November 21, 2000

Library Enters New Era

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Fifteen cents was all that it took to make seven-year-old Justin Marcus the first patron to enter the new Tompkins County Public Library, which opened its doors at 10 a.m. yesterday.

Marcus was the youngest donor in a fundraising campaign that brought in a whopping $1.7 million from over 1500 donors to relocate the former library to a larger building on 101 E. Green Street and expand its collection.

After being presented with a two-foot novelty library card before a crowd of nearly 100 people, Marcus was followed by his second grade class at Cayuga Heights Elementary School. Most of his classmates received their first library cards. This bold opening set the theme for the day, and patrons continued to stream into the new library late into the afternoon.

Justin’s father, Randy Marcus, the president of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation, characterized the opening ceremony as “tremendously exciting and successful.”

“The crowd today showed the strong interest that people in this community have for the public library. [This building] will long remain the centerpiece of downtown,” Marcus said.

Nearly doubling the initial fundraising goal of $1 million, the donations will provide the new library with opportunities for growth in many new and innovative directions.

“More books, more comfy seats, more reading and program rooms, more computers [and] more magazine and newspaper displays” will all help to enhance the library experience, said Susan Frey, library assistant director.

The new library has more than doubled its size with the new move. It opened yesterday with 220,000 volumes and additional collections are on order, Frey said.

Patrons can also expect to see family videos, CDs, DVDs and a larger teenage book collection in the near future.

Another change is that the children’s collections are better spaced out on the lower shelves, increasing their accessibility to youngsters.

But, according to Bonnie Wojnowski, library coordinator of youth services, what patrons saw today was just the beginning.

“We’re still in the brain-storming stage, and we plan on adding several more children’s programs,” Wojnowski said.

The new children’s room will help make this goal a reality and add to the existing story-telling sessions, book talks and author visits that are already on the agenda.

Gay Huddle, coordinator of volunteer services, likened the teeny two-foot door leading into the children’s room to an entry into fairyland.

“You can tell just from watching the children’s faces. It is in a sense what the library has always hoped to offer,” Huddle said.

Cora Moss, a preschooler, exclaimed as she walked through the door, “Oh cool, it’s like Alice in Wonderland!”

Today’s new opening was the product of 10 days of non-stop moving and months of hard work for many staffers and volunteers, according to Huddle.

More than 300 volunteers helped with the move from the old building located on 312 N. Cayuga Street. Cornell’s Varsity Baseball, On-Site Volunteer Services, representatives from the Greek system, Ithaca College and community members were all instrumental in these efforts.

“It so exciting to be part of an historical occasion that can provide services for a community that loves reading,” Frey said.

Yesterday’s opening was a prelude to the two-day grand opening for the new library that is scheduled for Jan. 13-14. This official event will feature a number of performances, book talks and children’s programs to highlight everything in the collection.

The fate of the 33-year-old former library building, crumbling in many places, is undecided. Some library patrons predicted that it will be turned into office space, but the decision is ultimately up to Tompkins County, owner of the space.

Back in the library, a long sun-roofed hallway, running down the center of the stacks, leads patrons from the children’s section to the Ezra Cornell Reading Room, which Cornell funded in memory of the University’s founder.

Browsing through the stacks, mother Robin Tilling, with her son Liam, said, “This is amazing. I grew up in Ithaca going to the Tompkins County Library, and this [new library] is a big change. There’s a great space here. But we’ve just started looking.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts