A Message from the Head of School

WEDNESDAY - MAY 31, 2017


Dear ECFS Community,


For our beloved Tate Library to continue to function and flourish for a second half-century as the "public square" of the Fieldston campus, we needed to re-imagine its physical space as a learning commons where students and faculty can gather for classroom instruction, discussion, and individual and collaborative study with improved access to resources, information, and technology.

At the dedication ceremony for the Tate in 1970, August Heckscher, New York City's Administrator of Cultural Affairs, suggested that the task for this generation "is nothing less than the building of a new civilization. For that, something more than computers are needed. Books are needed. Libraries are needed–libraries which keep the books, organize the knowledge, and transmit wisdom across the wrecks of time." Forty-seven years later, Heckscher's words and sentiments still resonate.

(A side note: While Heckscher wrote this speech for the opening ceremony, he wasn't able to deliver his remarks because he was in bed with pneumonia. Singer/social activist Harry Belafonte, whose children were Fieldston students at the time, came to the rescue and gave Heckscher's speech for him.)

The renovation of our two-story cantilevered building (named for Luther Tate, who served as principal of Fieldston from 1940-1967) will be transformational, strengthening the library's connection to the surrounding campus. To help us realize our goals, we engaged the New York firm, Architecture Resource Office (ARO), known for their innovative work at Brown University and Riverdale Country School. In keeping with the values and mission of our school, ARO worked in close collaboration with our librarians, faculty, students, facilities team, and administrators to develop sustainable, modern solutions that respond to the needs and aspirations of all constituencies who use the Tate.

I am delighted to report that construction will begin once the school year concludes this June. We anticipate that the building construction will be finished by next summer and plan to re-open in January 2019. During this time, the Stu-Fac and the Middle School's second floor academic center will serve as host libraries for our students. Librarians will be working in both locations, with the most heavily-used part of the library's collection housed in these two spaces.

In strengthening the Tate's role as a learning commons, ARO architects are honoring the original design of the building while envisioning its interior as a "living lab"–a 21st-century model for interdisciplinary work. With insight into how evolving pedagogy has changed the way students now use libraries, ARO is redesigning the Tate's interior to allow for more independent study areas and spaces that invite different uses (i.e., private group study, teaching rooms), all with flexible furnishings to accommodate the changing needs of students and program.

Among other upgrades:

·      Improving the environment (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, acoustics)

·      Integrating and upgrading technology

·      Installing specially-designed windows that provide energy efficiency and bird-strike protection

(To see some of ARO's renderings, click here.)

Guided by the notion that faculty and students are the heart of our school, it follows that the library must be its soul. As we adapt to emerging technology and students' changing needs, we are embarking—together as a community—on a venture that will inspire generations of Fieldston students and teachers.

I could not be more excited.

Best regards,


Jessica Bagby


Ethical Culture Fieldston School

33 CENTRAL PARK WEST • NEW YORK, NY 10023 • (212) 712-6220 

3901 FIELDSTON ROAD • BRONX, NY 10471 • (718) 329-7300

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