New Tate Library Opens to Excitement and Acclaim

20 Oct 2018
ByKevin Ko-wen Chen, Communications Manager

Homecoming has always been a time of celebration at ECFS, but this year, there’s an extra reason for good cheer: the grand reopening of the Tate Library. Fifty years after first breaking ground, the Tate has received its first major facelift. Architecture Research Office (ARO) is the architect of record.

The dark wood that once dominated the Tate’s ceiling, desks, and shelves has been replaced with lighter-colored materials and plenty of overhead lighting so that the building feels more expansive, even while it occupies the same footprint. New floor-to-ceiling windows were installed to provide unimpeded views of the quad below, while low shelving units yield better sight lines from all corners of the library.

“It looks very clean, but still very much like a library,” says Cornelia “Nelie” Locher, library department chair, who has worked at ECFS for 25 years.

It still feels like the Tate, too. “It’s very much walking into a space that feels familiar,” says Margaret Munzer Loeb ‘90, trustee and chair of the buildings and grounds committee. “We’ve been trying to honor the spaces we have and move them into the 21st century.”

According to Nelie, the Tate has always been a center of learning, and the new building plays that up even more. Faculty will integrate library visits into their class schedules; some classes will now take place in bright and open new classrooms; and even outside class time, students will — as they have for decades — make the Tate their home base. “There are free periods when we can have 110 to 120 students working or relaxing,” says Nelie. As noted by Head of School Jessica L. Bagby, “We really envision this as a center of campus life.”

The renovation was always intended to serve as more than just an aesthetic improvement. The new Tate makes a beloved part of the campus even more amenable to use. Visitors will notice that the circulation desk has been moved back to allow better flow on the lower level, and a new second circulation desk upstairs offers more student support. The upper level, which used to suffer from noise from below, has been outfitted with sound-absorbing surfaces that keep things as quiet as possible; according to Kim Yao, ARO principal, transforming the acoustics of the space was a key priority in modernizing the library. A new air conditioning system provides much-needed relief so that students can read and study comfortably in the warmer months.

I feel proud that we as a community are delivering this space for the next 50 years.Caryn Seidman Becker, trustee

The new Tate’s biggest asset, however, might be its flexibility. “‘Flexibility’ is a big term of art in libraries,” says Nelie. “We have more places you can plug your gadgets in. We can wheel the shorter bookcases away. We have more rooms with screens in them that people can use. We have also made an intentional decision to have some study rooms device-free.”

The Tate officially reopened this Saturday, October 20. At a celebratory reception, several trustees thanked the members of our community who have been vital in seeing the renovation through to fruition. “I think this building speaks to the passion and the commitment that people have,” said Caryn Seidman Becker. “I feel proud that we as a community are delivering this space for the next 50 years.”

A key tenet of progressive education at ECFS is to promote an environment that adapts to students’ different learning styles. With the new spaces, the Tate does just that. Glassed-in study rooms of various sizes allow groups both big and small to work together without affecting other patrons. The updated carrels on the upper level look out over the lower level windows and the quad beyond, offering relative privacy without feeling claustrophobic. If anything, the librarians expect more students to come to the library when they’re seeking a quiet place to work, and the Tate is happy to accommodate.

There’s never been a better time to hit the books.