Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005

1-to-2-year rehab, smaller teen lounge for library

By Caitlin Eichelberger

When rumors of a proposed renovation of Jefferson Market Library at W. 10th St. and Sixth Ave. surfaced, so too did area activists protective of the historic Greenwich Village landmark.

The community outcry has resulted in alterations to the reconfiguration plans and has gotten the full attention of library representatives. Attempting to bridge the gap in communication between administration and residents, branch librarian Frank Collerius and Susan Kent, director and chief executive of the New York Public Library’s branch libraries, attended the Community Board 2 Institutions Committee meeting last month. On Oct. 18, the pair will host tours of the library alongside the architects to give a sense of “how [the renovations] will feel, that kind of thing” Collerius said.

The hubbub began in early summer following a Villager article outlining the renovations, specifically a young adult space then termed a “teen lounge.” Comfortable furniture, study rooms, music and a television playing music videos were expected to round out the lounge, which was slated for the basement, bumping the reference section to the second floor with the general adult materials in a space already perceived by library users as crowded. Negative response from Villagers, however, has resulted in a reduction of the teen lounge space — originally slated for the entire basement — by 50 percent.

The teen lounge will be “similar to what they had before, but a little more discreet, a little more of a space of their own,” Collerius said. And he added that library regulars should not worry that the space will be the Boys and Girls Club meets MTV; there will be no televisions or music, just computers and the young adult materials.

Regardless, Community Board 2 member Doris Diether asked, why segregate?

“By the time they’re teens and in their 20s, they should be a part of a population — even if they don’t think so,” she said.

The remaining portion of the basement is still up for grabs, but it is likely to be slated for general adult use. Collerius said he has considered housing all nonprint material in the basement, but is open to suggestions.

“It’s not written in stone, it will be decided when the work is done,” he said.

Aside from the contested space for teens, other alterations are drawing less criticism. The circulation desk, previously located on the second floor will be moved to the first floor, nearer to the entrance and exit. The children’s room and meeting room, will remain on the first.

According to Collerius, the renovation would likely close the library for one to two years. Aside from the reconfiguration of space, the renovation means updates made to the interior, such as new furniture, paints and carpets.

Since 1967 — the year Jefferson Market, a former courthouse and women’s prison, made its debut as a library after a two-year rehab project — the 130-year-old building has never been subsequently significantly renovated. The only updates, Collerius said, have been select furnishings.

Despite that, some still wonder why the budget is being devoted to the interior, while the exterior of the city landmark — shrouded in scaffolding — continues to be ignored.

“It’s a mess. They’ve let it go to pot,” Diether said. “And now they have all this money to put towards a teen lounge, people are asking why aren’t they using it for the outside of the library.”

Jefferson Market Library is still standing due to the Village community. When the city made plans to demolish the dilapidated building in 1959, Villagers including poet E.E. Cummings successfully argued for its preservation and transformation into a library.

“We were trying to explain to her that this is not like Murray Hill library where you can change things around at random and not affect anybody,” Diether said, referring to branch libraries director Kent. “That library was created by the community so we feel a very personal responsibility toward it.”

Those interested in the Tues. Oct. 18 tour should enter the building at W. 10th St. The tours will be at 6:30 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. C.B. 2 Institutions Committee meeting, which will meet at the library.

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