The crown jewel of the Denver Public Library system closed its doors at the start the pandemic in March last year, but as the health crisis dragged on, DPL used the closure to get started on the first major renovations on the building since 1995. On Friday, reporters got a limited-to-the-first-floor preview of the renovations.
The cavernous Schlessman Hall on the first floor, typically accessed from the Broadway entrance, will look pretty much the same, but there will be desks where patrons can request titles — rather than going upstairs into the stacks — for now. The computer room will be open again, as will the express internet stations. The elevators and restrooms on the main floor have been completely overhauled and modernized.
In recent years, the library has become a hub of services for people with no internet access, and for the unhoused and unemployed. There will be a new and more private space for those coming to the library for social services. And work on a new event space and re-imagined children’s library is also underway.
These updates, costing $69.3 million, also include improvements to 10 branch libraries. They represent about half of the total planned eight phases of work on the structure, which was built in 1955 and then completely redesigned and enlarged under a design by architect Michael Graves in 1995. The work is being paid for through the $973 million Elevate Denver general obligation bond approved by city voters in 2017.
The Central Library opened its doors to limited first floor access on Sunday and will operate Sunday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Curbside pickup service will be available Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. and Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More details can be found at denverlibrary.org.