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Phoenix closes library doors to open new ones

PHOENIX — Book lovers will have to live without a library again, but this time, it's something to celebrate.

Known as a "pocket" library because of its tiny size, the Phoenix Library will close at 7 p.m. on Wednesday to allow crews to move its contents into the spacious, 6,000-square-foot new digs at 510 W. First St. — more than twice the size of the old location.

Patrons can check out books at the new library starting Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. A grand opening celebration is planned for Feb. 9.

Funded by a $38.9 million bond measure approved by voters in 2000 to replace or renovate 14 branches countywide, the new library features tall roof peaks, floor-to-ceiling windows, a fireplace, a meeting room, an area for teens and an enlarged Spanish collection. A veranda looks out onto a grove of tall trees nearby.

Friends of the Phoenix Library spokesman Robert Mumby said the community was more than ready for the new space to open its doors.

"It's going to be a major improvement. Teens will have their open area — before they would just come and go. The children's area will be larger," he said.

"Getting land was a major problem and it took us quite awhile to figure things out ... but at least we're back on track."

Mumby said his only regret was that the Friends group was too small an organization to fund additional hours. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Four additional hours per week would cost about $30,000 annually, he said.

Anne Guevara, head of library branches, said the city can finally breathe a sigh of relief after all 15 branches reopened in October. They had been closed for six months because of a budget shortfall.

"Not knowing what the futures of all our libraries were going to be was very difficult," she said.

"You had people seeing that the Phoenix Library was still being built but not knowing if it would ever get to be a library or what would happen with it."

She added, "It's just really a time of optimism for the people of Phoenix."

Mumby said Friends of the Phoenix Library would begin fundraising efforts to create a walkway between the library and the elementary school to ensure the safety of visiting children. To support the walkway project or for details regarding the new facility, contact the Phoenix branch at 535-7090.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

Gary Stensrud pushes furniture into the new Phoenix Library on Thursday. The library is set to open Feb. 4. - Jim Craven