Sixteen months after Denver Public Library officials closed and locked the doors to the central downtown branch, the building will reopen Sunday with a few improvements.
But patrons shouldn’t expect the flagship library to return immediately to its former glory, because the construction won’t be down for another two or so years, Central Library Administrator Rachel Fewell said. Plus, the branch will only be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
“It might be hard for people who used to use the Central Library and are expecting to go right up to the fourth floor to use their favorite computer,” Fewell told The Denver Post. “It’s not going to be like that, it’s going to be limited.”
Fewell beamed with pride Friday as she walked through the branch with several colleagues, tallying off already finished improvements and anticipating others in the works.
When the branch opens Sunday, patrols will have access to a community connections space where they can find career and housing services, interim Central operations manager Megan Hartline said.
Otherwise, patrons can use computers to search the library’s collection and request materials to borrow from staff. The branch’s information services, card services, a community technology center (with more than 30 computers) and special collections and reference section will also be open, she said.
Each of the library’s 26 branches closed on March 15, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic gained speed. Nine of those branches reopened in March 2021 with limited hours and safety precautions, and in the months since, the others except for the central branch followed.
The work at the Central Library — including restroom upgrades and a first-floor renovation — are part of a longstanding plan funded by the Elevate Denver bond package that voters passed in 2017. Millions more were raised by the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation.
In all, the central branch renovation is expected to cost about $50 million.
Temporary walls separate much of the library’s open space from areas still under construction, though Hartline and Fewell said they can’t wait to reopen the branch even with the work in the background.
The next things to get a makeover include the children’s section, programming space and all six elevators. That work isn’t expected to be finished until sometime in 2023.