A Look Into The Bronx Library Center

By Zulema Rodriguez

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Eddie Umas, father of a teenage girl, decided to spend his time relaxing and knitting a quilt for his daughter, at the Bronx Library Center. He explained how “surprised” he was when he got there, because he doesn’t visit the library often and was not aware that “you could just come here and knit a quilt,” until his daughter suggested that he could go to the library. “It’s actually very cool,” he said, “as it turns out, a lot of people actually come here for different reasons, whether it is to read a book, use the computers, join a club, or… you know knit.”

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With 679,979 visitors in 2012, the Bronx Library Center of The New York Public Library is the third most visited library in New York. Students at the library talked about the different reasons that brought them here. Reading a book in this quiet, but sometimes crowded place is not the only reason why many people are here. Teen, adults, and young children all visit this library to read books, access the library’s technology, and attend clubs and activities they have arranged for the public on a daily basis. According to nypl.org, the Bronx Library Center is the largest library, not only in the Fordham community, but in the entire Bronx and is the only Library to stay open until 9pm on weekdays. This is a huge reason why so many people go there, not only from the Fordham community. But a big struggle for these visitors is the lack of computers and the short sessions given when wanting to use their technology.

The Fordham Library, a smaller library that according to nycedc.com, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, is currently seeking developers for the redevelopment of the building, used to be the Library were most people would go. After the Bronx Library Center was finally renovated, more people began to go because the Fordham Library had coincidentally closed at the same time the Fordham Library reopened in 2006.   

According to the New York Public Library’s website, The Bronx Library Center originally opened in 1923. The Fordham Library was closed and reopened several times since then, and it grew larger and larger as the years went by. In the 1950s, the library was closed and expanded due to overcrowding and lack of space and it reopened in 1956. It was later closed again in 2005, for further expansions, to add more books and computers as well as remodel its interiors and it later reopened on January 17, 2006. Today, The Bronx Library Center is a five–storey, 78,000 square-foot “state-of-the-art” center, which costs about $58 million.

Nicole Cabrera, a 14 year-old high school student from Tapco High School admits that although she does not enjoy reading very much, she goes to the Bronx Library Center to do research when she has an assignment for school or just sits on the library’s rug and skims through any books that look “interesting.

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14 year-old Nicole Cabrera skimming through a book she found “interesting.” (Photo taken by Zulema Rodriguez)

“I’m here because I have to do a project,” Ms. Cabrera said. “I’m waiting for the computer because they are all being used.

She added that the Bronx Library Center is a “resourceful” place to go to, because of its large collection of different books.

“I don’t like reading much,” she added, “but I come here to read Percy Jason books from Rick Riordan, my favorite author.”

A group of three college students were also at the library, studying and doing research for a project.

One of them, Rachel Essel, said she visits the Bronx Library Center quite often. “I come every two weeks,” she said. 

Essel added that she borrows a lot of books from the library but does not use their laptops or computers because “the sessions are short.” She then added that there are very few computers and that “just about everyone wants to use them.” Instead, Ms. Essel brings her own laptop and uses the library’s wireless internet so she can take her time and not feel “rushed,” she said. 

“Overall, it’s a pretty good library to be honest,” said Ms. Essel.

In New York Public Libraries, computer availability is based on a “first come, first served” basis. According to nypl.org, usually computer sessions are 45 minutes long, with limited extensions. But a person’s full sessions is not “guaranteed” if the person did not make a reservation.  

According to the New York Public Library’s data, although citywide the libraries have 1,303 laptops available for public use, reservations reach up to 441,434 reservations of laptops.

Essel’s friends said they do not go to the library often because of the lack of computer availability, but are beginning to go during weekends to do some research for homework using their own laptops because it is a quiet place to work in.

Eddie Umas, the Library visitor who was knitting his quilt there, chuckled when asked how often he goes to the Bronx Library Center.

“I go maybe three times a year,” he said.

“But to my surprise, I didn’t know you could just come here for whatever you want and take up space like this,” Mr. Umas said, as he continued knitting.

“You can use their technology too,” he added. 

Overall, Umas seemed to sum up many visitors’ satisfaction with the place. “It’s amazing what they have to offer,” he said.

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