Fire raises questions about library equality…

If you don’t know, DC had two heartbreaking fires on Monday. Historic Eastern Market was gutted, and the Georgetown Branch of the DC public libraries burned.

The Georgetown branch was home to a treasure trove of neighborhood history, as well as art. These items are irreplaceable and the Georgetown neighborhood lost a lot of history and memory on Monday afternoon. (Recent assessments state that the damage to these collections is not as bad as it could have been, or was initially feared, but still, any damage is a tragedy.)

Mayor Adrian Fenty has pledged to fund the reconstruction, which could potentially cost up to twenty million dollars.

That’s great news for Georgetown, but there’s another side to this story that no one’s covering, that I haven’t heard anyone mention.

Four DC libraries have been closed for years because they are in need of renovation or rebuilding. The residents of Anacostia have held protest rallies to get their library back.

If DC can so easily grab the money to rebuild the Georgetown Branch, where’s the money for Anacostia, Shaw, Tenley-Friendship, and Benning? These libraries have been closed since 2004, and Mayor Fenty hasn’t introduced legislation to divert excess funds for the next few years for them.

Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship both have interim libraries and Benning and Shaw are supposed to get some soon. These interim libraries are pre-fab buildings. Tenley’s isn’t ADA compliant, none have meeting rooms. New libraries might come in 2010. Maybe. No one’s holding their breath.

Why is Georgetown more important? Why is their library rebuilt right away? Georgetown residents didn’t have to stage massive protest rallies to get a little interim site. Was is the shock of fire? Or something more nefarious that plagues DC politics? Could it be that no one cares about Anacostia and Shaw? Tenley-Friendship and Benning? Could it be the rich, tourist-filled Georgetown just ranks higher?

Yes, the situations are slightly different– the closed libraries need razing and rebuilding from scratch. Such things are always more of a headache than fixing a damaged building. They did (eventually) get interim locations for the closed branches. The closed branches weren’t housing valuable local history archives and special collections…

But… when you hear that Georgetown is getting their library rebuilt with special funds and Anacostia and Shaw are still waiting… your gut clenches and it makes you think the worst about DC politics. Especially because I haven’t seen anyone addressing the issue.

4 Responses to Fire raises questions about library equality…

  1. Electra says:

    Maybe that’s what Letters to the Editor are for.

  2. kidsilkhaze says:

    True, but I want someone to actually cover the story, to actually interview Fenty and the people involved, not someone whining in the letters section of the Washington Post.

  3. Kevin says:

    Awesome entry, Jennie. I agree that somebody needs to speak out, and I think a letter to the Post (or even smaller papers) might make a difference. In fact, the text above would go a long way to making this known outside the Washington area – lots of people at Wash. U. were aware of the fire, and there are people from the District everywhere. Also, this sounds like the kind of thing Slate would run with – and since somebody you know’s already been in Slate, your foot’s practically in the door. 🙂

    Thanks for letting us know about this; I wouldn’t have had any idea otherwise.

  4. […] within public library funding, there is a pecking order, as suggested in Jennie’s piece here, Fire raises questions about library equality. I can understand that some libraries will generate more support than others, whether it’s […]

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