Building Better Book Carts

Sarah Ball of the New York Public Library Correctional Services Program (NYPL) approached the School of Constructed Environments (SCE), and School Dean Brian McGrath, proposing a collaboration between the SCE and the NYPL. What the NYPL needed was a means to more effectively deliver library service to its patrons at Rikers Island and the Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC). In short, the carts they used to haul books around the jail over the course of a library service were in need of replacement.

Led by Professor Joel Stoehr, the course “Topics: Furniture Design”, was asked to do three things: evaluate and study library service within a city jail, design and build an improved book cart, and ultimately to improve the experience of the users. Sarah Ball set for the class a realistic goal of fabricating 4 prototypes of the new cart by the end of the fall 2015 semester.

Responding to design needs expressed by NYPL, students designed a cart comprised of a powder-coated and tapered steel frame, which supports a cascading system of maple plywood shelves. Large 8-inch casters allow the assembly to roll with little effort and to overcome thresholds easily.

The final prototypes were delivered to city jails in January of 2016. It is a testament to all the members of the class that this project became a reality that is in use today at New York City Detention Centers.



Sarah Ball, New York Public Library Correctional Services Program (NYPL)

Joel Stoehr, Faculty at School of Constructed Environments (SCE)

Shannon Mattern, Faculty at The New School


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