Southeast Friends: Monthly Book Sales Threatened by Modernization

Friends Organization Allocated Less than Half Current Space in New Design

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The Southeast Library is photographed June 16, 2021. E. O'Gorek/CCN.

For decades, the Friends of Southeast Library (FOSEL) have held monthly book sales to raise funds for kids and adult activities at Southeast Library that are not supported by the DCPL budget.

But FOSEL says the plans for a modernization of the Southeast branch put the future of that sale is in jeopardy.

DCPL is planning a total renovation of the Southeast Library (403 Seventh St. SE), scheduled for completion in fall 2024. The plans call for 86 square of space to be allocated to the friends. That’s less than half of 175 square feet they have in the current space.

FOSEL President Neal Gregory said that the room they have generally overflows as is. Without at least the same amount of space as they currently have, Gregory said, it is difficult to see how the sale could continue.

Southeast has the only Friends group that has a monthly book sale, Gregory said. Most groups hold similar events quarterly.

The event takes place on the second Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Gregory said it usually attracts about 1,000 book lovers from all over the city.

Most books are $1. FOSEL averages $1500 to $2000 in receipts every month. During the first post-pandemic sale Sept., with fewer donations and less publicity, the organization brought in $1500. That’s probably around $20,000 income annually for the library.

The FOSEL have started a petition to ask DCPL to increase storage space. More than 250 people have signed online so far. Another 250 signed paper petitions at the September book sale.

Limits of Increased Space
But there isn’t much space to work with, DCPL said. The new Southeast Library will have approximately 18,000 square feet of indoor space.
Yes, that’s nearly double the 9,600 square feet of usable space it currently has. But DCPL says because of the limitations presented by the historic building and site, it’s still 2,000 square feet less than what is considered optimal, especially for one of the most heavily-trafficked libraries in the District.
According to DCPL data, in Fiscal Year 2019, there were 179,000 visits to the Southeast Library. Only eight of the system’s 26 libraries had more visits –all of them in much larger buildings.
“Post-renovation there will still be slightly less public space, less program space, less meeting space, and less staff space than we have in all other new neighborhood libraries,” said a DCPL representative. “Providing the Friends additional space for warehousing donations must come at the expense of space that we know will be well used and popular with visitors every single day of the week.”
Courtesy FOSEL.

Discussions Ongoing

DC Public Library said they have offered the friends group a compromise. The friends will accept donations for one week prior to each monthly sale and be given exclusive access to a meeting room to process those donations. DCPL said they belive this is a good solution that we think the community can embrace.
“It allows for the book sale to continue without having to entirely sacrifice the valuable space our residents need every day,” said DCPL Media Relations Manager George Williams.
FOSEL Gregory said that the September and October sales are a pilot test to see if the compromise system works for sales in the immediate future. DCPL will meet with them in mid-October, when discussions about space planned for the renovated building will continue.
Donations for the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. saile on Oct. 9 will be accepted at Southeast Library between Oct. 2 and 7.

Sign the petition or make a donation to the FOSEL . Learn more about the Friends of the Southeast Library or volunteer by visiting www.dclibraryfriends.org/Southeast. Everyone is welcome to join.