Million-Dollar Makeover

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Light has come to the St. Agnes Library. After a two-year renovation, during which the branch was shuttered, St. Agnes is slated to reopen its doors Feb. 11 and welcome the neighborhood into a bright, airy new space.

Caryl Soriano, the network manager for 19 New York Public Library branches, including St. Agnes, said she is thrilled with the revamped building, at 444 Amsterdam Ave. between West 81st and 82nd streets. The pre-renovation building, which was originally funded by donations to the city from , “was much darker, less open,” she said. Now, “the lighting is phenomenal.”

A new reading room offers beanbag seats for the youngest patrons. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The first floor of the three-story library, with its raised ceilings and giant mural spelling “Imagine” in pale green and yellow block letters, now houses the children’s section. One of the most prominent new features is a reading room with the words “Story Hour” printed on the glass wall, and an area of boldly colored beanbags offers seats for the youngest library patrons.

The latest titles populate the shelves with a brand new collection of books, but the library has also updated its technology.

“We’re going to have 39 public service computers and 15 laptops,” Soriano said.

She said that even though many people have home computers, they still rely on the library to point them toward the resources they need online—where to study for citizenship exams, how to search for jobs—and also to avoid the high cost of home printing.

“There’s something about St. Agnes that is just magical,” said Council Member Gale Brewer, who helped allocate public funding for the

Even though many people have home computers, they still rely on the library to help them find resources and to print. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

$9.5 million renovation. “To have a landmark preserved like this, you think that there’s going to be many more generations using it.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Borough President Scott Stringer also helped fund the project.

The restored library is now fully wheelchair accessible, from the ramp outside to the wide aisles and new elevator. It also features an updated adult literacy center and a 63-seat public program room.

Margaret Willis, manager of the St. Agnes branch, said programs designed to get teens into reading would also continue.

“We are going to start a book discussion with them and resume our gaming with the [Nintendo] Wii; we are going to try to start a Scrabble club,” she said.

Soriano said that the most important part of the library is the sense of community, and that comes from the librarians and the books.

“People still need that piece of paper or that book to hold in their hand, to feel that connection,” she said.

St. Agnes has scheduled a grand opening celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 11, featuring free entertainment and programs for kids and adults.

For more information, call 212-877-4380.

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