The final push is on to get Burton Barr Central Library ready to reopen on Saturday, June 16. It’s been closed since July 17, when strong winds damaged the roof, and a fire sprinkler system flooded all five floors.
Burton Barr Central Library is the flagship of the Phoenix Public Library’s 17-branch system. Designed by Phoenix-based architect Will Bruder, it opened in 1995. Typically, one million people visit the branch each year.
There’s been plenty of activity going on behind the scenes since the library closed, including both repairs and renovations. And it’s been a costly enterprise.
The city received $9 million in insurance money for needed restorations, according to a report city manager Ed Zuercher submitted to the Mayor and City Council on May 3. At the time, $8.7 million had been spent.
The money paid for a new roof and fire-suppression system for the fifth floor, as well as replacing damaged elements such as flooring and drywall.
But there’s something else far more noticeable.
You’ll find new public computers on the second and fifth floors, set on new tabletops that have power outlets so patrons can plug in their electronic devices.
That’s important because the library provides more than 800,000 hours of free computer time each year, according to Lee Franklin, community relations manager for Phoenix Public Library.
There were other expenses as well, because the city decided to proceed with several planned renovations while the library was closed for storm-related damage.
The city spent $2.1 million in library reserve funds for improvements to the Children’s Place, College Depot and MACH1 area, according to the Zuercher report.
That’s where patrons will see the most noticeable differences when the library opens its doors. Here’s what to look for:
• The Children’s Place on the first floor has more than doubled, and now includes over 14,000 square feet with a large story-time space.
• The College Depot, also located on the first floor, has more than doubled as well. It’s got over 10,000 square feet, including a new computer training room and multi-purpose room.
• MACH1 on the fourth floor has two new glass-enclosed computer labs, a new sewing area, and a room with several 3D printers.
Expect to see a couple of exhibits, as well. You’ll find paintings by Jill Centino and Melissa Schleuger in the gallery on the first floor, and an exhibit related to Phoenix history on the second floor.
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More than 200 library staff, most of whom have been working at other branches, will return to Burton Barr Central Library on Monday, June 11. They’ll be part of the big push to get everything ready for opening day on June 16, when the library will present a lineup of special activities starting at 9 a.m.
“We didn’t want to keep the library closed any longer than we had to,” says Lee Franklin, community relations manager for Phoenix Public Library. “We are just excited to get back to our customers.”