An $8 million renovation of Onondaga County’s Central Library in downtown Syracuse wrapped up this month. And the facility on South Salina Street has now become more than a place to get books.
A caregiver sits nearby, as three toddlers tumble through a giant penned-in play area on the second floor of the Central Library. There are books galore spread out through the brightly colored space, but also places for kids to stretch their imagination -- a pretend grocery store, a train table, a stage.
Library Director Susan Mitchell says this area was the last piece completed in the renovation.
"We started the renovation on the third floor, and then came down to the first floor and finished up in the second floor where children, adult literacy and job training is,” Mitchell said.
She says the renovation created a smaller, sleeker library.
“We really reduced our overall square footage by 30 percent, but only 10 percent of that was in patronage areas. Most of it was in staffing areas. We had twice as many staff as we did in the 1980s, but we still had all the spaces. So we were able to shrink those down and come up with more efficient spaces.”
Mitchell says the new storefront library is offering more for patrons than ever before. There are places to make robots and learn to code. The library is becoming a place where, instead of just consuming content that exits, patrons can create.
The library, around the corner from the New Marriott Downtown Syracuse, sits in the middle of an area of downtown that’s becoming rejuvenated, so it’s busier than ever.
Mitchell emphasizes that the public space aspect of the library is key, offering a spot for visitors and downtown employees to take a break. And while that public space does draw some members of the homeless population, Mitchell describes one homeless family looking for permanent housing, that found a haven at the library last summer.
“They came every day with a packed lunch, and they ate lunch in the library and they played all day long. And I don’t know if those kids knew they were homeless, because they had a place to go every day.”