Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts - (Page 41)

©From "Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City's Branch Libraries," by Elizabeth Felicella ©Mcmillin24 ©From "Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City's Branch Libraries," by Elizabeth Felicella 117-year watch Carnegie's Book Palaces Branch libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie's foundation made enduring contributions to the city's cultural heritage BY J O H N MO RRIS DIXO N , FA IA I t's 1899. What could you do to feed a hunger for knowledge across the five boroughs of the newly consolidated City of New York? How about establishing 67 branches of the city's public libraries? You could locate each one at a neighborhood core, housed in a building of civic dignity. That was the project to which the charitable foundation of industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie committed funds on December 8, 1899. Construction of these branches took place from 1901 to 1929, supported by Carnegie grants totaling $5,202,261 (worth some $148 million today). In Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, 39 neighborhood libraries were built - 30 of them still operating today as branches of the New York Public Library, three more surviving to serve other functions. In Brooklyn and Queens, with their separate library systems, 28 branches were built with Carnegie grants, 22 of them still serving their original purpose. New York's library branches were just part of Carnegie's program. It extended across the U.S. and Canada, and included locations in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere. This unique philanthropy originated in 1883, with library buildings in and around Pittsburgh, where Carnegie's industries were located, and in Scotland, where he was born. By the time the campaign ended in 1929, his foundation had supported construction of 1,689 libraries in the U.S. and 820 in other countries. Carnegie's legendary fortune was self-made, and he believed firmly in helping only those who made their own effort. So a set of requirements applied to his library program: the local community had to Institutional Shifts (left to right) Hunts Point Branch by Carrère & Hastings, 1929 (architects of the main NYPL on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street); this was the last of the 39 Carnegie libraries. Hamilton Grange Branch, West 145 Street by McKim, Mead & White, 1907. Yorkville Branch, East 79 Street, by James Brown Lord, 1902, the first Carnegie library built in New York City. John Morris Dixon, FAIA, left the drafting board for journalism in 1960 and was editor of Progressive Architecture from 1972 to 1996. He continues to write for a number of publications, and he received AIANY's 2011 Stephen A. Kliment Oculus Award for Excellence in Journalism. contribute the land, public funds had to be committed for their operation - even if private charities pitched in - and the libraries had to be open to all. In the U.S., the success of the Carnegie program coincided with the wide expansion of women's clubs, the local organizations most responsible for promoting the creation of the nation's new library systems of that period. At the same time, public secondary education was expanding rapidly - from enrolling 7% of those aged 14-17 in 1890 to 32% in 1920. The design of the Carnegie libraries embodied a key innovation fostered by the foundation: open stacks. At almost all previous libraries, borrowers had to know what they wanted and request it. The Carnegie libraries allowed readers to browse the stacks, with checkout desks prominently located to monitor departing users. And special children's sections - often a separate floor in multistory libraries - also made their early appearance here. The New York Public Library had a few branches before 1899, but welcomed Carnegie support for many more. Appointed to set design policy for them was an advisory committee consisting of architects John Carrère, Charles McKim, and Walter Cook. Perhaps predictably, all the foundationfunded branches were designed by three firms: Carrère & Hastings; McKim, Mead & White; and Babb, Cook & Willard. But a pre-existing design by James Brown Lord was clearly the model for those on tight urban sites. Tapping the city's elite firms of the time, the program produced facilities that met the latest functional standards and presented a variety of elegant Beaux-Arts landmarks still widely beloved today. Spring 2016 Oculus 41

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts

Letter from the President
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: The Intersection of Technology and Walkability
The Challenges of Expansion
A Win-Win at Rockefeller University
Course Requirements
1,087 Windows (and a Unique Focus) on the City
Tech Time
Playing a New Tune
A More Perfect Union
Social Innovation by Design
In Print
117-Year Watch
Last Words
Index to Advertisers

Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts

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