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A Library as Beautiful as the Bronx: NYC's First Municipal Green Building

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Photo credit - Dattner ArchitectsPhoto credit - Dattner ArchitectsI remember it vividly. It was the morning of January 17, 2006, I was on my way to work—when an MTA bus zoomed pass me. It was then I noticed it, on the side of the bus, a poster size picture of the building with the caption "A library as beautiful as the Bronx." I looked in astonishment, then with pride and joy as I recognised the building—it was where I was headed!

Such was the start of the day which heralded the grand opening of the Bronx Library Center and NYC's first municipal green building. At the end of the day, 6,000 people would have passed through its doors for the very first time as a city, a borough and a community welcomed and celebrated its new central library building.

A few months later, the US Green Building Council would present the Bronx Library Center with the LEED Silver Award—making it the first municipal building in New York City to qualify for and obtain such an award. I delight in seeing the look of amazement on the faces of library visitors each time I let them know that the Bronx Library Center is NYC's first municipal green building.

The Bronx Library Center is not only a leader in energy efficiency and sustainable design—it is a 21st century library in every way. As libraries are constantly evolving to meet the ever growing and changing needs of society—the Bronx Library Center is reflective of this change.

Photo credit - Julian A. Henderson, Wikimedia CommonsPhoto credit - Julian A. Henderson, Wikimedia Commons

It is currently the only New York Public Library location to comprehensively offer all of the following services and programs under one roof:

5th Floor - Career and Education Information Service: managed by a Career Coach. The department offers computers for job searching, resume creation, editing and posting. Over two thousand training videos from Lynda.com can also be accessed on these computers. Individuals by appointment can have one-on-one job and educational counseling sessions with the Career Coach to get advice on their job search and entry into institutions of higher learning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-5, members of the public can have a one-on-one consultation with a Benefits Counselor from Single Stop where they can determine if they qualify for any of the 40 goverment benefits and get assistance signing up for same. These run the gamut from unemployment insurance to SNAPS.

Photo credit - New York TimesPhoto credit - New York Times4th Floor - The Reference Department has a Reference Collection in English and Spanish and an extensive electronic database collection which can be accessed on the 48 desktop computers available on this floor for public use. Or if you prefer to sit by the window, check out a laptop at the Circulation Desk. This floor also features a special rare Puerto Rican/Latino Heritage Collection in Spanish housed in a smaller room adorned with the artistry of Puerto Rican Heritage. In addition, there are smaller collections on Bronx History and Edgar Allan Poe's works, this great American writer whose cottage is a few yards away from the Bronx Library Center. There is also a circulating Spanish collection on the Latino experience, from which library users can borrow materials to take home. Tables and chairs for the serious scholars and lounge seating for the casual reader or those who just want to relax in a social space are available.

Photo credit - Dattner ArchitectsPhoto credit - Dattner Architects3rd Floor - The Adult Department has an extensive circulating collection in English—running the full Dewey spectrum from computers, management, exam prep to cooking and travel books. For those who are most interested in the joy of reading, there is General Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fic, Romance, Classic and for those who prefer to have the book read to them, check out an audio book and plop it into your CD player and shut out the world. If you are a digital reader, save the $10 for lunch and use your library card to download an e-book for free on your tablet or smartphone. Need help downloading? Ask a librarian for instructions.

This floor has six computers and study tables and lounge seating for adults. It has a more quiet atmosphere where adults can have their own space. There are designated quiet zones for those who prefer the sound of silence. The daily newspapers and lots of popular magazines as well as some scholarly journals are available for in library reading. For those who prefer to read in their native language there are smaller collection of books in the following languages: Bengali, Chinese, French, Russian and Vietnamese. If you prefer to have the sky as your canopy as you relax or study or chat with a friend—use the outdoor reading terrace which is open on fine weather days. 

Photo credit - Agati FurniturePhoto credit - Agati Furniture2nd Floor - this entire floor is devoted to Children's Programs and Services. Books, dvds and other materials for children are available. The floor has a special area where parents with their toddlers can use age appropriate computers or crawl on the colorful rugs flanked by shelves of picture and board books. The older children have their section with computers and non-fiction and Fiction chapter books. A story hour room equipped to offer a variety of children's programming including a puppet theatre offers daily programming for kids.

Photo credit - Dattner ArchitectsPhoto credit - Dattner Architects

1st Floor - this floor has the Popular Adult Library (New bestsellers, music cds collection, movie and documentary dvds, Large Print and Urban Fiction collections. It also has the Teen Center - where teenagers can be teenagers in their own space as they use teen designated computers and enjoy teen collections of books, dvds and music cds. Various teen programs are held each week.

In addition, the Circulation Department is located on this level, where you can get a library card, return or check out materials. This floor also sports a snazzy self-check machine and convenient book drops should you want to avoid waiting on line. This floor is more of a social space and it is okay to chat with friends without the fear of disturbing anyone.

Concourse Level - A 150-seat auditorium offers performances every Saturday at 2:30 pm. In addition, lectures, film and community forums are frequently held as well as instructional workshops. Also, a computer lab provides over 30 basic computer classes each month. The Adult Learning Center also located on this floor offers a valuable Adult Literacy Program where adults learn to read and write as well as 10 English as a Second Language classes each week during the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall sessions.

A permanent art work - The DNA Representation of the Portrait of a Young Reader by Inigo Manglano-Ovallo, adorns one wall on this floor while the gallery space highlights rotating exhibits by educational and culutural institutions as well as local artists. Library sponsored resource fairs are frequently held in this space.

The opening hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, and Sundays noon to 6 p.m., all year round, is very convenient for students and workers on every shift.

I recently attended a Pew Research Center presentation on libraries and found that the public want their libraries to offer the following: (outlined in the Pew Research hyperlinked chart below). After carefully studying the chart , I though to myself—by jove, the Bronx Library Center has it covered.

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