It's often said a child's lifelong love of reading begins at home. But declining literacy rates among the nation's public elementary school students suggests this maxim needs revision. For reading to become an everyday habit, it needs to be nurtured in a home of its own. Fortunately, there is space available inside most elementary schools. At just 5 percent of a school's total real estate, the school library is the most powerful and efficient way to reach 100 percent of the student body. But far too many of the nation's public school libraries lack even the most basic resources to support learning and encourage achievement. The nonprofit L!brary Initiative, created by the Robin Hood Foundation, has been working since 2001 to enhance student literacy and overall academic achievement by collaborating with school districts to design, build, equip, and staff new elementary school libraries.
The L!brary Book takes readers behind the scenes of fifty groundbreaking library projects to show how widely varied fields and communities—corporate underwriters, children's book publishers, architects, graphic designers, product manufacturers, library associations, teachers, and students—can join forces to make a difference in the lives of children. Based on the premise that good library design can actually inspire learning, the L!brary Initiative brings together some of the world's leading architects to reimagine the elementary school libraries in New York City—the nation's largest public school system. Working on a pro bono basis, architecture firms—including 1100 Architects, Weiss/Manfredi Architects, Della Valle Bernheimer, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, and Dean/Wolf Architects—have in just eight years built or transformed more than fifty libraries into vital resources for the whole school community. These libraries—both beautiful learning spaces and innovative architecture—feature a wide range of design solutions, including creative uses of space, color, lighting, and furniture. Author and former L!brary Initiative director Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi documents every project with beautiful photos as well as renderings and measured drawings. The L!brary Book concludes with the chapter How to Make a Library which shows how community organizers and architects can pursue similar initiatives in their own communities.