A Neighborhood Guide to Washington D.C.’s Best Public Libraries

The typical public library in D.C. not only offers mounds of books but so much more. Many branches have a unique mix of programs, including classes, lectures, kid’s activities, book clubs, and technology workshops, making them thriving community centers.

public library full bookshelves

The library system’s flagship location, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, includes a Studio Lab and a Memorial Lab where residents can create professional multimedia projects. They can also digitize home movies, personal photographs, and slides. Some libraries even allow you to get your passport renewed, making them a one-stop-shop for various everyday services.

We’ve rounded up six of the city’s best libraries in some of D.C.’s most popular neighborhoods, plus a resource for free children’s books. Check out some of our favorites below.

Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library

The Cleveland Park branch had a stylish makeover in 2018. It received new light fixtures and furniture similar to a boutique hotel lobby. Its exterior is mostly neutral brick and glass, keeping with the surrounding buildings’ aesthetic since it’s located in a historic district.

front entrance to Cleveland Park Library

The new building also has a few cozy outdoor spaces for reading or working outside when the weather cooperates. The Cleveland Park branch is the largest neighborhood library in D.C. at 27,000 square feet. It has a spacious community room that can hold up to 200 people for events or workshops. Classes and activities include kid’s craft time, a kid’s chess club, technology sessions, and yoga. 

The library happens to be next door to The Parkway Apartments and is less than a ten-minute walk from The Parkwest, The Rodman, and Sedgewick Gardens

Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library

entrance to mt. pleasant neighborhood library

The Mt. Pleasant Library is just a quick stroll from the Columbia Heights metro station and serves both the Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. The building could perhaps be mistaken for a museum with its beige stone façade and stately columned entrance.

The library includes a dedicated teen space with Mac computers, a large children’s area with a story room, and three peaceful study spaces for working or reading. 

The Vintage on 16th is conveniently located right around the corner from this library. It’s also only a ten-minute walk from 1900 Lamont Apartments.

Georgetown Neighborhood Library

Georgetown Neighborhood Library, housed in a historic brick building reminiscent of a classic schoolhouse, includes an outdoor reading terrace that overlooks Book Hill Park and a stately special collections room with cozy seating and a fireplace. 

In 2019, the Georgetown branch hosted the 30th Annual Black Film Festival that included screenings of a recent Spike Lee film and the 1991 indie classic Daughters of the Dust. This location also offers a book concierge service for busy parents who would like help selecting books for their kids (similar to a personal shopper, but for library books).

The Georgetown Neighborhood Library is about a 25-minute walk from The Archer. If you go on a nice day, be sure to take a stroll through Book Hill Park, which is practically in the library’s backyard.

West End Library

New West End Library building in Washington D.C.

The dazzlingly contemporary West End Library debuted its new building at the end of 2017 with Mayor Bowser in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It’s a mixed-use space with the library taking up the spacious ground floor and eight floors of residential housing above. 

There’s a 100-person meeting room with an assistive listening system, five quiet study rooms, and 40 public computers. The West End branch hosts a full calendar of events with regular “baby yoga” sessions where parents can “stretch, bond, and move” with their little one.

It’s a five-minute stroll from this library to Circle Arms Apartments. The Rodney and The Sedgewick are a little farther away, but also within walking distance, approximately 20 minutes away. 

Petworth Neighborhood Library

Petworth Library’s colonial brick architecture leads to an equally classic interior with dark wood accents and a ground floor stacks area anchored by a fireplace. The branch includes a children’s story room for readings and other activities, a 100-person community room connected to an outdoor patio, and laptops available for personal use or computer skills classes. 

There’s also a Spanish language book collection and past classes have included tango lessons, yoga, theater classes, and writing workshops. Insider secret: with cherry blossom trees dotting the grounds, the Petworth Neighborhood Library is a great place to catch these beautiful pink blooms each spring.

The Petworth Neighborhood Library is a breezy fifteen-minute walk from Crestwood Apartments. The library is also a quick eight-minute stroll from the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro Station.

Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library

Tenley-Friendship library building in D.C.

The Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library is a modern glass building with a row of exterior panels meant to evoke the pages of an open book. Its environmentally-sustainable design has a natural light-filled interior which houses two conference rooms and a dedicated children’s room with children’s programming and comfortable seating for up to 200 visitors. Its green design elements include a row of plants installed on the roof intended to help lower cooling costs and improve water quality. 

Classes at this branch include regular English as a second language (ESL) Conversation Circles where participants can discuss “international affairs and comparative cultures” with other ESL students. 

Tenleytown-Friendship Library is a 17-minute walk from Connecticut House Apartments and is across the street from the Tenleytown-AU Metro Station

Little Free Libraries

public library building

If you’ve got little ones and you can’t make it to one of the public libraries we’ve mentioned, check out one of the Little Free Libraries scattered throughout the city. A Little Free Library is a small wooden box or other structure that houses an array of books, mostly geared toward children but you might find a bestseller tucked among the selections. 

The idea is to take a book and leave a book, ensuring a rotating selection of new material for everyone to enjoy. There is a little library on 38th Street in Cathedral Heights. For other locations throughout D.C. and beyond, check out the interactive map.

At Home in D.C.

D.C. has an array of public libraries that aren’t only for bookworms. These libraries are centers for the community, offering everything from “mommy and me yoga” classes to events and workshops.

In addition to public libraries, D.C.’s museums, restaurants, and theaters are also world-class. If you’re planning to relocate to D.C. or you’re already here and looking for a new home, DARO Apartments can help you with your search. 

Our communities have a range of living quarters – from studio apartments to three-bedrooms in some of D.C.’s most coveted neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Mt. Pleasant, and Columbia Heights. Our apartments are within walking distance of popular coffee shops, art galleries, bars, bookstores, and of course, public libraries. 

Contact DARO Apartments today to speak with one of our leasing experts.

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