In 2014, the New York Public Library (N.Y.P.L.) made major revisions to the Central Library Plan (C.L.P.), which it announced on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The N.Y.P.L. has dropped the idea of moving the Mid-Manhattan Library as an organization into the stacks under the Rose Reading Room of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Main Branch), and selling the Mid-Manhattan Library building, located at 455 Fifth Avenue. Rather, the N.Y.P.L. will renovate the Mid-Manhattan Library.
It seems the N.Y.P.L. continues to plan to sell the Science, Industry and Business Library (S.I.B.L.), located at 188 Madison Street at 34th Street. Currently it is open, but many of its research collections are now stored off-site.
Scott Sherman, a Nation contributor who is writing a book critical of the C.L.P., commented on the decision on the W.N.Y.C. radio program The Leonard Lopate Show on Thursday, May 8, 2014 On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Library Journal posted on its Web site an opinion piece by Dr. Marx, “NYPL: Why We’re Changing the Central Library Plan.”
He wrote, in part, “The New York Public Library looked at the changing needs of our patrons… Particularly, we recognized that we needed to improve the programs we offer in midtown…”
Dr. Marx argued the Mid-Manhattan Library, as the busiest branch with 1,400,000 visitors per year (or, more likely people visiting 1,400,000 times per year), “had fallen into disrepair from such heavy use, and offered too little space for the growing demand for classes and programming.” In addition, he found it problematic that over 75% of the Schwarzman Building was inaccessible to the public. “And we needed to find a durable solution for storage and preservation of our research collection, currently vulnerable to decay from inadequate humidity and temperature controls.”
Consequently, the Board of Trustees, developed the C.L.P. in 2007, Dr. Marx explained. As he recounted, it called for “the books [to move] from outdated stacks in the heart of the Schwarzman Building and clear out that space to make room inside for a new Mid-Manhattan library, designed by visionary architect Norman Foster. The plan also called for much more, including the creation of an exciting Education Corridor for young readers… and doubling the work space for scholars and innovators…”
Along the way, the world changed. With the financial collapse of 2008, the economy shifted and the library system faced years of decreasing city funding. The revolution in information technology has radically altered how ideas are accessed and how we can provide educational programs. And the plan to replace the stacks with new public space, after much study, has proven more difficult, less flexible for the future, and more expensive than we had hoped for.
The Library’s trustees… listened to concerns and critics, studied all options and…decided to alter the plan…
But we also know that our goals of a renovated Mid-Manhattan Library, better protection for our research collection, and more access to the Schwarzman Building were the right ones. That’s why we have announced changes to the plan that deliver on those goals at less cost, and with greater flexibility and less risk. Instead of removing the Schwarzman stacks and placing the Mid-Manhattan Library in that space, we’ll renovate the Mid-Manhattan Library at its current site. This renovation will add much-needed computer labs and an adult education space, and an inspiring, comfortable space for browsing our largest circulating collection.
At the Schwarzman Building, in keeping with the original plan, we’ll undertake the most comprehensive renovation in the building’s history, reopening long-closed rooms to the public while leaving the stacks intact. This beautiful, rededicated library will feature more than double the exhibition space, including a Treasures Gallery to showcase our most incredible items, from Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence to Columbus’s 1492 letter to King Ferdinand. The new Education Corridor will create space for students and teachers to engage with our research collections, and researchers will enjoy more space and staff support. And because we will expand and modernize our storage space under Bryant Park, we will have the capacity to ensure that the research collection housed at Schwarzman will be at once better protected and quickly accessible…
The library has never been more heavily used or more deeply needed. Making the right decisions about how to renovate and integrate our midtown campus is just a part of the larger endeavor of positioning the New York Public Library system for the future…
On Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Dr. Marx wrote, in part, in an e-mail to friends of the library, “As you have probably heard, The New York Public Library has decided to pursue an updated plan for renovating its midtown libraries. We made this decision following a review of the plan with fresh eyes — looking at its program, design, and costs, as well as listening to library users and a wide variety of our stakeholders.”
He outlined three goals. First, to create “the circulating library that New Yorkers deserve.” Second, ensure “the preservation of our treasured research collections, keeping them safe and quickly assessable for generations to come.” Third, expand “access to the iconic Schwarzman Building.”
Dr. Marx wrote, “Our new plan will accomplish all three of these goals — renovating the deteriorating Mid-Manhattan Library where it stands and transforming it into an inspiring place… We’ll also be reopening long-closed rooms in our beautiful Schwarzman Building to increase the space open to the public by 50%, while keeping our research collections safe in storage space underneath Bryant Park. These two libraries — renovated, expanded, and mere steps from each other — will promote access to knowledge, education, and opportunity, creating a centralized campus that we think will benefit all of our users.”
And our patrons from throughout the city will benefit from a host of expanded services, including educational programs (new after-school programs, pre-K literacy initiatives, computer skills classes) and increased digital access to books at home. Overall, this plan will be just what all New Yorkers — scholars, students, readers, parents, job seekers, and more — need…
As mentioned in Part X, the N.Y.P.L. already planned to add a floor to the Bryant Park Extension in a project dubbed the “Bryant Park Extension buildout.” In September of 2012, the Board of Trustees approved a few revisions of the C.L.P., one of which was the construction of a second level of storage space underneath Bryant Park Stack Extension (B.P.S.E.). This was to be financed through a gift of $8,000,000 from N.Y.P.L. Trustee Abby S. Milstein and her husband, the real estate developer, financier, and philanthropist Howard P. Milstein.
Last year, the N.Y.P.L. stated that this 30,000-square-foot storage space will hold approximately 1,500,000 volumes. Last year, this project – called the Bryant Park Extension buildout – was expected to be completed this year. A preliminary step before moving any books was adding barcodes to the more than 3,000,000 books and other materials in the research collections that had been stored in the stacks under the Main Branch’s Rose Main Reading Room, the N.Y.P.L. announced on April 29, 2013.
Barcoding the books allows librarians to physically access them faster and it makes it easier for library patrons who want to do research at the Main Branch to go online and determine which texts they want to consult in advance. Next, the N.Y.P.L. staff identified which texts researchers had requested in the last few years and moved those books and other materials to the B.P.S.E.
The N.Y.P.L. stated, “The first step was barcoding… Next, we moved materials that have been requested by researchers in recent years to the existing, modern stacks underneath Bryant Park, where these materials are protected from sunlight in a space with proper humidity and temperature controls. Thus, we have retained onsite the materials most requested by researchers…”
In the meantime, the remaining materials have been moved to off-site storage (in Patterson, New York, in a facility used by other world-class institutions), from which we can deliver requested materials within 24 hours, six days a week.
This last part is at least seemingly a reference to Clancy Moving Systems, Library Relocation & Depository Services in Patterson, New York. Previously, the N.Y.P.L. stated it would move more materials to a facility where it already stored materials, the ReCAP (Research Collections and Preservation Consortium) facility on the Forrestal Campus of Princeton University in in Princeton, New Jersey, which is shared by Princeton University, Columbia University, and the NYPL. To retrieve books from storage at ReCAP, Columbia University and the NYPL have a contracted courier service with the Clancy-Cullen Moving & Storage Company, which is based in The Bronx, New York.
Clancy’s advertises, “Our client libraries – academic, public, special and corporate – count on our extensive relocation experience to ensure the project is done right, regardless of project size, scope, or locations… Specially trained in library sciences and project management, our team delivers impeccable customer service to address every detail of your relocation or depository project… Short or long term, your collection is protected by our depository space security system, environment control technology and full sprinkler capabilities.”