Tuesday, Aug 09th

A Peek Inside Scarsdale's Stunning New Library

LibraryentryGlassed entry with seating and a cafe.I am sure many of you have noticed that the new Scarsdale Library appears to be open but sadly not open to the public. After years of planning, fundraising and construction, the project, which was almost a decade in the making, is finally a reality. The staff has moved from their temporary quarters at the Loft, books are on the shelves, an appealing café is on site and everything is ready for the day the virus permits the library to open its doors safely.

The opening of the library should be the focus of community pride and celebration. Supporters of the renovation launched nothing short of a Herculean effort to reach this day, overcoming some nay sayers and huge financial obstacles to build the library we, as a community, envisioned for the Scarsdale of the future. Along the way, some argued that libraries and printed materials were becoming obsolete, others said that the Village’s stressed finances could not afford a costly overhaul, some objected to losing Scarsdale’s historic library and others feared that their taxes would go up.

However, a ground swell of community support moved the project forward as many saw the libraries our neighboring communities had built in recent years and wanted the same for Scarsdale. Residents began to imagine what a 21st century library could mean for our community. A committed group of members of the Library Board, the SPL Capital Campaign Committee, Friends of the Library, the Building Committee and the talented and visionary Library Director, Beth Bermel, persisted, and managed to overcome all roadblocks in their path.librarybookcasesBack lit bookcases highlight new titles.

Tasked with raising $7.5 million to supplement funds from the Village, the Library’s Campaign Committee exceeded their goal, raising more than an impressive $8 million, through over 500 individual contributions and fundraising events. Their efforts and determination are visible throughout in a library that surprises and delights at every turn. Even those who did not originally support the plan are bound to be amazed and enjoy Scarsdale’s new jewel.

Anxious to see what’s inside, I asked Beth Bermel for a tour and was lucky to spend my snow day on a walk-through of this dazzling new facility. I was blown away by what I saw. In short, it is stunning. Every vista pleases the eye, the light, bright spaces beckon and wherever you turn it is evident that years of thought and analysis went into creating a most inviting community intellectual and cultural hub.

Since the outer walls of the original library remain, the old stone walls have been integrated into the new spaces. This design gives a sense of the old mixed with the new, honoring the history and tradition housed in the original building while becoming a state-of-the-art facility. Another feature of the design is flexibility. Walls can be opened or closed, and furniture can be moved and rearranged to allow for multi-purpose use of this large indoor space. And it is large. In fact the interior space has grown by 10,000 square feet, resulting in a 27,638 square foot library, one third bigger than the original.

To start at the front door, the library has been expanded in the front with a glass entry gallery where you’ll find the café and spacious seating. From this gallery, you can see right through the Main Reading Room out to the greenery and Library Pond. Unlike the old library, which was dark and cramped, the space is now bright and open. The old mezzanine was removed allowing for light to pour in through the storied windows and one can appreciate the double height ceiling.

Also added to the front portion of the library are two new dividable multi-purpose rooms which can be used for library events and community meetings. These two rooms are in addition to the Scott Room which has been remodeled and can accommodate large groups. A new kitchen has been added to allow food to be served to attendees. These spaces are sure to be in demand and fill a community-wide need for meeting rooms.

readingroomThe main reading room is bathed in natural light.As you enter the Main Reading Room, you’ll find a wall of back-lit bookcases where new books are on display and large tables with wheels for frequently borrowed books. These tables can be moved if the space is needed for an event. Additionally, there is a glass diving wall at the front of the Main Reading Room that can be closed to allow for the front of the library to remain open for events when the library is closed.

Everywhere you look are long tables, each with their own power source, to accommodate users and their devices. The room is flanked by four study rooms for group projects and smaller team meetings. Even the carrels have been upgraded and are modern and sleek.

One of the most alluring spaces is the glass wrapped Reading Gallery that overlooks the pond. Comfy and stylish blue chairs await Scarsdale readers.

Teens have their own space for their collection of young adult books and large cushy chairs which are sure to teenroomInviting chairs in the teen space.be the envy of Scarsdale students. The Children’s Wing is a dream. The space has been expanded. There’s lovely carpeting, lots of light and room to roam. It’s easy to imagine story hour in this child-friendly space. The iconic window seat remains as does the barrel-vaulted ceiling. And as if that weren’t enough, the Children’s Wing also includes a large children’s program room so the Children’s Department can hold many classes a day where kids can participate in crafts, build, learn and create.childrensroomRoom to roam and explore in the expanded Children's Department.

Another “aha” moment came when I entered the new Quiet Reading Room, the old reference room. Though it still includes the fireplace from the original library, you won’t recognize much more. It is a long shelf lined room, with space for reference materials, archives, newspapers and maps, ending in a bay window with four large red wing chairs. There will also be exhibits displaying local history when the library reopens.

QuietRoomRed wing chairs in the quiet reading room.As if all this was not enough, the library also includes a “home office” where there will be copiers and other resources as well as a technology center with several computers where free classes will be offered and open access to anyone needing a computer.

A wonderful new café, run by Apiary of Larchmont awaits anyone looking for a cup of coffee or a delicious meal. The café is already open for curbside pick-up. You can order coffee, snacks, breakfast and lunch. Call them at 914-713-8674 to order wraps, panini, salads and more. You can check out the menu here

Kudos to Daniel Heuberger, who led the team at Dattner Architects, on both the architectural work and the interiors.

Until the library can open, you can reserve books and materials on the library website for curbside pick-up and peek through the windows to see the stunning interior. You can also stroll the grounds to see part of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library-sponsored art exhibit “Hindsight is 2020” displaying art by local Scarsdale artists. The remainder of the exhibit will be installed inside the building in early 2021 and will be available throughout the year for patrons to enjoy when the building opens.

This new library will be a game changer for everyone who is lucky enough to live here. I can’t wait for this crisis to pass so that we can all enjoy this long-awaited community treasure. And looking into a crystal ball for Scarsdale, I hope that the realization of the library will help residents to embrace change and appreciate what the future can hold if we all work together to build a better Village.

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