Robin Hood Foundation Library Initiative

"I had a dream of reinventing the library for elementary students," says Lonni Tanner, who headed special projects at the Robin Hood Foundation for 11 years. In 1998, she and Henry Myerberg, AIA, a partner at Rockwell Group in New York, visited a school in Brooklyn and saw what passed for a library: a room with a few dusty books and out-of-date computers. Soon they discovered that many of the public schools in New York City had similarly dispirited spaces posing as libraries. The kids deserved better, Tanner felt. Essential to their thinking is that libraries -- at the heart of learning and education -- can have a lasting effect on poverty. "You can't change all the classrooms in a school, but you can make a library -- which takes only 5 percent of the physical space of a school, but has a 100 percent influence," says Myerberg. "That's a great rate of return."

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