Architecture and Design

Temporary Phoenix Library Branch Will Open in December

Lynn Trimble
Looking southwest toward Burton Barr Central Library in August 2017.
Phoenix Public Library will open a temporary branch in Central Phoenix later this year. The new branch was approved by the Phoenix City Council on Wednesday, November 1.

It’s being created to improve access to library materials and services, which have been significantly impacted by the closure of Burton Barr Central Library due to flooding back in July.

Typically, 1 million people visit Burton Barr Central Library each year, according to City Manager Ed Zuercher.

“This will allow a huge contingency of our regular customers to access us,” Lee Franklin says of the temporary space. She’s the community relations manager for Phoenix Public Library.

The new branch will be located in a basement portion of Park Central Mall on Central Avenue, just north of Thomas Road, Franklin says.

It’s expected to open by the end of the year.

Burton Barr Central Library, which is the flagship of the 17-branch Phoenix Public Library System, has been closed since July 15, 2017.

That’s when all five floors of the library were flooded during a storm. High winds damaged the library’s roof, causing poorly maintained pipes in the library’s sprinkler system to release water.

Several city staff were aware that there were holes in the pipes, but they didn't take appropriate action to fix. Two employees were fired on Monday, October 23, for their role in the debacle.

Investigations are ongoing into the role that fire department personnel may have played.

In the meantime, the city has been making needed repairs at Burton Barr Central Library, which is scheduled to reopen in June 2018.

First, the City Council authorized spending $2.5 million to repair damage on the first through fourth floors.

During the November 1 meeting, the council authorized spending another $2.3 million for repairs to the fifth floor – including installing a new roof and fire suppression system.

It also approved creating the temporary branch space, which is approximately 30,000 square feet. Many years ago, that space was home to Goldwater's department store.

During remarks delivered before the council voted unanimously to approve it, Vice Mayor Laura Pastor described the new site as a "pop-up" library.

"We became innovative and creative and watched our entrepreneurs on how they do these things in the public arena," Pastor says.

The City will lease the space for at least nine months, beginning in December, Franklin says. The lease will cost the city approximately $675,000.

Franklin expects there will be overlap between the time that branch is open and the date when Burton Barr Central Library reopens to the public.

She cites several advantages to the location, which was identified by the city’s community and economic development department.

“It’s located along the light rail and it has spacious free parking,” Franklin says.

Inside, patrons will find a selection of the library’s most popular items – including books, maps, and audio materials. “We’re also focusing on public computer access,” Franklin says.

Branch hours haven't been determined.

Patrons already have access to 16 regular Phoenix Public Library branches, including four that added Sunday hours in response to the main branch closure.

Hundreds of library staff were relocated to other branches after Burton Barr Central Library closed, and many library materials were moved to other branches as well.

Franklin's pleased that there’s another way people can access library services while repairs at the main branch continue.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are excited to get the new space set up,” Franklin says.