Testimony of Ilana Boivie for the FY 2018 Budget Oversight Hearing for the DC Public Library

Chairperson Grosso and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. My name is Ilana Boivie and I am the senior policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI promotes budget and policy choices to expand economic opportunity for DC residents and to reduce income inequality in the District of Columbia, through independent research and policy recommendations.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is concerned about the closing of MLK, the main library of the DC Public Library system, through 2020, and in particular its impact on services that support literacy and employment. DCPL should ensure that the gaps that this closure represents are filled, both at the interim location and throughout the city. Specifically, DCPL should hire more staff to conduct computer classes and provide more tutoring services at other branch locations, especially locations east of the Anacostia River such as Benning and Anacostia. DCPL should also engage in an outreach program to ensure that customers are aware of all of the opportunities and services that will be available.

The temporary library location at 1990 K Street NW is far smaller than the MLK library branch, and considerably smaller than even an interim library branch. The location has a significantly smaller computer lab, less seating space, and only a small fraction of the MLK branch’s materials. Specifically:

  • The computer lab will only hold 12 computers, whereas MLK had 33.
  • The training room has only seats 12, whereas MLK sat 30. Also, this room will be shared by adult literacy programs and the Center for Accessibility.
  • The location lacks meeting room space to hold programs for more than 12 to 16 people.

Thus, much of the programming that took place at MLK will have to occur at other library branches, including computer classes and adult literacy programs. DCPL should make a strategic plan to serve the customers who will otherwise be underserved by the reduction in these services. DCPL should also make a plan to hire additional tutoring staff for the Adult Learning Lab, in order to build capacity and be able to serve those in Wards 7 and 8.

In addition, the location of the facility at 1990 K Street NW is much less accessible for many residents who had used services at MLK, such as those attending literacy programs. In order to ensure access to residents throughout the District, DCPL should invest in outreach programs to reach a more diverse community, and ensure that customers of adult literacy programs and computer classes are informed of the opportunities to pursue these services both at 1990 K Street and at other branches throughout the city.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.