I have never met a library I did not love, even the musty, overcrowded ones and the too cold, too quiet varieties, but my true favorites have real character and very often that comes from their art. I do not mean simply what hangs on the wall, although that certainly is part of it, I mean how everything is laid out to welcome, inspire, support...and much more.
My friend forwarded me a slideshow from The New York Times that included the new library in P.S. 47, complete with an art installation by illustrator Maira Kalman. The image shown above, and this one from a detail of Kalman's work, really demonstrate how art and design bring personality to these towers and rows of books.Image courtesy of The New York Times
As I clicked through the slideshow and read about this library and the others featured, I learned about the Robin Hood Foundation L!brary Initiative. I became intrigued by the collaboration of the Robin Hood Foundation and New York City's Board of Education to revitalize and maintain the school libraries in many of the impoverished communities of the city.
Individuals saw the need to re-invent the forgotten libraries- these spiritless rooms were certainly not the vibrant centers of learning the schools and students needed - so the initiative was born. Nine years and sixty-two schools later, the program continues to marry libraries and art and their union brings happiness to countless children.
The following are just some examples of the new spaces.Image of P.S. 96 courtesy of The New York Times
Image of P.S. 192 courtesy of Architectural Record
There are two great articles about the initiative at Architectural Record and Pentagram. They introduce you to some of the people whose designs and art have breathed new life into the school libraries.