Denver Public Library Central Branch Reopening July 18

Back in business!
Back in business! Wikimedia Commons
Closed since March 2020, the Central Library of the Denver Public Library system will finally reopen at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. "We are so excited to see our neighbors again," says Megan Hartline, the interim operations manager.

The Central Library, which typically served around 2,500 people per day, shut down during COVID-19 pandemic closures across the state sixteen months ago. But while all of the DPL's other branches have reopened in recent months, albeit with limited hours, the Central Library, located in the 1300 block of Broadway at the edge of Civic Center Park, has remained closed for renovations to the circa 1996 structure. That building was designed by Michael Graves to coordinate with the 1956 landmark library created by architect Burnham Hoyt; the update was funded in part by Elevate Denver bond money.

Now enough of that work is done to open up much of the main floor. For now, only the Broadway entrance will be open and all but the first floor closed off. But the space that will be accessible is similar in size to many of the DPL's larger branches.

"It's just going to be a little different," says Erika Martinez, DPL director of communications.

The Central Library is frequented by people experiencing homelessness, so the staff includes social workers and peer navigators. While they used to meet with patrons on the fourth floor, they'll now use the Community Connections Room, located in a former cafe right by the Broadway entrance.

Also open will be the main hallway, the information desk, the library services desk, a community tech center with 33 computers, and a special collections area featuring newspaper microfiche and non-circulating books.
While not as large as the tech center that had been located on the fourth floor, this temporary space will have four courtesy phones. In the past, the library only had pay phones available.

"A quarter of interactions with Community Services were just to use phones," says Rachel Fewell, the Central Library administrator.

Those coming into the library looking for a book, movie or other item will be able to request that item from a library staffer, who will then go to retrieve it. Curbside service will also be available.

The first-floor bathrooms, relics of the mid-1990s that saw lots of use, have been totally redone. They now feature communal and touchless handwashing areas, baby-changing stations and large stalls. While other floors of the library are still being renovated; all of them will get redesigned bathrooms.

A renovation of the children's library, which occupies much of the original library building, should wrap up in early 2022. The Central Library is also adding a large programming area, which won't be ready until early 2023.

The Denver Central Library will be open Sunday through Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. Curbside pickup will be operational from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.