Onondaga County's Newly Renovated Downtown Central Library is More Than Books and Computers

Aug 24, 2016

Visitors to Onondaga County’s Central Library in downtown Syracuse are now greeted with a first floor entrance and $8.7 million worth of renovations and upgrades on three levels.  Executive Director of the library system Susan Mitchell says maybe the big red library sign on Salina street is what’s pulling people in.

This sign now welcomes patrons to the ground floor entrance of the central library in in The Galleries downtown.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"We're seeing about twice as many people coming in to the library right now," Mitchell said.  "What's most encouraging to us is we're seeing a lot of new faces.  What's really gratifying to me is  we're  getting the middle age group coming in, that 20 to 30 year old group that we hadn't seen a lot of.  But I think our makerspace and the more modern spaces on that first floor are really attracting a whole new crowd of people.  This is actually a cool place to hang out now!"  

Mitchell says that first floor presence makes the library more accessbile to everyone. 

 "The first day that we opened that ground floor level, the first person to come through the door was in a wheelchair.    He said to me later that he hadn't used the second floor before because it was just so difficult to get there."                                       

The second floor now includes a large section devoted solely to children’s books and hands-on activities.             

"It was great to see that first little girl run through the threshold of our children's space and squeal with delight, look around, and think 'where do I go?' She sat right down at the train table, and was just so excited to be in this space," Mitchell said.

Children enjoy the hands-on activities in Children's World on the 2nd floor.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

But what’s a library without books?  8-year-old Tahnia Rice loves the variety.  She read a book to her mother Shalika and 5-year-old brother Toyree.  Shalika Rice says she likes the combination of activities...though the focus is still on books.

"Technically, we come to the library to read," Rice said.  "This is just so they don't over-cloud their mind while reading, they can get up, take a brief break, play for a little while, come back, read a couple more books."

Rice says they just happened to stop by the other day, and plan on coming back, though they do spend most their time at the branch near their east side home.  Libraries director Susan Mitchell says they’re trying to connect young readers with books in creative ways.

"We have on the table over here a science experiment, where a kid might come in and have some success with the science experiment, even if they don't think they're science-minded," Mitchell said.  "Then they might take out some of our books on science and technology, and engage in more programs in our makerspace and our children's spaces."

The makerspace is also where children can build small robots and print in 3-D.  Mitchell says it's all in an effort to meet different expectations from new generations. 

County Libraries Executive Director Susan Mitchell greets employees at the central library's new Makerspace.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News