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SoHo, Lower East Side, Nolita, and other residents and workers, you'll want to make sure you have your library card, because today at 3PM, the New York Public Library opens its 87th branch in SoHo. The Mulberry Street library, located at Mulberry and Jersey Streets just south of Houston Street, is 12,000 square feet of books, DVDs, computers, WiFi access and more.

2007_05_mulib3.jpg We visited the branch last Friday when NYPL staffers were getting ready for today's grand opening festivities - the exterior was getting a power wash while chairs were being set up in the big reading room. The library's space, located in a former chocolate factory that has since been converted to retail and condos, is mostly below ground, but the ground-level entrance features new releases, magazines and newspapers, with banquette seating along the windows for reading. The architecture firm Rogers Marvel kept a lot of the old factory's elements, like original beams, columns and metal doors; an old beam from the factory is used as part of the table for the computers on the first floor.

One floor underground is the children's section: There's an area for story time, as well as different nooks for various levels of readers, as well as computer stations. Rogers Marvel kept the windows on this level; even though the space beyond them is closed off on top, they've lit the windows from the outside (pictured left).

One more floor below, the bottom floor, has books for adults and young adults. The adult area, which will have large tables for people to read, has an alcove with 12 computers and then a double-story reading room, which will feature local artists' artwork above the shelves. (The reading room is pictured below, just after the jump; chairs were being set up for today's opening ceremony, but the space will have tables and chairs.) The young-adult area is really great (top picture) - lounge chairs, computers, and a number of books, including graphic novels. There's also a community room, which the library will show movies in or make available for local non-profits to meet in.

The library has made a special effort to ensure the materials reflect the neighborhood. There are books in Italian, in a nod to the area's Italian immigrant past, as well as a number of books in Chinese for the Chinatown community. Of course, library-card holders can order any books from the system they want by going online.

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There are nine full-time staffers, as well as a number of other part-time and volunteer workers. Once the plans were in the works to open the Mulberry branch in early 2006, supervising librarian Jennifer Craft and her team have been working to pull together all the materials for the branch, which total over 32,000 in book, audio, DVD and other resource forms. What we found interesting is that the NYPL is leasing the space!

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The Mulberry Street Library is at 10 Jersey Street, between Mulberry and Lafayette. The library hours are Monday 12-8PM, Tuesday 10AM-6PM, Thursday 10AM-6PM, Friday 1PM-6PM, Saturday 10AM-5PM, and closed Wednesday and Sunday. Last week, the NY Times looked at the design work, and Jonathan Marvel said, "This is truly a neighborhood library. While SoHo has become an outdoor mall, here’s a place for respite from the battles between art and commerce.” And last year, the NYPL opened up its $50 million modern new Bronx Library Center, which was 15 years in the making.