Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center

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Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center

The Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center is located in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. It stands on the corner of Napoleon Avenue and South Broad Street which serve as the north/south, east/west markers in the neighborhood. The library is a branch of the greater New Orleans Public Library System. The Broadmoor branch serves as one of the only centers for community engagement in the neighborhood and hosts adult education classes, art workshops, after-school activities for children, and community events throughout the year. It opened its doors on March 17, 2012.

Early history[edit]

Built in 1917 as the home of civil rights advocate and New Orleans Public Library pioneer, Rosa Freeman Keller, the house was given to the city after her death.[1] In 1993, officials honored her leadership in the public library system by dedicating the structure for use as Broadmoor's public library branch. Modifications were made to the original home which included a brick addition with a concrete slab-on grade foundation.[citation needed]

The 1993 building was specially constructed to serve as a library.[2]

Though the library was conceived to include both the original home and the new structure, the two sections were physically separated by fire doors and service areas, isolating the house and leading the addition to become the sole functioning area. The home was subject to subsidence and foundation problems and gradually vacated. Without usage, the structure fell into disrepair. Both the house and extension were badly flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.[citation needed]

Construction after Katrina[edit]

Topographically one of the lowest points in New Orleans, Broadmoor suffered extensive damage due to Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, the neighborhood was deemed a drainage point in the city's reconstruction plan under the Bring New Orleans Back Commission that was led by former mayor Ray Nagin. The proposal was met with strong opposition as residents rallied to save their neighborhood from disinvestment and destruction. The Keller home became an important symbol of Broadmoor and a natural locus for redevelopment efforts with the Broadmoor Improvement Association,[3] founded in 1930, touting the notion of an education corridor as central to its neighborhood vision. This corridor that is currently in the process of being complete consists of the expanded Keller Library and Community Center, the Andrew H. Wilson Charter School and a future fine arts and wellness center.[4] The result of a lengthy process of planning, fundraising and review was the total rehabilitation of the historic Keller home with the construction of an entirely new wing, designed by renowned New Orleans architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple.[5] Gibbs Construction served as the construction company. The new construction had a cost of $6.8 million, and the area was to be 71,000 square feet (6,600 m2). While the house was to be renovated and serve specifically as a community center, the 1993 building was to be demolished. A technology center with 28 computers and the Green Dot Cafe were to be placed in the new library building replacing the previous one. Both the house and the new library building were to be connected by a corridor.[2]

During the recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Recovery Authority planned a $15.8 million effort to build or rebuild six libraries in the region. Keller was awarded $3.4 million toward building a state-of-the-art library and community center to serve as the local community's learning and cultural hub.[6] FEMA was to pay for the costs of demolition of the previous library and construction of the new library since the previous facility had been, according to FEMA's estimation, over 50% damaged by Katrina. The features and amenities present in the new facility that were not in the previous facility were financed by other sources, including New Orleans municipal bond sales and funds from the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The "design-build" process, one specially allowed only in parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina under Louisiana law, was used to rebuild this library and four others.[7]

The library also benefitted from a $2 million grant from the Carnegie Foundation, which the Broadmoor Improvement Association secured independently through private-public partnerships established during the recovery process. The total cost of the renovation and expansion was $6.8 million.[8]

Building design[edit]

The use of natural sunlight is key within the library where access to books, social interaction and connectivity to the internet are all equally important. As much a social hub as it is an academic center, the library was rebuilt within the framework of a 21st-century model to allow technological access for community members that may not have it at home. The floor of the new addition is aligned with the renovated home, both built on raised footings above the Base Flood Elevation line. At its center, the new building contains a small courtyard surrounded by glass walls that is visible from within the main library. The buildings largest and most expansive space holds the computer and reading tables, main desk and library office, which functions as an enclosed light in green glass, illuminating the space.

The design takes a more sustainable approach to wood paneling which uses recycled wooden slats around the parameter of the reading space. Shaded skylights filter harsh sunlight allowing the space to be naturally cooled during hot weather. The tinted glass light well also helps to vary the natural light across the space and throughout the day. Other areas are clad in perforated metal panels meant to mimic the textured stucco of the original home. Though the uses are separate, both the library and the community center complement each other in design by including a semi-raised horizontal axis that reaches its lowest point at the entrance.

Cultural significance[edit]

The library stands as a model for Post-Katrina development and symbolizes the triumph that Broadmoor has achieved after the storm. Visually different from the residential buildings surrounding the structure, the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center highlights the architectural innovation that certain communities have embraced with rebuilding. The neighborhood is a demographic microcosm of New Orleans with 67 percent African American, 26 percent white, and 4 percent Hispanic, all of whom are served by the establishment of the library and the resources it has.[9]


Listed in New Orleans Magazine as the "Best New Architecture in 2012"[10]

2013 AIA New Orleans Honor Award [11]

2012 IIDA Delta Region Award of Excellence[12]


  1. ^ "Keller Exhibit". Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  2. ^ a b Donze, Frank (2012-03-12). "New Orleans libraries turn over a new leaf with state-of-the-art buildings". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  3. ^ "Welcome". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  4. ^ "Education Corridor". 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  5. ^ "Eskew+Dumez+Ripple | Architecture. Interior Environments. Urban Strategies". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  6. ^ "Broadmoor Neighborhood's Rosa F. Keller Library Funded For Replacement". 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  7. ^ Krupa, Michelle (2009-08-12). "Public library rebuilding project set to begin". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  8. ^ "New Orleans libraries turn over a new leaf with state-of-the-art buildings". 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  9. ^ "Broadmoor". Experience New Orleans. 1995-05-08. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  10. ^ "Best New Architecture - New Orleans Magazine - March 2013 - New Orleans, LA". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  11. ^ "American Institute of Architects New Orleans". Archived from the original on 2013-08-09. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  12. ^ "RE:Awards 2012 - IIDA Delta Regional Chapter". Retrieved 2013-10-02.

Coordinates: 29°56′56″N 90°06′13″W / 29.94875°N 90.10371°W / 29.94875; -90.10371