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The City of Phoenix is working hard to re-open Burton Barr Central Library. The library is closed until summer of 2018, but you can visit any of the other 16 Phoenix Public Library locations or contact Ask Us for your library needs.

This blog will publish progress updates and news about the library's restoration.  

​Updates Archive

Visit the Burton Barr Central Library Restoration Update page to view the latest update.

Friday, August 11, 2017:

I Heart Phoenix Public Library logo

While we have your attention in regards to how important libraries are to their communities, we want to take this opportunity to invite everyone to learn all about the upcoming solar eclipse at one of your Phoenix Public Library locations. MACH1, Teen Central and Children’s Place at Burton Barr all had plans to host solar eclipse related programs. Since holding these in this particular location will not happen for this solar event, our other Phoenix Public Library locations are hosting programs where kids and families can learn all about our solar system, the relationship between our planet/the sun/the moon, and create pinhole eclipse viewers. Safe eclipse viewing glasses are being offered as long as supplies last!

Burton Barr Central Library’s collection continues to circulate among our library lovers. Over 40,000 items from the main library remain out in the system in our customers’ hands. We’re grateful to the more than 9,000 regular Burton Barr customers who have discovered library services at Yucca (5648 N. 15th Ave.), Century (1750 E. Highland Ave.), Saguaro (2808 N. 46th St.), Harmon (1325 S. 5th Ave.), Ocotillo (102 W. Southern Ave.), South Mountain (7050 S. 24th St.), and Cholla (10050 Metro Parkway E.) Libraries.

Have you ever heard of MACH1?  This is a cool “makerspace” housed at Burton Barr Central Library that serves as a location for youth to make things like robotics, computer coding, etc… While the space is temporarily closed, library staff at other locations have jumped in to offer alternative space to our MACH1 users.  This past week more than 30 MACH1 kids, including 10 regulars from Burton Barr, attended “Hacker Haven”, (a MACH1 standard) at Harmon Library (1325 S. 5th Ave.). This will now be offered every Tuesday evening at Harmon.  Kids worked on Chromebooks (building their own websites), learned with Snap Circuits, Legos, and K’Nex, and a special addition due to being offered in a new location, Amy, “The Scientific Mom”, taught kids all about atoms, magnetism, and electricity with Light Up Playdough Art! Check in and stay up to date with additional Burton Barr specialty programming now being offered at various other Phoenix Public Library locations.

As for an update on the temporary closure of Burton Barr Central Library, city management has requested a construction and reopening timeline be completed no later than Friday, August 18th.  We will provide more details as they become available. 




Friday, August 4, 2017:IHeartPPL_graphicONLY.jpg

This week Phoenix Public Library has been able to further focus attention and resources on ensuring that the library services our communities rely on are robust, readily available and in tune to what our customers are telling us they need. With the temporary closure of Burton Barr Central Library, we have been in awe of the overwhelming expressions of support that continue to pour in. The appreciation for "the Library" we receive reinforces how important library services and the work we do every day is to Phoenix…because stories are created at Phoenix Public Library. And everyone has a story to tell…a journey to discover…a life's vision to pursue… For more than 100 years, Phoenix Public Library has provided inspirational and steadfast support to those in our community seeking to create their story, and even with the temporary closure of our flagship Burton Barr, that continues.  Here are highlights featuring key services that are proudly sustaining the temporary closure of Burton Barr Central Library:

  • College Depot, granting students and adults access to the tools needed to navigate all things related to pursuing continuing education – approximately 100 families a week have found their way to College Depot's temporary location at Emmett McLoughlin Community Training and Education Center (1150 S. 7th Ave.)
  • hive @ central where Phoenix entrepreneurs make critical connections to key resources and networks required to launch a small business; our Business Roadmap Program series continues throughout the fall at our Juniper Library (1825 W. Union Hills Dr.) location and the 3rd Annual hive @ central Business Expo and Pitch! competition event will take place on Saturday, August 12 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at South Mountain Community Library (7050 S. 24th St.)
  • Early Literacy programs that give both the parent and child the necessary framework needed for that child to be ready to start school with the best possible chance for success and Coding programs that create a crucial critical thinking skills foundation for children as they attend school and prepare for high school graduation and beyond are maintaining customers at many of the other 16 branches of the Phoenix Public Library system.
  • Access to materials, Phoenix Public Library locations Yucca (5648 N. 15th Ave.), Century (1750 E. Highland Ave.) and Saguaro (2808 N. 46th St.) libraries have seen the largest surge in customers that ordinarily would be utilizing Burton Barr Central Library.

 Engineering and pre-construction assessments continue. Dedicated staff are organizing a timeline of anticipated restoration phases, scope of repairs and recommendations for the city to take next steps with contractors for construction stages.  We hope to update more on this as soon as possible. 

 Finally, Burton Barr Central Library staff are working with community and service partners who neighbor the city facility in an effort to offer library services in and around Burton Barr for those who do not have as much ability to travel to the city's other Phoenix Public Library locations.  More to come on this too!



​Friday, July 28, 2017:

  • Phoenix Public Library has been able to reschedule and relocate programming throughout our 16 other locations. This is very important for the tens-of-thousands of people who use the Burton Barr Central Library for classes, events and programs such as early literacy, educational and college assistance, small business development, and job placement help. We want Library customers to know we are continuing to provide these services.   Details regarding where, when, and times can be found at Programming Updates for Burton Barr Central Library. Details on the page are organized by intended audience and subject matter plus Phoenix Public Library locations have been able to add new and different programs as they utilize the resources they have received from Burton Barr. Check regularly as this page will be updated as continuing programing resources are crafted and confirmed.
  • This week, Library staff packed up Burton Barr Central Library's "New Books” and “Best Picks” portions of the collection. More than 1,200 additional items were sent out into the system and are being made available for checkout. Why is this important?  Because this section of the Library is one of the most popular!  We want patrons to know that during this temporary closure of Burton Barr, the books they want the most will be available throughout the Phoenix Public Library system. Of interest ---- At the time of the closure, almost 49,000 Burton Barr items were already checked out and have now been returned to a different location to be put back into circulation. These items will remain available to customers throughout our system for the duration of Burton Barr Central Library’s time offline. The behind-the-scenes of keeping books and other items in circulation continues daily.
  • Pre-construction assessment continues on all five floors of Burton Barr Central Library. Expert engineering and architectural consultants are working to create a timeline of anticipated restoration stages to bring the Library back in full-service.  Brycon Construction is organizing improvement work including removing or temporarily relocating hundreds of pieces of furniture, office belongings, shelving and books.  The WJE firm continues to assess the roof to determine the scope of repairs needed including possible replacement.  The Library’s roof is a unique inter-connected flexible design with tiles and large skylights that cover the 280,000 square-foot facility.  Evaluations on damage costs and causes of the water leak are taking place in conjunction with recommendations from contractors for specific construction details and timelines.  The city has requested the contractors provide an assessment within a couple of weeks.
Our continued heartfelt thanks to all of those expressing interest and support in the City of Phoenix and Phoenix Public Library’s efforts to bring Burton Barr Central Library back into full service.

Photo of administration area on 3rd floorPhoto of MACH area on 4th floorPhoto of view of floors Photo of staff packing up New Books and Best Picks from 1st floorPhoto of Best Picks table and packed up boxes on 1st floorPhoto of stacks of packed up boxes on 1st floor


Burton Barr Central Library staff at work around the library system and library branch staff processing Burton Barr Central Library materials

Burton Barr Central Library staff settling into new workspaces around the systemPhoto of staff processing Burton Barr Central Library holdsPhoto of staff retrieving holdsPhoto of hive @ central staff at Juniper LibraryPhoto of Burton Barr Central Library staff settling in at temporary library locationPhoto of technical services materials - including new books - ready to be processed at temporary location

​Friday, July 21, 2017, 3:00 p.m.:

Updated highlights include:

  • Crews continue to work to remove and protect Library items including documenting and relocating popular books. Renovation work continues with the removal of flooring, drywall and wood paneling throughout the facility.  An engineering practice to dry out the building has been in process and has effectively decreased moisture.   Hundreds of meetings, programs, room rentals and events continue to be rescheduled and moved to other locations within the Phoenix Public Library system.   

  • Damaged books update: The final count on the number of books damaged from Saturday night's water leak is now 7,212.  This is a slight increase from our Wednesday update, and fortunately is still considered a fraction of the number of books in Burton Barr Library's overall collection, which is estimated at 500,000.  

  • The command post managed by Phoenix Fire officially concludes today.  This is a normal process as now the renovation work to restore the Library will transition to a construction management process that includes experienced city staff and expert contractors with construction management backgrounds.

  • Assessment to the cause of the water leak and damage cost to the building is ongoing. Since Wednesday, a seasoned engineering consulting firm has been involved. The "WJE" firm (Wiss, Janney and Elstner Associates, Inc.) is on-site and specializes in troubleshooting, evaluating and designing creative fixes for complex situations, especially when an emergency situation, including damage, occurs in a significant-sized building like Burton Barr Central Library.  WJE is using engineers and architects to investigate the original incident from Saturday night, analyze construction, design and maintenance.   Their evaluation and remedial design services are expected to take several weeks.   

While Burton Barr Central Library will be closed indefinitely, Phoenix Public Library's 16 other locations and staff remain open and available to serve our communities. This website remains available 24/7. 

General Burton Barr Central Library Facts:

  • Burton Barr Central Library is 280,000 square-feet in size ---- an average grocery store is roughly 30,000 square-feet
  • The Library is 5 stories and each floor is the size of one-acre
  • The Library annually has one-million visitors a year


Photo of wrapped furniture


​Thursday, July 20, 2017:

 Restoration efforts continue at Burton Barr Central Library.

 Photo of tubes drying out interiorPhoto of tubes from the Crystal CanyonPhoto of work being done in the Rare Book Room


Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 3:00 p.m.:

We are now well into day four of the renovation effort and things are progressing very well. Crews have been working around-the-clock protecting and removing Library items, in addition to cleaning up water damage, removing carpet and drying out the building. 

Today's updated highlights include:

  • We are relieved to report that we currently estimate only 6,000 books have been damaged.  While we never want to lose one book, that number is a fraction of the Library's estimated 500,000 collection of books at Burton Barr.  The damaged books were primarily from the Reference Section.  The damaged books were mostly older reference materials such as almanacs, atlases and encyclopedias.    
  • The building's art collection has been safely removed and stored.  We'd like to thank the Phoenix Art Museum for reacting quickly to assist the Library with storing the art.  
  • All 208 Burton Barr Library employees have been reassigned throughout the Phoenix Public Library System 
  • The floor in the Rare Book Room was damaged and has been pulled up. Even with the damage to the floor, the Rare Book Room collection is secured safely in its vault.
  • Damage assessment and the cause of the water leak is ongoing and no conclusive determinations have been made

While Burton Barr Central Library will be closed indefinitely, Phoenix Public Library's 16 other locations and staff remain open and available to serve our communities. This website remains available 24/7. 

General Burton Barr Central Library Facts:

  • Burton Barr Central Library is 280,000 square-feet in size ---- an average grocery store is roughly 30,000 square-feet
  • The Library is 5 stories and each floor is the size of one-acre
  • The Library annually has one-million visitors a year

Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 11:25 a.m.:

​We are now on day four of the Burton Barr Central Library recovery effort and things are progressing very well.

One question that is on everyone's mind is "When will the building re-open?"

We do not have a clear answer yet. Crews have been working around the clock to clean up and begin repairs. As of this morning, remediation is underway and the building is being dried out.

We are happy to report that over 90% of the collection is undamaged. All Burton Barr Central Library staff have been successfully relocated to their temporary work locations throughout the library system. Programs regularly held at Burton Barr Central Library are in the process of being rescheduled and relocated. We invite you to check our calendar for details.

Thank you again to each and every one of you! We will keep you posted as new details emerge. 


Photo of books on cart Photo of wet books Photo of wet books


Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 4:10 p.m.:

Restoration efforts continue at Burton Barr Central Library.

Photo of weather station on 5th floorPhoto of wrapped artPhoto of wrapped art with books


Monday, July 17, 2017, 4:25 p.m.: 

How can I volunteer?
We are so thankful for the outpouring of support, well wishes, and offers of all sorts of help from members of the community during this time. We hear you and we know that Burton Barr Central Library means a lot to you. Getting Burton Barr Central Library back in the library business will take all of us and we are happy to bring you into the family. 

While Burton Barr Central Library will remain closed indefinitely to the public, you can help by volunteering at another Phoenix Public Library location to help with the impact of Burton Barr Central Library's closure on our library system as a whole. Our primary goal at this point is to restore services and our 16 other library locations will be absorbing programming, services and resources from Burton Barr Central Library so that we may continue to do what we do for you. 

Learn more about volunteering. We thank you in advance and truly feel the love from our wonderful community.

How can I make a special donation?
If you are here to support Phoenix Public Library in response to the storm damage sustained at Burton Barr Central Library on Saturday, July 15, please visit the Phoenix Public Library Foundation website. Thank you for your generosity.


Photo of Burton Barr Central Library roof Photo of beginnings of restoration on 5th floor at Burton Barr Central LibraryPhoto of partially-covered book shelf at Burton Barr Central LibraryPhoto of Burton Barr Central Library, looking down from the 5th to 4th floors





Photos and video courtesy of Phoenix Fire Department

Sunday, July 16, 2017, 3:30 p.m.:

Materials holds at Burton Barr Central Library

Holds currently held at Burton Barr Central Library and those to be picked up at Burton Barr Central Library will all be sent for pickup ​to South Mountain Community Library. You will have 10 days to pick up your hold at South Mountain Community Library once you receive notification that the hold is ready for pickup there. You have the option of picking up your item(s) at South Mountain Community Library within the 10 days or allowing the 10 days to pass and the hold to expire. Please contact Ask Us if you have any questions or concerns about this. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017,  11:15 a.m.:

What happened?

At 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, a microburst over the roof lifted the roof structure (which it is designed to do) and was strong enough to lift the membrane AND the tiles which also lifted the weatherproof membrane meant to protect the structure during such extreme weather.

This led to a broken sprinkler system in the high roof, NW quadrant.

Water rained downed from the 5th floor (which is a raised floor and computer access floor) which allowed the water to spread further through the building. We are still evaluating the extent of the damage but it is believed that 50% of the building has some water damage.

At one point there was several inches of standing water on the 1st floor

We would like to acknowledge the amazing management of water issues by City staff since last night.

Over 300 drying fans powered by an emergency generator are in operation.

Around 40-50 de-humidifiers are being brought in, as well. 

What is damaged?

At this time, the exact damage caused has not been fully determined, but the library's historic collections have not seen any damage thus far. These areas are designed as they would be in a museum, so there are layers of protection present for these sensitive collections.

After this preliminary investigation, Will Bruder, architect of Burton Barr Central Library and a structural engineer that designed the upper roof will be arriving this afternoon to further assess the damage. There is no reason to believe there is any problem with the roof. The almost 30 year old roof has had no prior issues.

Immediate goals

  • To temporarily protect the roof from any future rains as the weatherproof membrane has been disturbed and not the structure of the roof itself.
  • To dry out the moisture in the building.

Photo of books on floorPhoto of covered computersPhoto of dryers




Photo of handmade closure signsPhoto of marked book shelvesPhoto of office damagePhoto of restoration workers




Photos and video courtesy of Phoenix Fire Department

​Saturday, July 15, 2017, 8:30 p.m.:

As reported earlier in the evening, Burton Barr Central Library suffered a water leak on the roof due to this evening's storm. Building maintenance staff noticed the leak just before 8pm. Fire crews responded and immediately began to locate the source of the leak and to mitigate water damage. 

Fire crews along with building engineers are continuing to assess the extent of the damage to the roof, and resulting water damage throughout the building. Further assessment is needed which will be ongoing throughout the next several days.  

Burton Barr Central Library will be closed until further notice.  Materials and services are still always available through as well as hours of operation and addresses for our 16 additional locations. We will post regular updates here as services come back on line at Burton Barr Central Library. Our profound heartfelt thanks to the crews with Phoenix Fire Department that responded so quickly and professionally.

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