By E.C. Barrett
ITHACA – The Tompkins County Public Library reopened last week, following a nine-day closure for renovations in the first phase of a two-part renovation plan.
On the same day, Library Director Susan Currie, who is overseeing the current capital improvements, announced her plans to retire on September 30, making 2017 a big year for changes at the TCPL.
The first renovations of this type to take place since the TCPL moved to its current location in 2000, included replacing the carpets throughout the building, utilizing new colors to designate different areas of the library, and the creation of new shelving space by tearing down a few walls and rearranging stacks to accommodate TCPL’s ever-expanding collection. Patrons familiar with the previous layout will now find the Adult Fiction collection relocated from its previous home to the stacks north of the Ezra Cornell portrait, along with the Mystery and Science Fiction/ Fantasy collections, which were moved to make room for the new Teen Center to be completed in the second phase of renovations.
The public restrooms were upgraded thanks to a New York State Library Construction Grant, with new tiling and water saving fixtures, and new staff offices were constructed for the Information and Learning Services and Technical Services staff. According to the TCPL Foundation’s website, staff have begun the process of relocating into their new space, freeing up their previous office spaces for renovations to be completed during the second phase of the project.
“The first phase of our construction project was made possible through the efforts of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation and the support of the Tompkins County Legislature, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and the Finger Lakes Library System,” Currie explained. “The Foundation’s successful 21st Century Library Campaign, which concluded in June 2016, earmarked part of the more than $3.5 million raised – from community, grant and business support – for capital improvements, collection enhancement, ongoing program support, endowment and the construction of the Digital Learning Lab and Teen Center.”
According to Currie, Lifton sponsored a $300,000 New York State and Municipalities Facilities Grant on behalf of the library, which helped with renovation costs. New carpeting was made possible with one-time county maintenance funding approved by the Tompkins County Legislature.
The second phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in the spring and will include a Digital Learning Lab, Teen Center, an office for the County Historian, public study spaces and additional community meeting space.
“TCPL is one of the most heavily used institutions in our community and we are pleased to be able to make these much-needed renovations for our patrons,” Currie said. “Renovations are ongoing, and it might take a while for us to handle the influx of materials received while we were closed and to shake off the dust, so please be patient with us as we work to make our library even more beautiful and accessible.
“As always, we encourage you to ask any available staff member for assistance,” she added.
Currie’s list of accomplishments at TCPL is long, according to a press release from TCPL Media Contact Carrie Wheeler-Carmenatty.
“During her eight-year tenure, Currie has helped establish TCPL as an award-winning model for peer libraries,” the release stated. “Among her lengthy list of successes are a building-wide reorganization, which served to flatten the Library’s supervisory structure, providing increased leadership opportunities for staff members; the development of the County Library Budget Working Group and community engagement process, designed to identify sustainable funding for the Library… and strengthened relationships with UAW 2300, the labor union representing the library’s professional and support staff members.”
A nationwide search for TCPL’s next director began the day of the announcement; finalists will make public presentations in August.
“Serving as director of the Tompkins County Public Library has truly been the greatest honor of my professional life,” Currie said. “Our community is so fortunate to have such an incredible public library, and to have been able to spend the past eight years working to preserve its rich history and ensure a promising future for this amazing institution has been so meaningful.
“There is no better way to end a 36-year career than knowing that I held, even for a little while, my dream job,” she added.
For continued updates on the project visit www.tcplfoundation.org. TCPL relies on community support for the continuation of library programs and services; to donate, visit www.tcplfoundation.org or contact Suzanne Smith Jablonski, executive director of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.