The public library in the U.S. is a radically different space than it was only a decade ago. As digital media has become a ubiquitous source of news and information, and as personal devices become an ever-present part of our lives, the library has morphed into a dynamic social space that supports learning, research, collaboration, and the creation of new kinds of information and physical artifacts. Still home to books and physical reference materials, today’s public library has evolved into a hub for traditional learning experiences as well as a place to explore the newest technological trends.

The New City Library, a popular and well-used public home base for a large and growing community of patrons in Rockland County, New York, was experiencing the challenges of an older building ill-equipped to meet the emerging needs of its diverse user group. VMDO was hired to lead an in-depth master planning process that engaged librarians, staff, and local residents to establish a new vision for the aging 80s-era library building. The dialog that ensued helped craft an entirely new building and user experience built upon the principles of transparency, flexibility, accessibility and lifelong learning.

The public library in the U.S. is a radically different space than it was only a decade ago. As digital media has become a ubiquitous source of news and information, and as personal devices become an ever-present part of our lives, the library has morphed into a dynamic social space that supports learning, research, collaboration, and the creation of new kinds of information and physical artifacts. Still home to books and physical reference materials, today’s public library has evolved into a hub for traditional learning experiences as well as a place to explore the newest technological trends.

The New City Library, a popular and well-used public home base for a large and growing community of patrons in Rockland County, New York, was experiencing the challenges of an older building ill-equipped to meet the emerging needs of its diverse user group. VMDO was hired to lead an in-depth master planning process that engaged librarians, staff, and local residents to establish a new vision for the aging 80s-era library building. The dialog that ensued helped craft an entirely new building and user experience built upon the principles of transparency, flexibility, accessibility and lifelong learning.

The unique existing building – grounded in a rigorous Euclidean geometry of right and 45-degree angles – was gutted, and reimagined as an entirely new interior landscape that fully leverages the split-level, top-lit structure of the original facility. An addition to the north of the building expands the useable area of the library by introducing much-need new space for a


burgeoning children’s library and by expanding the outdoor garden space that the patrons came to rely upon during the pandemic. The Park, as this new secure outdoor space is affectionately referred to, is replete with flexible seating options, and is designed to host both formal and informal community events.

The unique existing building – grounded in a rigorous Euclidean geometry of right and 45-degree angles – was gutted, and reimagined as an entirely new interior landscape that fully leverages the split-level, top-lit structure of the original facility. An addition to the north of the building expands the useable area of the library by introducing much-need new space for a


burgeoning children’s library and by expanding the outdoor garden space that the patrons came to rely upon during the pandemic. The Park, as this new secure outdoor space is affectionately referred to, is replete with flexible seating options, and is designed to host both formal and informal community events.

The new library responds to changes in library use patterns with a collection of naturally day-lit meeting and study spaces on the main level of the building – all easy to monitor from the new integrated service point (ISP) at the geographic center of the library. The ISP is strategically located at the main building entry and is positioned to be an ever-present visual landmark


within the large, multi-level public space. Co-located staff, brought together for the first time since the original building was constructed, now work within close proximity of one another, and to the ISP, providing more efficient use of office space and creating conditions for collaborations amongst staff and with patrons.

The new library responds to changes in library use patterns with a collection of naturally day-lit meeting and study spaces on the main level of the building – all easy to monitor from the new integrated service point (ISP) at the geographic center of the library. The ISP is strategically located at the main building entry and is positioned to be an ever-present visual landmark


within the large, multi-level public space. Co-located staff, brought together for the first time since the original building was constructed, now work within close proximity of one another, and to the ISP, providing more efficient use of office space and creating conditions for collaborations amongst staff and with patrons.

Two large meeting rooms – one dedicated to adult events and the other reserved for very popular children’s programming, anchor themselves to “Main Street” – the primary circulation spine through the building. This public promenade allows events to be scheduled both during and after library operating hours, thanks to careful coordination of the secure perimeter of the library and the location of public restrooms and a well-appointed catering


kitchen that serves indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. A new Special Collections space that houses a robust collection of local history resources is immediately adjacent to Main Street, and its dedicated reading room provides a large space for local genealogical meetings and allows the library’s large-format map collection to be fully accessible for the first time.

Two large meeting rooms – one dedicated to adult events and the other reserved for very popular children’s programming, anchor themselves to “Main Street” – the primary circulation spine through the building. This public promenade allows events to be scheduled both during and after library operating hours, thanks to careful coordination of the secure perimeter of the library and the location of public restrooms and a well-appointed catering


kitchen that serves indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. A new Special Collections space that houses a robust collection of local history resources is immediately adjacent to Main Street, and its dedicated reading room provides a large space for local genealogical meetings and allows the library’s large-format map collection to be fully accessible for the first time.

Since opening in the fall of 2023, the New City Library has reported a tremendous explosion of public use, and growing attendance in the library’s expanding programs for community members across the age spectrum. Most days of the week, one finds fully occupied group study rooms, multiple successive events being offered in the generous meeting rooms, informal groups of students chatting and playing games in the new teen room, and children


and their adults reading quietly on the new indoor forum steps (amphitheater). We are proud to have been a participant in the process of creating for this much-need and much-loved library a new communal home that provides opportunities for every individual to learn and grow. We are anxious to see the novel ways patrons use this public asset for generations to come.

Since opening in the fall of 2023, the New City Library has reported a tremendous explosion of public use, and growing attendance in the library’s expanding programs for community members across the age spectrum. Most days of the week, one finds fully occupied group study rooms, multiple successive events being offered in the generous meeting rooms, informal groups of students chatting and playing games in the new teen room, and children


and their adults reading quietly on the new indoor forum steps (amphitheater). We are proud to have been a participant in the process of creating for this much-need and much-loved library a new communal home that provides opportunities for every individual to learn and grow. We are anxious to see the novel ways patrons use this public asset for generations to come.

Client: New City Library

Location: New City, NY

Discipline: Libraries

Completion: 2020

Size: 40,000 SF Renovation; 8,000 SF New Construction

Additional Resources

VMDO Academic Library Design

Filed in:

We're using cookies to deliver you the best user experience. Learn More