Celebrate Your Community with A Living Library and Think Park

February 11, 2019

Our wonderful new library will soon open in its new home at 504 Main Street in the fall of 2019. RIOC is working on a plan to transform the outdoor space immediately behind it and sent a questionnaire to residents soliciting their opinions, that is due by February 13.


The questionnaire asks if they would like moveable or stationary seating, a quiet or active place, and a few other simple questions. This represents a great and exciting opportunity for Roosevelt Islanders to improve, transform, and celebrate their community, including its rich cultural diversity and the environment, but the questionnaire doesn’t make these possibilities clear.


Residents have told me they think the questionnaire is very limited in scope. It fails to adequately reference the many opportunities for the area, including those currently in existence, as well as the content-rich opportunities planned for the open spaces immediately adjacent to the Library rear yard space in question.


The following writing and the attached RI Living Library & Think Park Site Plan created by me last year, should expand residents’ understanding of the many possibilities for the area – and perhaps will better inform the designers of the library outdoor space, and RIOC of the true wishes and vision of Island residents.


The Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park Adjacent to the New Library


Since 1992, Life Frames, Inc. (LFI) has worked with communities and schools around the world, creating place-based ecological transformations with systemically integrated hands-on, programs that include – hands-on learning by doing – for all ages. A goal is to interconnect unique, place-based, Branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse communities, through Green-Powered Digital Gateways, so we can learn about different communities, cultures, and ecologies

– near and far.


For the past nine years, LFI has been transforming an unused and formerly barren area of grassy open space, with the children and adults of Roosevelt Island into the RI Living Library & Think Park, a series of organic, vegetable, herb, and flower gardens. The area, designed and developed by Life Frames with the community, rings the area of the Library that the questionnaire



It should be noted here, however, that LFI has been transforming and developing gardens and plans on the Island since the day after 9/11/01, when then principal of PS/IS 217, Sherry Gregory, invited this writer to develop A Living Library in the school, and to actively involve other community members to create life-affirming environments with integrated learning programs at other local sites, to help combat the terror unleashed the prior day.


Organic vegetable, flower and herb gardens, an orchard, and compost bins were built and installed in the schoolyard and the riverside of the school. These improvements were unfortunately destroyed when the school was under construction with scaffolding around it for many years, leading to the development of the more recent RI Living Library Gardens behind 504 Main Street.

A more developed Site Plan for this area, made in 2018, shows more of the possibilities envisioned – in terms of the physical environment and integrated community program opportunities for all ages to be held in conjunction with the Library and Life Frames, collaborating together with diverse sectors of residents and groups.


The Site Plan shown above and described here, suggests the following features:

Existing RI Living Library & Think Park Organic Vegetable, Herb, Flower Gardens

Wheelchair Accessible Planters to sensitively separate the NYPL outdoor space and the RI Living Library & Think Park Gardens, while also creating opportunities for those in wheelchairs to become active participants in both sites. These could also be movable.

An Orchard that will reflect the history of Roosevelt Island as a former place where fruit trees grew in abundance – including Pippen apple trees.

International Gardens that will engage and celebrate the diverse cultures and cultural groups of the Island and showcase the diversity of residents and cultures from around the world. Diversity is one of the greatest assets of Roosevelt Island and its location is across the river from the United Nations, yet there is no place here – yet – where this richness is made visible in an ongoing way.

A Four-Bin Compost Bin to demonstrate the making of healthy soil from green waste

An Outdoor Classroom With Tree Stump Seating & Worktables for diverse program opportunities and classes for all ages including Farm To Table Food Preparation, Plant Propagation, Seeds & Seeding, Creating Multicultural Artworks, and other related activities

A Garden Shed for Tool & Materials Storage

Green-Powered Digital Gateway to Bring Roosevelt Island To The World & The World To Roosevelt Island as well as bring the inside of the Library out-of-doors 


Glossary & Meaning of Terms:


The metaphor and meaning of A Living Library is: Everyone and Everything on earth and in space is part of A Living Library of diversity: People, Birds, Trees, Air, Water, and all the things we create, such as: Parks, Gardens, Schools, Libraries, Curricula, Artworks. Networks, Communities, Celebrations.


A Living Library, or A.L.L., for short, demonstrates that culture and technology are part of

nature. It is all Nature. 


A Life Frame provides a way to frame life so we can see it and experience it

more profoundly.


A Think Park is meant to make us think, feel, and be more empathetic – to each

other and all species.


I hope this Site Plan and these ideas excite and inspire you, and will help inform your concepts of what can, and should be, in the outdoor space directly behind the Library as asked in the questionnaire.


For more information and to become involved, please contact me at bonnieora@alivinglibrary.org or 212-242-1700. 

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