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Branch libraries are serving more New Yorkers in more ways than ever before, yet they remain undervalued by policymakers. The Architectural League collaborated with the Center for an Urban Future on a design study that articulated new architectural, financial, and programmatic possibilities for these essential, neighborhood-based resource centers. The study identified the challenges that branch libraries face and propose design solutions to stimulate conversation about means to support New York’s three library systems and the vital services they provide. These challenges include promoting access to expanding resources of the digital world while continuing to circulate books and other print resources; accommodating the full range of library programs, from adult literacy and ESL to after-school programs for children and teens and technology training for senior citizens; and enhancing libraries’ capacity to serve as physical and civic hubs of their communities. The Architectural League invited architects and designers interested in participating in a design study to organize interdisciplinary teams and to submit qualifications and a statement of interest in response to a request for qualifications. A selection committee, which included Seema Agnani, Chhaya Community Development Corporation; Sarah Goldhagen, The New Republic; Shannon Mattern, The New School; Henry Myerberg, HMA2; Lyn Rice, Rice+Lipka Architects; and members of The Architectural League and Center for an Urban Future project teams, selected five teams from 45 submissions. The study culminated with a public event, featuring a presentation of the participants’ work and discussion with advocates and policymakers around issues drawn from the study.

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