with other signs of decay, the King library is not workable today. Modernizing decrepit buildings is not normally cost-effective, either.

Given the opportunity we have, with the space provided by the demolition of the old convention center and the commitment of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, it would be a shame not to build a world-class library to replace this one. And what is to stop a new library from being as architecturally significant as the King library?

While preserving historic buildings is important, not everything can or should be frozen in time. Additionally, that a building is designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is not reason enough not to disturb it. Some buildings by architects of the same school can and do look terrible -- for example, the Harvard Graduate Center by Walter Gropius looks like a Motel 6.

Keeping ugly buildings that have not stood the test of time is not the way to create an attractive city, and it is hard to seriously argue that the King library is aesthetically pleasing.

The District's libraries need an infusion of money, energy and commitment. Replacing the King library with a shining new central library is a great way to start.

ANDREW S. GINSBURG

Arlington