The library is in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx, overlooking the shopping strip along Fordham Road and facing the old library on Bainbridge Avenue to the east. The massive new building is highly visible from East Kingsbridge Road, contrasting drastically with its neighboring buildings, which are primarily low-rise commercial or residential buildings. The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, Fordham University, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Bronx Zoo are all nearby. It is close to the New York City Subway’s B and D trains at Kingsbridge Road (IND Concourse Line) and the 4 train at Kingsbridge Road (IRT Jerome Avenue Line). The Bx12, Bx12 SBS New York City Bus routes are also nearby.
Much larger than the previous Fordham Library and other Bronx libraries, the library contains over 300,000 volumes, including the New York Public Library’s central collection of Hispanic/Latino and Puerto Rican heritage works.
The building is designed for the digital technology and social/civic functions as well as for books; it contains reading areas, a 150-person auditorium, computer rooms, staff offices, conference rooms, and a public gallery/gathering area, divided among the floors:
- Basement or concourse level – auditorium and writing center.
- Ground floor – Teen center and main circulation desk.
- Second floor – Children’s floor
- Third floor – Adult circulating materials
- Fourth floor – Reference materials with computer desks
- Partial fifth floor – Career services center and conference room.
While the public areas are lit by the glazing on the front façade, skylights above staff offices in the building’s rear provide daylight for library workers. To help keep the library floors open, circulation is pushed to the back of the building as well. The main stair wraps around the elevator and is framed by a translucent glass wall to provide daylight. Patrons are expected to move through the library from back to front; from the stairs, through the stacks, and finally to the lounging and reading areas that are situated along the curtain wall.
The library also offers classes to the community including financial and career services to help people manage their money and improve their resume-writing in the pursuit of jobs.
The building is steel-framed and uses diverse materials in its construction that contrast with each other. The building is intended to be inviting on the interior and bold on the exterior. The exterior face of the library includes a multi-story glazed glass curtain wall (which stretches four stories and cantilevers out from the main body of the library to dominate the front façade). Water-treated Minnesota red granite panel the rest of the façade and also extend into the interior of the library on the fourth floor towards the terrace. The signature swooping roof is clad in aluminum paneling on the exterior and maple veneer on the interior. Maple softens many of the other surface cladding. The swooping roofline also contributes to visibility and also allows a partial fifth floor for the building while also following setback regulations for the block.
Practicality and durability take precedence in other areas of the library. The main stair at the back of the library has a frosted channel glass wall, steel handrails, and linoleum flooring. This floor surface is extended to other areas of the building in contrast with the terrazzo and carpeting that weather the high foot traffic hardily.
The Bronx Library Center is LEED Silver-certified and is the first “green” library in New York City; it includes many sustainable architecture features. Approximately 40 percent of materials used in the construction of the library were manufactured locally (within 500 miles of the site). The majority of materials produced by the demolition of the Con Edison building on site before the library were recycled to be used in off-site locations. The library itself is composed of roughly 20 percent recycled material. In addition to using environmentally safe materials, chemical release into the atmosphere is further mitigated by water-cooled chillers. The mechanical HVAC systems help provide building energy use of 20 percent less than code requires.
The energy-efficient lighting systems and the extensive use of sunlight are perhaps the boldest sustainable features of the library. The glazed curtain wall is composed of glass with a low U-value for better insulating properties on the interior of the building. At times there may be too much daylight along the perimeter reading areas along the wall, so there are mechanized nylon mesh shades to soften the light and light shelves that bounce some of the strongest light off of the surface and push it deeper into the spaces. Photocell sensors on the ceilings react to daylight levels and automatically change electric lighting intensities accordingly to save energy used. Overall, 75 percent of the interior spaces meet LEED criteria for the ratio of daylight to illuminated light
The building was designed by the New York City-based architecture firm Dattner Architects, led by architect Richard Dattner.