New Mundy on Way

Library is last in Syracuse to be renovated; its open space will remain

The Mundy Branch Library won’t lose its one-room charm, but it will undergo changes as renovations are made early next year.

The library, located at 1204 S. Geddes St., in Syracuse’s Skunk City neighborhood, is the most recent Onondaga County Public Library to be approved for renovations, said Susan Reckhow, county administrator for library branch services and initiatives.

The plans for renovations include updating the building heating, ventilation and air conditioning; adding new furniture; and creating more defined spaces for the different age groups that use the library. All this is expected to begin in late January 2014, and the library will be closed for eight to 10 weeks during the process.

While Reckhow declined to give the cost of renovations, a recent article published on Syracuse.com reports that more than $400,000 is allotted to the project. Reckhow explained that the money has come from several places, including the county, the Skunk City Community Initiative, and fund raising efforts by the Mundy Branch Library itself.

Rich Puchalski, executive director of the community organization Syracuse United Neighbors, said an agreement between Syracuse and county officials had dedicated $3 million to the improvement of nine libraries throughout the county. Eight of those nine libraries have been renovated, and Mundy is the last one.

A visitor stepping across Mundy’s threshold gets a clear view of almost every part of the library. Most of the building is one large room with tables, bookshelves and people filling the open space. At 4 p.m. on a recent Wednesday afternoon, the library bustles with children, teens and adults working and relaxing.

“It’s always like this in the afternoons,” said Diane Heller, a clerk at Mundy for six years. “In the mornings, it’s usually quieter. Sometimes we get teens who skip school. But it’s always like this in the afternoons.”
Heller said the library is within walking distance of Bellevue and Delaware elementary schools, and she sees students from there daily.

Branch Manager Janet Park said she thinks Mundy attracts school children simply because of its open space. “As far as a public space Monday through Saturday, we’re it,” she said. “Some kids run here straight from school and say, ‘I’m first!’”

Staff members of the Mundy Branch Library put on programs and events for every age group. Trying to get the library involved in the community is the mission, Park said.

Libraries have come a long way from being “warehouses of books,” she said. At 4:15 on that Wednesday afternoon, many of the young patrons surrounded a cluster of six computers, playing on them and with one another. Adults and teens sat at the 10 computers lining the perimeter of the room, using them for Bing searches and YouTube videos. “Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies” and James Patterson’s novels sat on a shelf, closed and quiet. Still, at 4:30 a young couple entered and went straight to the Spanish book section, browsing through the picture books.

The library offers more than just physical resources. Many adults come in for help with their resumes and advice on getting a job, Park said, and the staff helped a man knot his necktie for a job interview.

Jeff Ethington goes to the library every day to try to find a job. Ethington, 25, said he gets help with his resume, hears about job opportunities, and goes to job fairs held at the public library.

Near the beginning of 2014, however, Ethington and others won’t be able to go to the library every day once renovations begin.

“A construction site is a construction site,” Reckhow said, explaining that the open, one-room nature of the Mundy Branch Library wouldn’t lend itself to staying open during construction. The plan is for the project to take six to eight weeks, with one week at the start and one week at the end to prepare the space for the work and then to bring in new furniture. All the new furniture will be easily moved to help contribute to Park’s goal of making the space more flexible for programs, performances and gatherings.

Reckhow’s plan is to create more defined spaces for the distinct age groups that use the library, while still maintaining the open atmosphere. The building is to gain no square footage in the process, but some staff workspace will be made public, she said.

“We didn’t want to erect new walls and create rooms,” Reckhow said. “Short of knocking down a few walls, this is as extensive of a renovation as it could get.” And during the renovation process, she said the library will work with local community groups and organizations to continue providing resources and programs elsewhere.

“The renovated Mundy will be something the community can be proud of, and they already are,” Reckhow said. “It’s a living example of what a library should be like.”