On September 16th, NYPL announced the selection of Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle as architects for the $300 million renovation of the Mid-Manhattan and 42nd Street Library. Unfortunately, the news came with complete lack of transparency in either the selection process or the renovation plans.
NYPL revealed nothing about what other architects were solicited, how the various applicants planned to approach the project, and why Mecanoo was chosen for the job.
In a recent email sent to users of the 42nd Street Library, Carolyn Broomhead, the Research Community Manager at NYPL, refers to “a comprehensive program plan that will drive the work of the architects.” This program plan, prepared in collaboration with outside consultants Brightspot, has not been made public.
In the interest of greater transparency and to avoid repeating the wasted time and expense of previous design schemes NYPL should allow library patrons and other New Yorkers to read all program documents and examine all proposed plans. In order to solicit greater feedback, appropriate forums should be convened so the public can share comments and concerns about the designs with librarians.
As part of the library’s comprehensive renovation plans for the 42nd Street Library, NYPL must develop a long term strategy for rehabilitating the research stacks. Leaving the stacks bookless benefits no one, especially when off-site storage is so costly.
With over half of the project’s funding being provided by the city taxpayers, the public should be involved in every step of the process. NYPL President Anthony Marx has pledged greater public input, and we will hold NYPL to that promise. Only by engaging in open and sincere dialog can we build a better library for the future.