For Release December 16, 2020
Contact: Robin Diener, Library Renaissance Project
DC Public Library Director Questioned about
Proposed Closure of Shepherd Park Branch
Last week 87 people zoomed into a special meeting of the Shepherd Park Citizens Association (SPCA) to hear from DC Public Library director Richard Reyes-Gavilan about the proposed closure of their neighborhood library under a new libraries Master Facilities Plan (MFP).
Among the attendees were reps from the Mayor’s Office of Community Outreach for Ward 4, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the State Board of Education, Friends of the Shepherd Park Library, many SPCA members including more than one young person whom SPCA President Naima Jefferson thanked for staying up past bedtime in order to speak out. The children said that closing the library would make them “sad” and that they “depended on the library for books to read.”
Reyes-Gavilan was open and responsive to questions sent to him in advance as well as from the chat box on the spot, but his answers didn’t necessarily provide the clarity sought. After first presenting a slide show of charts and stats from the MFP, he cautioned, “Stats are not ultimately what we are basing recommendations on. I am very satisfied with Shepherd Park’s performance.” Yet, when neighbor James Stocker asked how community input informed the recommendation to close Shepherd Park, Reyes-Gavilan admitted it didn’t, “Ideas for recommendations came from usage data,” seeming to contradict his earlier assertion. Assuring the community of further engagement, the library director only added to the confusion, “If there is not support to move it, it will be rebuilt,” meaning neither closed nor moved.
Neighbors noted an inherent contradiction in closing one library and opening another to address a service gap. Rosalyn Coates wrote, “The terms closing and expanding are mutually exclusive.”
Others brought up the need to keep Shepherd Park’s walkable access. “This plan would create a new underserved community,” wrote Heidi Decker. “The reason our Shepherd Park library isn't widely used by Brightwood Park residents is the same reason why a Brightwood Park library wouldn't be widely used by Shepherd Park residents.” David Inoue cited “natural boundary lines,” the traffic-clogged Georgia and Missouri Aves that “people will not cross to walk to their local library.”
Reyes-Gavilan concluded by noting that according to the MFP, Shepherd Park is due for a systems overhaul within the next three years. If that happens,“We will not be seeking funding for a rebuild for this library for some time.”
Perhaps the best expression of community sentiment was by Ward 4 Councilmember-elect Janeese Lewis George, tweeting last week, “Shepherd Park library should remain. Brightwood Park should be considered for a new library.”