PARK SLOPE — After a nearly three-year wait that tested the patience of book lovers, the Park Slope public library reopened on Thursday, welcoming patrons to a brightly lit and inviting space stocked with 20,000 shiny new books, DVDs and CDs.
Literature lovers and parents and nannies with strollers started lining up about 10:30 a.m. for the noon opening, a library employee said. When the gates finally swung open, excited kids streamed into the children's area and immediately started testing out the library's four iPads, which are loaded with child-friendly apps.
"I'm just thrilled," said mom Rachel Schwartzman, who was one of the first to sit down and read a book to her 17-month-old daughter, Mila Shane. "We'll come here a lot."
The library, which was built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1905, closed in October 2009 for an extensive renovation that upgraded air conditioning, and added new flooring, bookcases, and light fixtures. The library was also made more accessible for disabled people, with ramps, elevators and bathrooms designed specifically for wheelchairs.
Other new features include free wi-fi, new printers, new reading spaces for kids, adults and teens, and renovated multi-purpose rooms that the public can use for meetings.
Programming is still being finalized, but librarian Stephanie Brueckel said the Park Slope branch plans to have at least two story time sessions for babies and toddlers each week, on Wednesday and Friday mornings. "We know the demand will be high," Brueckel said. "In this community they place a really high value on literacy and progamming for children. This neighborhood really loves their library."
The story time sessions will include toys and tips for parents about how to use toys to promote early literacy, which is part of a program called Read, Play, Grow, Brueckel said. The library also plans to host family board game nights this winter, Brueckel said.
Parents and kids from nearby P.S. 39 said they had been eagerly awaiting the reopening. Several students from the school presented the library with a gift of books written by P.S. 39 students. Library officials are working with school leaders to come up with a plan on how to partner so kids can safely use the library after school, Brueckel said.
P.S. 39 dad Dennis Vargas said his three kids haved missed being able to go explore the library. His 12-year-old daughter is looking forward to walking home from M.S. 51 to do her homework at the library, which is just a couple of blocks from their house.
"She feels like now she can actually go somewhere near the house," Vargas said. "It gives them a little freedom to be able to explore a little bit."
City Councilman Brad Lander said he started hearing concerns about the state of the library — and its pending closure — before he even took office. Aside from providing a free place for families and kids to hang out, libraries also provide Internet access and computers, Lander said, noting that half of New York households don't have high-speed Internet.
Lander and other local officials are forming a new "friends group" to help support the library; a planning meeting is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the library.
"It's taken a while, but we're at a bright new day," Lander said. "There are people who think, in this age of Kindles, of Amazon and the web, who aren't really sure about libraries, but they haven't been inside one in a while."