Scarsdale Public Library Wins a Notable Design Award

Photos courtesy of Dattner Architects and Vanni Archive unless otherwise noted

The longstanding Westchester library welcomes an eye-catching renovation and takes home a design award for its efforts.

Since 1928, the Scarsdale Public Library has been a central part of the Westchester community. Like many libraries across the country, the SPL needed a way to refresh its campus and ensure it could meet the modern demands of its constituents.

After a decade of planning, designing and building, the SPL for the 21st century is here, and people are taking notice. On June 14, the newly finished structure won a SARA NY Design Award (Society of American Registered Architects), which was accepted by Dattner Architects.

Scarsdale Public Library

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“We are honored to receive this SARA award for the recent renovation and expansion of the Scarsdale Library,” said Daniel Heuberger, Principal at Dattner Architects, in a press release. “The project retains the best features of a beloved community building while radically rethinking it to become a more modern, versatile, and attractive space.”

Upon its initial opening, the library had 5,746 volumes in its collection; 83 years later, in 2011, it was home to around 147,000 items. During that time, the library moved locations and renovated, trying to keep up with a growing local population and demand. The Scarsdale Public Library found its current location in the ’50s and added a new wing in the ’70s to help the library offer more to the community than just books.

Scarsdale Public Library

Once 2010 came around, it was clear that the library needed to improve its seating, lighting, and accessibility to accommodate a contemporary audience. Between 2010 and 2012, the library conducted focus groups, forums, board meetings, surveys, and more with patrons, community leaders, staff members, and library experts to better understand what an SPL for the future would look like.

The information the library gathered was used to make a strategic five-year plan with the mission “to serve as the central hub of lifelong learning for our community.”

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By 2015, the plan for a complete building renovation and addition was underway, and the project broke ground in 2018.

The Designers
Arpad Baksa (SARA NY Council President), Daniel Heuberger (Principal, Dattner Architects), and Bob Firneis (former SARA National president). Photo courtesy of SARA NY

In the now award-winning design, Dattner Architects focused on providing the SPL with as much adaptable space as possible. This would allow for flexibility in collection size, seating, computer stations, and technological infrastructure. Also, understanding the local community’s need to use the SPL as a meeting space, Dattner added conference and meeting rooms equipped with retractable walls so that groups of any size could utilize the space.

“Dattner provided a true partnership by listening to library stakeholders, learning about programmatic needs, and redefining how the Library’s facility could best support modern library functions,” said Diane Greenwald, Co-Chair of the Library Building Committee in a press release.

Similar to just about anything these days, the Scarsdale Public Library was not spared of hiccups from the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially scheduled to open in summer/fall 2020, the newly transformed SPL did not fully open until May 2021.

Scarsdale Public Library

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Since opening, praise has been high for the library. “Our visitors often comment on how open the library is, how nice the reading gallery is, and how popular the study rooms are,” says Erika Heinzelman, Marketing and Communications Librarian.

Some of the most noteworthy features are improved natural light, a technology suite, a café, and full ADA compliance.

Currently, the library is working on maximizing its new space. Projects include setting up the new makerspace, developing a business and technology suite, and increasing programs available to the public both in person and virtually.

Looking ahead, the Scarsdale Public Library will have to adjust and accommodate new demands that come in this century, just as it did in the last one. But thanks to innovative design, the library will remain a fixture in the local community for years to come.

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