Meet the man who is turning D.C. libraries into a national model by nevin Martell march 31
Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library system, is changing the way the city’s residents interact with its libraries. (Greg Kahn/GRAIN/for The Washington Post)
A year ago, Richard Reyes-Gavilan was standing in an upstairs dining room at the Hamilton, a trendy downtown eatery. He’d come to talk to a roomful of business owners and civic leaders about that building.
“I’m sure you’re all familiar with MLK,” says Reyes-Gavilan, the executive director of the D.C. Public Library, using shorthand for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the dreary, well-worn, four-story central library two blocks west of Verizon Center. Despite being designed by celebrated 20th-century modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the boxy structure is known less for its collection and more for its down-on-their-luck clientele who has inspired a lengthy list of restrictions on behavior such as bringing in bedrolls or “emanating an odor that can be detected by a reasonable person, from six feet away.”
“It was outdated the day it opened,” he tells the room. “It has been an unloved structure for a long time.”