Volume 80, Number 7 | September 23 - 29, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Library checks out for 6 weeks

By Aline Reynolds

The New York Public Library will be closing its Chatham Square branch for nearly six weeks for repairs, an unpleasant surprise to the Chinatown community.

The branch, at 33 East Broadway, will shut its doors Sat., Oct. 2, and reopen Mon., Nov. 15. Workers will replace the building’s roof and make repairs to its facade.

“We’d rather make sure everyone is 100 percent safe. So we feel that closing the building is the best possible decision,” said Marie Coughlin, branch manager at the Chatham Square Library.

Patrons are encouraged to use the Seward Park Library, at 192 East Broadway, or the New Amsterdam Library, at 9 Murray St., in the interim. The branch schedules class trips with P.S. 1, P.S. 2, P.S. 124, P.S. 126 and a few neighborhood daycare centers. Each class section is entitled to one class visit per month, when staff librarians read aloud to the students and talk to them about library services. The librarians also assist the children after school.

“They’re super-comfortable talking to us and asking us for help on homework,” Coughlin said.

“That’s a shame. The staff is helpful. They show them how to choose books on their level,” said Brett Gustafson, principal of P.S. 2 (Meyer London School), who was surprised by the news.

Gustafson regularly sends classes from the school’s five grades to the library.

Christy Lui, a P.S. 2 second-grade teacher, called the library a “crucial resource” for her students.

“I’m quite upset to hear this. It’s like a second home for them,” Lui said, carrying a packet of N.Y.P.L. membership cards for her students, who frequent the library after school for help with research and homework.

Borrowing rights will be suspended until the library reopens, but Coughlin said she and her colleagues might supply a limited number of books to students during visits to the schools.

Adult patrons who frequent the library are also upset about the closing. Hankey Campbell, 31, travels from Far Rockaway, Queens, to use the library twice a week.

“I like to hang out here and see if they have titles that my branch doesn’t have,” he said.

Amy Leung, a student at ASA College for Special Needs, studies in the library three times a week.

“I like the environment,” she said, adding that the library is quiet and has comfortable seats.

Leung lives in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment on Catherine Slip in Chinatown.

“I’ll have no place to go to study,” she said.

The Chatham Square branch, which opened in 1903, was closed from 2001 to 2004 for major interior renovations.

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