We had a lot going on this summer, so I wasn’t quick to post about the some of the share-worthy things we did. And by that I mean I’m a good couple of months behind on a few of them. But as summer break has come to an end for us — yup, the kids are already back in school — I’m ready to write about those places and pursuits that are way overdue for a feature.
In the spirit of the school year beginning, I’m starting with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Penn Quarter — because school and libraries are a natural connection and because it’s an A+ of a place for all ages — kids and adults — to enjoy. (Spoiler alert: It has an awesome slide!)
The building underwent a major, three-year renovation that was completed in 2020, and the result is an inviting, innovative, architecturally interesting, even playful space. (And while it reopened in September 2020, its offerings were very limited and mostly virtual for the following year. So, it’s really only been welcoming visitors to fully enjoy it for about a year now.)
Sasha was actually the first to tell me how awesome the MLK Library is since its renovation. She and her friends would often go there after school last year to study and hang out. Yes, hang out at the library. (And let me digress a bit here… Something pretty great about my kids getting older in regards to KFDC is that now, they sometimes let me know about new, cool things to do around town. As they’ve become more independent and explore DC with their friends and sans me, they occasionally discover places or new ways of experiencing familiar ones.)
So, it was actually Sasha who took me on my first tour of the newly renovated space earlier this summer when we popped in after running some errands nearby. I was so impressed by both the library itself and how well she knew her way around it all!
MLK Library is so much more than your typical library. Not only is it much larger and more modern than other DC public libraries, there are features and amenities you won’t find at them either. Along with books to browse and check out for all ages and from all genres, there is a cafe, an entire exhibit space, study and meeting rooms, a large auditorium, a recording studio, a gorgeous rooftop terrace, and what little ones will love most: a SLIDE in the Children’s section to zip down.
Viewing all of it, I completely understood why Sasha and her friends spent so much time there. They took advantage of the study rooms to prepare for upcoming tests or do homework together, but would also just go to grab a snack at the cafe or sit on the rooftop to hang and enjoy a nice afternoon and great city views. I was also happy to see she was familiar with the multimedia exhibit area, with videos and displays about DC history and culture, the Civil Rights movement, the mission for statehood, and more.
And then there’s the space itself, which is open and airy with interesting architectural elements and clever design touches, like the beautiful winding staircase, unique light fixtures, and great art, like the MLK mural spanning the wall space behind the Information Desk that you see when you enter the building into the Great Hall. Just going to take a tour of it all would be an activity in itself (essentially, it was for us when we visited).
The public is welcome to drop in anytime during open hours, and I also recommend checking the schedule to see when special programs are running. There are story times for little ones, board games for youth, art projects for teens, talks and movies series for adults, and much more.
Ready to go check it out? A few KFDC Tips first:
* Take public transportation if possible, as parking can be difficult. Gallery Place (Red/Yellow/Green) is the closest stop. Metrobus runs nearby, too.
* The American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are right across 9th Street, and the National Building Museum is a short stroll away, so you can make a longer day of it in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.
* The Library is surrounded by restaurants, if you want to include a meal with your outing.
* If you don’t have a library card, you can apply for one here (and you don’t have to live in DC to get one.. residents if nearby MD and VA counties can apply, too).
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library
Where: Penn Quarter, DC
When: Mon – Fri, 10am – 8pm | Fri-Sat, 10am – 6pm | Sun, 1-5pm