Mayor Muriel Bowser and other Washington dignitaries officially opened the new Cleveland Park Library on June 16 by telling an overflow crowd of more than 500 District residents that the $19.7 million library restoration would not have been possible without the active support of the Cleveland Park community and DC taxpayers.
Bowser said the newly renovated Cleveland Park Library and other renovated libraries in the city “demonstrate how brilliantly the taxpayers of the District of Columbia have invested in turning our (library) system around” while “making sure that each and every neighborhood from Ward 3 to Ward 8 has a neighborhood library they can be proud of.”
Bowser thanked Jill Bogard, president of the Friends of the Cleveland Park Library and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, among others, for their leadership in the Cleveland Park Library project. Bowser also praised Cheh for “her intense focus on making sure that Ward 3 schools, libraries and parks have exactly what they need.”
“I know projects like these are never easy,” said Bowser. “There is a lot of push and pull and starting and stopping.”
The Cleveland Park Library is the 19th neighborhood library renovated or rebuilt since 2008, and the first one rebuilt in a historic district. Before closing for construction in 2016, the Cleveland Park Library was the busiest neighborhood library in the District. In a press release, Bowser said the new 27,000 square foot-facility is designed to meet the community’s expanded needs.
Bowser and other speakers stressed that libraries knit communities together by giving residents an opportunity to “meet one another and engage in very meaningful ways.”
“And a library is so emblematic of how we as a city make that kind of investment in one another,” said Bowser.
She urged audience members to walk through the children’s section of the library, which she described as “light and airy and stocked with new books.” Bowser, who recently adopted a baby girl, said she looks “forward to introducing Baby Miranda, who is new in my life, to the (Cleveland Park) library as well,” a statement that prompted sustained applause from the audience.
Gregory McCarthy, president of the Board of Library Trustees, noted the size of the over-flow crowd at the start of the event, saying it is indicative of how Washington “values libraries.” That support has made it possible for the District to accomplish “some extraordinary things” with its library system during the past decade, McCarthy said.
“This library system has gone from almost worst to first in just one decade,” said McCarthy.
Like other District libraries, the Cleveland Park Library fulfills many needs.
“Whether you are trying to earn your PhD or whether you are seeking your GED, this building has something for you,” McCarthy said. “Whether your family has been here for five generations or you just came five months ago, this building belongs to you.”
Jill Bogard expanded on that theme, saying, “whether you are from Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Van Ness or any part of the city, this is your library.”
For Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library System, the opening of the new Cleveland Park Library carries a special significance. It is the first new library he worked on from start to finish in the District. Before library construction began, he met with Cleveland Park residents, and quickly encountered “delightful contradictions” as he sought community input on the design of the facility.
Cleveland Park residents told him that they wanted to make the library “big and bold” but also “cozy.” They also wanted something “iconic and grand but something deeply respectful.”
In addition, residents wanted a library that was playful but also serene with lots of natural light, but not too much direct sunlight. At the same time, they wanted books everywhere but also lots of space.
“Somehow or another we did it,” Reyes-Gavilan said. “It was an intensely collaborative process.”
In her remarks, Bogard told the audience, “This 21st century library is a place of wonder, of exploration, of innovation. I encourage you to discover today what the library can offer to you and your families from story time for babies and toddlers to workshops on the latest digital technology,” she said.
“This is your library, and I hope you will love it, respect it and cherish it for decades to come,” Bogard added.