So Goes the Community: Among the Year's Most Inspiring New Building Projects, School Libraries in Some of New York City's Poorest Neighborhoods Stand out as Vibrant Centers of Teaching and Learning

American Libraries, April 2005 | Go to article overview

So Goes the Community: Among the Year's Most Inspiring New Building Projects, School Libraries in Some of New York City's Poorest Neighborhoods Stand out as Vibrant Centers of Teaching and Learning


Whether restructured, revamped, or rebuilt, libraries are drawing new attention as community centers, anchors, and mainstays. Nowhere is this more visible than in New York City, where architects have breathed new life into more than 30 school libraries, thanks to a collaborative initiative between the city's education department and the Robin Hood Foundation to renovate elementary school libraries (AL, Jan., p. 32).

From dozens of recently completed projects, American Libraries' Facilities Showcase features a selection of 40 buildings, including the eight 2005 AIA/ALA Library Buildings Award winners, noted with a blue ribbon. Cosponsored since 1963 by the American Institute of Architects and ALA's Library Administration and Management Association, the biennial program recognizes accomplishments in library architecture.

Architect Richard H. Lewis designed the William Prescott School library in Brooklyn, one of the latest projects in a five-year initiative to renovate New York City's elementary school libraries and stock them with books and state-of-the-art computer technology. Photo [c] Peter Mauss/Esto.

A massive five-year renovation of the 320,000-square-foot Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sought to redefine the academic research library in technical terms while preserving historical features of the 1915 original design by Horace Trumbauer. The two-phase project by Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture and Engineering upgraded and modernized building systems, utilized new "found" space within two large light wells at the center of the building, and restored historic public and reading spaces.

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A signature skylight caps Blackwell Atrium in the newly expanded and renovated James B. Duke Library in Greenville, South Carolina. The $25-million project by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott includes specialized computer areas for research, instruction, and multimedia design. Photo by Rion Rizzo/Creative Sources Photography.

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A two-story glass wall in the Wasatch County (Utah) Library's reading room takes advantage of the surrounding mountain views. VCBO Architecture designed the new $5-million, 34,000-square-foot joint-use facility, which shares space with a senior center and includes a common entrance and gallery, computer lab, and outdoor gathering area.

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Loysen and Kreuthmeier Architects transformed the Brookline branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from a nondescript storefront into a vibrant 21 st-century community spot. Making use of an empty second floor and basement, the architects added skylights and clerestory windows to bring daylight into the concrete-block structure in the $2.9-million, 12,418-square-foot project.

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Built in 1878, the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore underwent a complete renovation that included modernizing heating and cooling systems, refurbishing floors, and converting a reading room into a museum-quality exhibition gallery. Quinn Evans Architects oversaw the $1-million overhaul of the building, which was originally designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind. Photos by Michael Dersin Photography.

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A fireplace offers patrons a cozy reading spot near the periodicals section of the new Coloma (Mich.) Public Library. Overlooking a park near the town's main intersection, the 18,200-square-foot, $2.6-million building by Fishbeck Thompson Carr and Huber also includes a community room to accommodate 100 people, a children's area decorated to convey a sense of the history of the area, and an outdoor reading area.

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A futuristic passageway invites visitors to explore the children's area of the renovated and expanded Akron-Summit County (Ohio) Public Library. …

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So Goes the Community: Among the Year's Most Inspiring New Building Projects, School Libraries in Some of New York City's Poorest Neighborhoods Stand out as Vibrant Centers of Teaching and Learning
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