The Longwood Public Library re-opens following the completion of a...

The Longwood Public Library re-opens following the completion of a $18 million expansion and renovations, on Oct. 22, 2015, in Middle Island. Credit: Heather Walsh

After being closed for two years for a $17.9 million renovation, the bookshelves and reading rooms at the Longwood Public Library in Middle Island have reopened.

The previously cramped library, built in 1988, has added 15,000 square feet to increase floor space by about 33 percent. The building now features spacious reading areas, natural lighting and heating systems designed to reduce energy costs, library officials said. The extra space allowed officials to reconfigure the library's floor plan -- so much so that visitors are given a map to find their way around.

"The entire building has been transformed," library director Suzanne Johnson said.

Library district residents voted 698-394 on Oct. 9, 2012, to approve a bond to pay for renovations. The bond raised the library portion of the average homeowner's taxes by about 23 percent, or about $65 a year, officials said at the time.

The library has about 1,000 visitors daily and serves about 65,000 residents in communities such as Middle Island, Yaphank, Coram, Gordon Heights and Ridge. The library operated in a shopping center about a mile away during renovation. The rebuilt library, designed by architects Peter Gisolfi Associates of Hastings-on-Hudson, reopened Oct. 9. A formal grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sunday.

"There's more space for books, but there's really more space for people and programs," library board president Gail Lynch-Bailey said. "Libraries are a place for people to meet in person."

She said library officials held more than a dozen community meetings before the 2012 referendum to find out what residents wanted in the restored building. Among the concerns raised was a lack of space, officials said.

"The community had a lot of input into what they'd like to see," Lynch-Bailey said. "The place is so much brighter with so much natural light coming in."

The library's children's section is twice the size of the old one, and the facility features space for teenagers and a community room with tiered, stadium-style seating. Digital scanners allow visitors to check out books more quickly, Johnson said. Officials plan to add a local history room and outdoor reading terrace. "We wanted a building that could be flexible enough to adapt to change, and we think we have it," she said.

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