METRO Member Spotlight: Washington Heights Library

The Washington Heights Library held festivities in early March to celebrate the library's re-opening after a four year renovation process. Community leaders and residents joined library staff for a daylong program, replete with a ribbon cutting and a birthday cake to mark the building’s centennial.

Washington Heights Library, Image Courtesy of Vianela RivasThe library now features an open floor plan filled with natural light. “After our recent renovation, we have more space to provide programs for the community,” says Vianela Rivas, the library’s manager. “The beautifully designed children’s room allows us to have a bigger collection for children, including books for parents.”

The branch also received a technology update: 25 PCs, 16 laptops, and 24 Mac computers are available to the public, nearly triple the number of computers previously available.

These thoroughly modern amenities mark steady progress dating back to the library’s storied beginnings. The branch first opened in 1868 as an independent, subscription-based community library. Just a few years later, an endowment by J. Hood Wright, a partner at Drexel, Morgan & Company, stipulated that the library’s collection circulate for free.

In 1901, the Washington Heights Free Library was enveloped into the New York Public Library system. Under these new auspices, the library moved into its current building, a Carnegie library designed by Carrère & Hastings, architects of the renowned library branch on Fifth Avenue. 

The elegantly remodeled library is gift to the community, and librarians are working to ensure that the goodwill extends to those who aren't able to visit the branch in person. “We visit schools in our area and ensure students and teachers have a library card,” says Rivas, “and we also work with nursing homes, assisted living residences, and other adult homes in the community whenever possible. Since these residents may no longer be able to visit the library in person, we bring library services to them.”


Image courtesy of Vianela Rivas, Library Manager, Washington Heights Library.