Sites

The following are local libraries and archives that are notable for one reason or another (e.g., they’re historically or architecturally significant, they play a vital public role, they’re super high- or low-tech, they’re tragically outmoded and dysfunctional, etc.):

ABC No Rio Zine Library, Lower East Side: “The ABC No Rio Zine Library contains over twelve thousand publications. Our collection includes independent, underground and marginal publications on subjects such as music, culture, politics, personal experience and travel. We are most interested in zines addressing political and social issues. Our focus does not include poetry. This project began in the Spring of 1998 when we rescued the Blackout Zine Library from a squat in the South Bronx which was to be evicted. Since then numerous individuals have donated their personal collections, and zine editors and publishers regularly send us issues. Our collection grows daily” (from ABC No Rio). (photo via Jen Rhee)

Anthology Film Archives, East Village: “Founded in 1969 by Jonas Mekas, Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Kubelka, and Stan Brakhage, Anthology in its original conception was a showcase for the Essential Cinema Repertory collection. An ambitious attempt to define the art of cinema by means of a selection of films which would screen continuously, the Essential Cinema collection was intended to encourage the study of the medium’s masterworks as works of art rather than disposable entertainment, making Anthology the first museum devoted to film as an art form. The project was never completed, but even in its unfinished state it represented an uncompromising critical overview of cinema’s history, and remains a crucial part of Anthology’s exhibition program. In the decades since its founding, Anthology has grown far beyond its original concept to encompass film preservation; the formation of a reference library containing the world’s largest collection of books, periodicals, stills, and other paper materials related to avant-garde cinema; and a remarkably innovative and eclectic film exhibition program. Anthology screens more than 900 programs annually, preserves an average of 25 films per year (with 800 works preserved to date), publishes books and DVDs, and hosts numerous scholars and researchers” (via AFA; image via NYDailyNews)

Battery Park City Branch, New York Public Library: “Not since the launch of the tree-sparing Amazon Kindle has the world of books been quite so eco-friendly: The new Battery Park City Library, which opened in March [2010], is the first of New York’s public libraries to receive LEED Gold certification” (Katherine Lindstedt, “Open>LibraryArchitect’s Newspaper (16 July 2010). “To the left as you enter is an ecologically correct circulation desk made — though you’d never know it — from recycled cardboard, and topped with a bouquet of fresh tulips. Should you find a crowd, try the sleek self-service stations a couple of steps away. Some of the library’s 36 Internet-connected computers lie just around the bend. Overhead, a jigsaw puzzle of scalene triangles zigs and zags along the ceiling. Follow it back past the entrance to the children’s zone, a playful arrangement of orange beanbag chairs, orange screen savers and an orange mat that curves up under the terrazzo staircase (made of recycled glass chips, of course) to create a lounging nook that feels like the inside of a conch shell. Instead of the comforting mustiness of older libraries, the whole space is filled with oxygen and light, streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows and bouncing off the blond wood floors (made from lumber salvaged during the manufacturing of window frames, thank you). “They wanted as much as possible for this branch to be a showcase for how pleasant and how interesting a branch can be,” said Tim Furzer, who oversaw the project for the firm 1100 Architect. It worked.” (Ariel Kaminer, “A Library That Most Can Only Dream OfNew York Times (26 March 2010)). (photo via Lindstedt)

Center for Fiction (formerly the Mercantile Library), Midtown: “The Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, is the only organization in the United States devoted solely to the vital art of fiction. The mission of The Center for Fiction is to encourage people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment. With all our resources, including our exceptional book collection, our beautiful reading room, our expanding website, and our ever-growing array of creative programs, we seek to serve the reading public, to build a larger audience for fiction, and to create a place where readers and writers can share their passion for literature. The Center for Fiction was founded by merchants and their clerks before the advent of public libraries. By the mid-nineteenth century, it was thriving as one of the foremost cultural institutions in the United States, with an extraordinary collection of books in the humanities, and a popular lecture program that featured such renowned speakers as William Makepeace Thackeray, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain. The Center offered classes on many subjects and was considered a meeting place for social and educational pursuits.” See also Lily Koppel, “Mercantile Library Moves, and Gets Nudge Into the 21st CenturyNew York Times (3 June 2008). (photo via Center for Fiction)

Children’s Library Discovery Center @ Queens Library, Jamaica: “The design and construction of the Children’s Library Discovery Center (CLDC) is the implementation of one of the first phases of 1100 Architect’s master plan for the renovation and modernization of the 275,000-square-foot Queens Central Library…. The CLDC is a two-story addition adjacent to the existing Central Library building. The ground floor houses part of the children’s book collection and a designated area for toddlers. The second floor contains the majority of the children’s collection, an open reading lounge, cyber center, and activity room.” (text + photo via ArchDaily)

Francis Martin Library, The Bronx: winner of 2009 American Institute of Architects / American Library Association Buildings Award; “The intended goal of the NYPL Francis Martin Library, a 1956 Bronx branch of the New York Public Library, was to transform the dark, cheerless and outdated space so it would inspire, serve, and connect the members of the community. The renovation of the second-floor children’s reading room is devised to stimulate its users’ imaginations and encourage them to learn through form, color and layout. The finished project has had an immensely positive impact on the children, the Bronx community, the library staff, and the New York Public Library organization.” (from the ALA; photo via Bustler)

The Interference Archive [Gowanus] explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in public exhibitions, a study center, talks, screenings, publications, workshops, and an on-line presence. The archive consists of many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, moving images, audio recordings, and other printed matter. Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation” (text + photo via Interference Archive)

Hamilton Grange Teen Center, Hamilton Heights: “New York-based Rice + Lipka Architects have completed a teen centre for the New York Public Library (NYPL). This is the first NYPL teen centre in Northern Manhattan, occupying a previously gutted third floor space of NYPL Harlem’s landmark branch. The space challenges library norms to provide a more open, socially-instigating, technology-rich environment that attracts and engages neighborhood youth. Conceived as a single, light-filled space with multiple zones that foster small group socialization, the Center’s spaces are shaped by two elements, a 20′ diameter Media Vitrine and a bamboo bleacher. The Vitrine space counters the notion that multi-media spaces must be dark and hyper-isolated. Its open-top glass enclosure becomes the performative heart of the space where the physicality of gaming is exposed and sound is contained. Using four Holosonic speakers — which a produce a vertical column of short wavelength sound that does not propagate — the Guitar Hero, Wii, or film audio perceived as very loud inside is barely audible just outside the cylinder” (text + photo via Domus).

Lesbian Herstory Archives, Park Slope: “The Lesbian Herstory Archives exists to gather and preserve records of Lesbian lives and activities so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The process of gathering this material will uncover and collect our herstory denied to us previously by patriarchal historians in the interests of the culture which they serve. We will be able to analyze and reevaluate the Lesbian experience; we also hope the existence of the Archives will encourage Lesbians to record their experiences in order to formulate our living herstory…. Many of the Archives’ principles are a radical departure from conventional archival practices. They are inclusive and non-institutional and reveal the Archives’ commitment to living history, to housing the past along with the present. Among the basic principles guiding the Archives are: All Lesbian women must have access to the Archives; no academic, political, or sexual credentials will be required for use of the collection; race and class must be no barrier for use or inclusion; The Archives shall be housed within the community, not on an academic campus that is by definition closed to many women; The Archives shall be involved in the political struggles of all Lesbians; Archival skills shall be taught,…breaking the elitism of traditional archives…” (via LHA)

Queens Borough Public Library, Flushing: winner of 1999 American Institute of Architects / American Library Association Buildings Award and 2001 National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects — from my The New Downtown Library (2007): “The borough of Queens represents more than a hundred languages, and the library offers materials in more than forty of them. In addition to its Adult Learning Center, which offers literacy and language materials and programming, the Flushing branch also serves the diverse Queens population through its International Resource Center, which provides multilingual resources, programs, are referral services…” (p. 38). See also Vivian S. Toy, “Bustling Queens Library Speaks in Many TonguesNew York Times (31 May 1998) (Photo by Jim Henderson)

Robin Hood Foundation Library for PS192, Harlem: Winner of a 2007 AIA/ALA Library Building Award; “This public elementary school library renovation project is part of a broader philanthropic initiative targeting schools in high poverty neighborhoods. The plan for the interior takes advantage of natural daylight by locating the children’s reading areas close to fully-revealed windows, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. Major materials, including bamboo flooring, formaldehyde-free wheat straw board, and recycled plastic were selected for their low environmental impact and low cost. The 2,400-square-foot renovation incorporates sustainable and child-friendly materials as well as custom casework into a bright, playful and inviting space for reading. Jury members said, “With very little, this library now has the power to spark imagination. It also maintains an orderly system for instruction by differentiating spaces within a limited area for a variety of functions. Although small, this project should give much inspiration to its students and, as well, to other similar endeavors in impoverished communities.” (from the AIA; photo via Taber Studio)

St. Agnes Branch, New York Public Library, Upper West Side: “The New York Public Library’s St. Agnes branch has served generations of users since opening at its Upper West Side location in 1906. The striking and stately building, one of the Library’s original Carnegie branches, has received a complete renovation, resulting in an upgrade that renews all of its spaces and integrates many new services and features” (from NYPL, February 2010) See also Alison, Bowen, “In Tough Times, A Library Branch ReopensNew York Times (8 February 2010). (photo via Bowen)

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