Current Work: Revisiting Branch Libraries

Three firms discuss recent and current library projects in the context of a holistic approach to accessibility.

March 13, 2024
7:00 p.m.

Left: Andrew Berman Architect | Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL, 2021. Image credit: Michael Moran. Middle: LEVENBETTS | East Flatbush Library, Brooklyn, NY, 2023. Image credit: Naho Kubota. Right: Marble Fairbanks | Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center, Brooklyn, NY, 2020. Image credit: Michael Moran/OTTO

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

This spring, the League is focusing on the imperative for more accessible spaces, from different perspectives and through different typologies. Following the lead of disability justice organizers to uplift intersectional approaches over notions of universality, our hope is to reach beyond the often inconsistently executed design ramifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to address how the fields that are charged with planning, design, construction, and management can more fully support the creation of an inclusive built environment.

Ten years after the League’s Re-Envisioning Branch Libraries study, three firms revisit these essential community centers to present current and recent projects. Geographic and civic hubs in their communities, branch libraries are charged with granting public access not only to media, but to critical social services and resources. As libraries continue to adapt their function and form, how can architects employ a holistic approach to accessibility across both programmatic and physical design? 

The event will include presentations from the principals of three firms who participated in the 2014 Branch Libraries study and have continued their leading work within the typology: Andrew Berman Architect, LEVENBETTS, and Marble Fairbanks.

Recent projects include:

  • Van Cortlandt Library, Andrew Berman Architect, the conversion of a vacant 6,500 square foot building into a neighborhood branch library in the Bronx
  • East Flatbush Library, LEVENBETTS, a full renovation of the 1988 building to incorporate natural light, address community needs, and reorganize the building’s program around a central gathering space
  • Greenpoint Library and Environmental Center, Marble Fairbanks, a 15,000 square foot community hub featuring indoor and outdoor spaces dedicated to environmental awareness, activism, and education.

The program will close with a panel discussion moderated by Leah Meisterlin and an audience Q&A.


Andrew Berman founded Andrew Berman Architect in 1995, and has since led the award-winning practice through a body of work that includes cultural and performing arts projects, public commissions, and private residences. Berman received a MArch from the Yale School of Architecture and a bachelor of arts from Yale College.

Stella Betts is a partner and principal at LEVENBETTS, an award-winning New York City-based architecture practice focused on design at a range of scales. LEVENBETTS is currently working on its fifth New York City public library. Betts is a senior critic at the Yale School of Architecture. She received an MArch from Harvard University GSD and a bachelor of arts in fine art from Connecticut College.

Karen Fairbanks is a founding partner of Marble Fairbanks, where she has extensive experience with current library design. She is the Claire Tow Professor of Professional Practice, chair of the architecture department, and faculty director of the Design Center at Barnard College. Fairbanks received her MArch from Columbia University and bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Michigan.

David Leven is a partner and principal at LEVENBETTS. He is an associate professor at The School of Constructed Environments at Parsons School of Design. Leven received an MArch from the Yale School of Architecture and a bachelor of arts in fine art from Colgate University.

The conversation will be moderated by Leah Meisterlin, an urbanist, geospatial methodologist, and assistant professor at Columbia University GSAPP. Meisterlin’s research engages concurrent issues of spatial justice, decision support, and mapping technologies. Since 2016, she has served on the board of the Metropolitan New York Library Council.


This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

The event is co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.



Re-envisioning Branch Libraries video recap

December 4, 2014 | Re-envisioning Branch Libraries | Five design teams present their ideas for New York City's branch libraries, with responses by policymakers and community advocates.

May 4—September 1, 2013

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Commentary and selections from the League's 1987 design study considering the potential of small-scale infill housing.