June 21, 2021
Dear Chairperson White and members of the Committee:
Thank you for affording me again an opportunity to testify in conjunction with this hearing.
I’m Mark Pattison, current secretary and former president of the Friends of the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library. I testified at the performance oversight hearing earlier this year against a recommended closing of the library. And my message today is much the same: Friends don’t let friends close libraries! It’s easy to reject arguments made by opponents. But when your friends tell you that you’re off course, you really should listen.
I won’t revisit all of the arguments I made in my earlier testimony, but some need to be reiterated. DCPL, in drawing library boundaries it calls “catchment areas,” for some reason gerrymandered the Walter Reed acreage into the Takoma Park branch’s catchment area. Takoma Park still hasn’t opened, but Shepherd Park was in the first batch of library branches to reopen last year. DCPL cannot boast about building a 20,000-square-foot library for Deanwood, as Richard Reyes-Gavilan did at the June 8 meeting of the Federation of Friends of the D.C. Public Library, then turn around and say the 23,000-square-foot Shepherd Park Library is too big for its made-intentionally-too-small customer base.
Walter Reed, whose northern terminus is less than two blocks from the Shepherd Park Library, will have 2,100 housing units by the time construction is done. That’s more than every dwelling in the current catchment area. Those households deserve library services close to where they live. And you know what? So do the 64 families that are going to live in the affordable-rate housing being built by the city RIGHT…. NEXT…. DOOR to the library.
Another thing bears repeating: We have absolutely nothing against a new library to serve the Brightwood Park-Manor Park community or with new libraries for Dupont Circle-Adams Morgan, Wesley Heights-Cathedral Heights, Eckington, Deanwood, and elsewhere. But none of those other full-service libraries are going to be built by shutting down another full-service library. We reject that devil’s bargain for Shepherd Park.
I’m sure DCPL officials would love to punt this issue until building Brightwood Park-Manor Park and shutting down Shepherd Park is a fait accompli. But this is not a punt; this is a fumble. The committee should recover this fumble and run — fast — in the other direction.
The operating budget equivocates on the future of the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library, but we all know that it’s the capital budget where the rubber meets the road. The committee, and the full Council, must, in this budget, expunge any mention of the Shepherd Park Library closing or of Brightwood Park-Manor Park serving as a quote-unquote “replacement library” for Shepherd Park. I’ll be submitting some suggested language changes in an email under the subject “Save the Shepherd Park Library.” If DCPL can get the money to build this many libraries AND staff them, it can certainly find the money to keep Shepherd Park operating.
To mention points, I did not include in my oral testimony:
Shepherd Park is the ONLY full-service library branch slated for closure.
In 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, the Shepherd Park Library’s usage rates were squarely in the middle of the pack among all 25 D.C. neighborhood-based libraries.
Residents in the Shepherd Park library’s catchment area would have to double their travel time – at least – to get to another library branch.
While there are many commendable things in the DCPL facilities plan, closing Shepherd Park is short-sighted at best and wrongheaded at worst.
Committee member Janeese Lewis George, who serves Ward 4, tweeted upon release of the DCPL facilities plan that the city should both keep Shepherd Park open and build a new library to serve Brightwood Park and Manor Park — a point she repeated during the June 21 hearing.
A community that fought so hard to get a library in the mid-1980s is not going to see that struggle go for naught.
Mark Pattison, Secretary
Friends of the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library
This is our replacement language for the Capital Budget item CE0-SPL37-NEW 4A LIBRARY. Here are the deletions and substitutions I suggest
Change Capital Budget item from CE0-SPL37-NEW 4A LIBRARY.
To CE0-SPL37-NEW WARD 4 LIBRARY.
Change Facility Name or Identifier from NEW 4A LIBRARY
To Facility Name or Identifier: NEW WARD 4 LIBRARY
Change description from “Replace the existing Shepherd Park Library with a new full-service library at a location south of the existing library would address the service gaps for Brightwood Park/Manor Park communities and serve more Ward 4 residents” to:
“Build a new Ward 4 library between the existing Shepherd Park, Takoma, Riggs-Lamond and Petworth libraries to address the service gaps for Brightwood Park/Manor Park communities and serve more Ward 4 residents.”
“Change the Justification from “Replacing the existing Shepherd Park Library with a new full-service library at a location south of the existing library that would address the service gaps for Brightwood Park/Manor Park communities and serve more Ward 4 residents. Further site exploration and community engagement will be required to identify the ideal location for a Shepherd Park Library replacement” to:
“Building a new full-service library between the existing Shepherd Park, Takoma, Riggs-Lamond and Petworth libraries to address the service gaps for Brightwood Park/Manor Park communities and serve more Ward 4 residents. Further site exploration and community engagement will be required to identify the ideal location.”
As none of the budget figures in FY 2022 consider the costs of closing the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library, we do not call for changes. The suggestion made both by myself and Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George to consider the parcel occupied by the now-closed Rite Aid drugstore on Georgia Ave. NW between Madison and Longfellow Streets NW could prove a useful acquisition, especially as land prices are likely to continue to rise.