Edmund Morris Slams the Central Library Plan

Edmund Morris – Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven – adds his voice against the Central Library Plan:

Sir Norman Foster’s mandate to squash the contents of two New York Public Library branches into the Main Building on Fifth Avenue is a volumetric impossibility made feasible only by the shipping of millions of books, many of them irreplaceable, to storage in Princeton, New Jersey. Researchers hitherto accustomed to a half-hour delay in calling up such books have been assured that in future they will have to wait a mere two days. Their orders will be delivered in the same kind of truck that exploded a week or so ago in the Turnpike State, destroying thousands of items of first-class mail.

Quite aside from the plan’s effects on scholarship, there is the question of mutilation of a revered and magnificent building. As Ada Louise Huxtable pointed out in her last article before dying, this “renovation” (a word the Library’s public relations office has begun to chant like a mantra) would require the demolition and removal of the Carnegie steel stacks that buttress the entire structure – replacing them with a new skeleton conformed to give as much space as possible to internet browsers, earphone junkies, and tourist groups.

New Yorkers can take comfort – of a sort – in the knowledge that somewhere in the Library’s executive vaults there is a 50-page, single-spaced debenture (sure never to be transported to New Jersey) guaranteeing that whatever happens to the Main Building – even if it’s destroyed by an incoming meteorite – what rises in its place will still be named after Stephen A. Schwarzman.

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