New plans at NYPL leave millions of books in remote storage while using centrally located research library space for digital services that could be anywhere. As this article shows, this is as short-sighted as their premature and disastrous embrace of CD-ROM technology at the Science Industry and Business Library.
New technology and print can complement one another, as NYPL’s mapmaking program demonstrates. But long term library planning should acknowledge that new media can quickly become obsolete and print books have lasting advantages.
In the 1990s, many of the 42nd Street Library’s reading room tables were equipped with dedicated computer terminals that are increasingly underused as the public shifts towards smaller laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
Over 2 million books were circulated in Mid-Manhattan library in 2014 (not including books used in the library). In their renovation plans, library leaders should commit to keeping as many books on open shelves as possible so that library users can browse and make discoveries. New Yorkers live fast-paced lives and do not want to wait a day or more for a book to arrive from storage.
Books are here to stay, and NYPL should provide quick access to as much of their great collection as possible. Three million more books could be kept on-site at the 42nd Street Library if NYPL would renovate the stacks rather than leaving this amazingly efficient resource empty and unused.
NYPL plans to open upscale cafes at two of its research libraries. The rationale? “It is important that we offer the public what they want and need while they’re in our buildings, often for hours while doing important research,” says NYPL Chief External Relations Officer Carrie Welch.
Ms. Welch seems to have missed the fact that what the public generally needs when doing “important research” is books, and a decent space in which to read them. Both of which are currently missing from the 42nd Street Library. But it’s good to know that NYPL is listening. After years of controversy about NYPL’s crippling of its research facilities, NYPL has got the message. Ms. Welch sums it up: “We have heard from our patrons that they would like refreshments.”