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If you’ve ever been to a public library in D.C. to use a computer, you’d know that there’s usually a two-hour wait. When my laptop died, I’d sometimes go to the library early, before it opened, to sign up for a computer, so that I wouldn’t have to wait long. Even after I bought a new laptop, I’d go to the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library to use my laptop in a quiet environment (something that Starbucks doesn’t always offer). Many times the tables would be occupied by people waiting to use computers. That wait is now over thanks to the brand new high-tech space called the Digital Commons.

The Digital Commons takes up one entire wing of the first floor at MLK Library (at Metro Center). As the library’s website notes, the Digital Commons “houses more than 70 computers,” but it is not just a computer lab! “It offers computers loaded with software like the Adobe Creative Suite; access to tools like a 3-D printer and an Espresso book machine; and enhanced meeting rooms and gathering spaces aimed at encouraging creation and innovation.”

When I visited the Digital Commons today, I was impressed to find tables with outlets on top of the tables, a Skype Station, and a Digital Bar with tablets and e-readers (so you can “test drive” them before you buy or get tutored on how to use one by a librarian). It also has a “Dream Lab collaborative space with smart boards and video conferencing capability” and you can “work with a librarian to publish an out-of-print (or your own) novel.”

The best part of it all: it’s free and for the public! And for those folks that sign up to use a computer, there are large flat screen T.V.s mounted on the walls indicating how long your wait will be (like an airport monitor). But the best part is, there are so many computers that the wait won’t be long; and there’s so much to do while you’re waiting, that you won’t be bored.

MLK Public Library, you’ve come a long way, baby!

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