Washington Heights Library Reopened After 4 Year Renovation
Washington Heights Library Reopened After 4 Year Renovation

NEW YORK—The Washington Heights Library reopened on Monday after a four year renovation.

The $12.4 million extensive gave the branch a modern and accessible interior, with a newly installed glass elevator and an entrance ramp. Prior to the upgrade, the branch only had stairs and could not accommodate people with disabilities. It was also inconvenient for many elders. Now all three available floors are reachable by elevator.

“I grew up about a mile and a half away from here and I’ve been hearing about the need for an elevator in this building from my mom and my neighbors for too long,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx at the library’s ribbon cutting. “This is a great day to give everyone the elevator so everyone can enjoy this building.”

The second floor of the library is entirely dedicated to children’s books. The space is one of the largest children’s rooms in the New York Public Library system. It was completely redesigned in the renovation to let in more light and create an area for computers. More open space was created at the center of room where students can study and read, and more shelving was added to accommodate a larger collection of books. The library serves eight schools in the area.

“This community is very large and when we were open before, the children’s room, as large as you see it, was always full of children doing homework assignments. And we’re expecting more people this time,” said Vianela Rivas, Washington Heights Library Manager.

The branch now has 25 PCs, 16 laptops, and 24 macs available to the public, more than triple the number of computers it had before. It is now the third branch in the public library system to have Mac computers. Many of these computers are situated on the first floor of the library, designed to serve adults and teenagers.

Now a century old, the library is one of the original 67 branch libraries that Andrew Carnegie built for the New York Public Library System.

The renovation also added large windows on both the first and second floor to let in more natural light.

“The fact of the matter is, when you have this kind of light, no matter where you live or where you go to school, you want to come to the library,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Washington Heights residents are thrilled to get their library back. Steven Silverstein who only lives a block away said that he plans on taking his son to the library every day.

“He’s been waiting for it to be open,” said Silverstein. “I’ve lived here 14 years, the library has been closed four years, so it’s been much missed. We’re really thrilled to have it back.”

Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.

  • William Jiang

    I’m a librarian. I just visited the Washington Heights library, and I can’t believe this library renovation cost 12.4 million dollars. Yeah, the library looks brighter and there are a few more computers, and there is a new elevator, but NYPL could have instead paid for 620,000 librarian-hours or 88,600 librarian-days. In a time of budget cuts, cutting back library hours, and dropping budgets, It’s upsetting. All they really had to do was remove some shelving, to add new computers. The library could have been improved greatly over 1 week for less than $20,000. Not, 4 years and 12.4 million dollars later. There are other things they could have done to improve the libray, like adding a cafe to make it a better place to be for the community, but no. Not even.

    Also, I feel NYPL is dropping the ball big time in another way, all over their system. With the advent of distance education (MOOCs) and online courses like Coursera, MIT EdX, etc. There should be classroom space that could double as social learning spaces. If NYPL doesn’t embrace this new paradigm shift, they will lose even more relevance, funding, and potential to be do-gooders in NYC.

    Hint, hint. Nudge nudge to you NYPL President, Anthony W. Marx. Say no more.

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