Photo: Nicholas Hernandez. Esmeralda Viviano searches for a book in a space newly designated for teens.

Esmeralda Viviano spent nearly two years checking every day for the reopening of the Mott Haven Library.

(Para leer una version de este articulo sobre la reapertura de la biblioteca de Mott Haven, vaya a esta versión.)

And then on Feb. 28, the 19-year-old high school student’s wait was over – the library opened its doors with a new look and services. 

“It’s actually refreshing to come back to read physically with a book in your hand,” Viviano said. “Online reading is not the same as grabbing a book and flipping the pages…coming here and enjoying the spacious quietness of the environment here is very calming.”

The branch, located on 321 E. 140th St., closed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a 23-month closure, the newly renovated facility received a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and window structure during the shutdown.

“[The library] is very bright and vibrant and it definitely brings a different atmosphere and the environment itself is more welcoming,” said Melissa Davis, the interim associate director of Central Bronx Neighborhood Libraries.

Davis said before the renovations that the facility was very dark, with little to no sunlight in the building.

Viviano, a Mott Haven resident, said she is happy to return to a place that offers a variety of  books, something that she said her school lacks.

“In school, they don’t really have books you want to read,” Viviano said. “Here, you get to have sections for teens, adults and kids as well.”

For Viviano and her 10-year-old sister, the library is a space for them to bond.

“She would tell me how she feels about the book. She would tell me what the book is about, and I will do the same thing,” Viviano said.

Tiffany McCrae, the manager of the Mott Haven Library, said it was amazing to reopen their doors.

“We were here working behind the scenes prior to us opening, and we would have people just tugging on the door, trying to get in for something as easy as using the computer,” McCrae said.

She added, “People are definitely coming in, even just for a place to charge their phones. So, it’s good for us. We’re happy. We were excited and ready to open.”

In addition to the renovations, McCrae said the branch wanted to create a designated space for teenagers. Several bookshelves with a variety of teenager genres and resting areas are now located on the first floor.

“They didn’t have their own little teen area. So, that’s one of the things we’re really proud of is giving them a space to be themselves…,” McCrae said.

Born and raised in the Bronx, McCrae said she is “very passionate about making sure that the people in the community get the services that they need.”

Other libraries in the South Bronx, like the Melrose and Hunts Point libraries, are also undergoing renovations. 

Robert Sherwood, the publicist at the New York Public Library, said both branches are receiving renovations. An accessible entrance and elevator will be added to the Melrose Library. A ramp will be created at the Hunts Point branch. Both locations will receive newly designated reading areas, community rooms, upgraded technologies and a new HVAC, plumbing, electrical and lighting system.

Despite the closure, Davis said services like the bookmobile will still be active in Melrose and Hunts Point. The service will run one day a week to provide an opportunity to borrow and returns books, sign up for a library card and utilize free Wi-Fi. 

Renovations to the Melrose and Hunts Point library are expected to be completed in 2023.

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