Renovated after flood damage, Burton Barr Central Library reopens


Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Nearly a year after flood damage closed the Burton Barr Central Library, it will reopen June 16 with a party to celebrate new features like expanded areas for children and a room set aside for 3-D printing.

The daylong celebration will start at 9 a.m. with events for all ages, including a children’s story time, adult crafts, a magic show and printing press activities.

The library, south of McDowell on Central Avenue, has been a central gathering place that went beyond the hundreds of books lining its shelves. Opened in 1995, it became the spine of Phoenix’s sprawling library system holding Arizona historical archives and offering information, classes and programs on topics as varied as autism, STEM and GED services.

The five-story building closed 11 months ago, in July, after a dust storm shook the roof, stirring up dust that the library’s fire-suppression system mistook for smoke. The overhead sprinkler system filled with water and burst some corroded pipes, flooding the building.

Eleven city employees, including the fire marshal and several library workers, were either suspended, demoted or fired after an investigation said the flood could have been prevented, according to azcentral. Officials said that inspectors warned the city about the damaged system several times in recent years.

The Children’s Place was nearly doubled in size after renovations. (Photo by Ellen O’Brien/Cronkite News)
The Children’s Place was nearly doubled in size after renovations. (Photo by Ellen O’Brien/Cronkite News)

Officials opened a temporary public library at Park Central Mall while the building was being renovated. The Park Central branch will close Friday, but a book drop off will be available through June 15.

Several patrons there last week said the makeshift branch was a fine temporary fix, but it didn’t seem like home. They wanted Burton Barr.

“I’m just glad it’ll be open again. I just miss going there,” James Fisher said as he sat at a computer.

The newly renovated library offers the new and the familiar.

Lee Franklin, a spokeswoman for Phoenix libraries, said the library will have additional computer labs and more space for people to attend workshops and certification classes.

“We’ve been able to take advantage of this time and bring some significant enhancements and improvements to a couple of our key service areas,” Franklin said.

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