Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library readies for grand opening

After two years, $11 million and some controversies along the way, DC leaders cut the ribbon Wednesday on a newly renovated Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library.

The library now has an expanded space for children's books and features murals by beloved American artist Aurelius Battaglia.

The Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library was built 1925 with an Italian renaissance design. Today, it's the third oldest public library still in use in the District.

"What's wonderful about this is that the character of this library has been preserved, and yet, we have been able to build and expand of that. It is quite a contribution to Mount Pleasant," DC Mayor Vincent Gray said.

The building has been renovated and modernized. There's a new rear addition with a community room, more computers and Wi-Fi, as well as over 50,000 books, CDs and DVDs.

Mount Pleasant Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper said, "Of course there's new books for people. The shelves are quite crowded. We're anxious for them to live in people's homes for a while."

On the second floor, which was previously closed to the public, the new children's area features colorful murals painted in 1934 by Battaglia. The Washington artist is best known for his work on the Walt Disney films "Dumbo," "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia."

Battaglia's daughter, Nicola Battaglia, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, having never seen the murals before.

"I'm really touched. It's in retrospect. I'm incredibly proud of my father but when he was alive, I didn't think that way. But now it's like... He was a really big deal," Nicola said.

The renovation took two and a half years to complete, in part, because critics challenged the removal of a sun room to make way for the new addition.

Others argued that a wheelchair access ramp was too long and steep,but the project architect says the ramp is ADA compliant.

District leaders say you just can't please everyone.

DC Councilman Jim Graham said, "What has been produced is the result of a real community, forging of opinions. I wouldn't call it a consensus, because we didn't have a consensus...we had a lot of people sign on here after numerous meetings, and we landed on our feet...I think this is the greatest good for the greatest number."

A grand opening celebration for the library will be held Saturday, Sept. 15.