New York City School Library Opens its Doors to the 21st Century
Founded in 1878 with a focus on the study and practice of ethics, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School offers education in grades Pre-K–12 at two historic campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx. Through the years, the educators of this progressive school have remained loyal to the original founder’s mission to make the world a better place by infusing ethics, critical thinking and a hands-on, interdisciplinary philosophy into the curriculum.
But in order for the school to be sustainable, significant changes were needed. Although the tenets of education were intact, the need to bring the school’s Tate Library on the Riverdale, Bronx campus into the 21st century was long overdue until June 2017 when WBG began working with Architecture Research Office on the $16-million project to update the library while still preserving its 50-year history and the institutional value it has always brought to its students.
The newly-designed library reopened its doors in October 2018. The result is a perfect blend of familiarity and modern innovation that
wound up saving the school more than $100,000 through the WBG’s innovative furniture management and furniture procurement. This involved on-site project management, deliveries, installations and move management as well as providing all equipment and furniture.
On the outside, the structure still looks like the same place the community has loved for 140 years, but inside the library packed with 50,000 books is much more inviting and inspiring to young learners. Overall, the area is much brighter and user-friendly without sacrificing the original beauty of the space.
On the technology side, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, built-in speakers and projectors were added so students can connect their laptops or tablet computers. Also, tables were fitted with electrical outlets for devices. In each of the study rooms, there is one wall devoted to a magnetic whiteboard to facilitate more streamlined learning.
To address an issue with acoustics and the noise that once disrupted other parts of the school, acoustical fabric now lines the walls and within the study rooms. The students, librarians and faculty are also more comfortable now that a new air conditioning system has been installed.
For those times when technology is not wanted, there are now spaces in the library that are tech-free including some of the study rooms. The ceiling, desks and shelves that were once dark are now a lighter color, enhanced by new overheard environmentally-friendly LED lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows to allow natural light in and a good view of the quad below.
With an attention to detail and the intent to be responsive to the varying needs of its client and their students, WBG and its team added glassed-in study rooms of various sizes and low shelving units so that all corners of the library were visible. The circulation desk was also moved back to allow better flow on the lower level, and a new second desk upstairs provides students with more support. The team also added something called Onilux glass to prevent birds from flying into the windows. It’s clear to human eyes so that the view of the sustainable and aesthetically-beautiful campus is not obstructed, but the birds’ opaque view of the windows deters them from flying into the glass.
Clearly, they thought of everything.