The Committee to Save NYPL is petitioning the Landmarks Preservation Commission to officially designate the Rose Reading Room and other public spaces in the 42nd Street Library as interior landmarks. We need your help! Please sign the petition below and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues.
Preservationists had formally requested these spaces be designated years ago, but their demands were ignored by the city agency charged with protecting our cultural and architectural heritage. With the recent calendaring of the Ambassador Grill and the Waldorf Astoria interiors, we are optimistic that LPC will finally ensure that these cherished rooms will be preserved for posterity.
Former LPC Commissioner R. Michael Brown once remarked that the “story of our lives is written in interiors.” There can be no doubt that few New York City interiors have transformed as many lives as those in the 42nd Street Library. They deserve landmark protection.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
NYPL will present its new designs for the renovation of the Mid-Manhattan Library and hold a discussion with the architects of the project this coming Tuesday. There will be an opportunity to ask questions. The meeting will be:
Tuesday, December 13th, 4:30 PM
Mid-Manhattan Library, 6th Floor
(Fifth Avenue and 40th Street)
We encourage everyone who is interested in the future of the Mid-Manhattan library to attend. Please RSVP at:
Image courtesy of Mecanoo with Beyer Blinder Belle.
We are honored to have been named 2016’s Best Civic Gladfies by the Village Voice:
“By now, everyone from New York Public Library leaders to City Council members agrees that the NYPL’s 2008 decision to sell its Donnell branch to a Chinese luxury-hotel company for a fraction of its value was a big mistake. But the NYPL board’s scheme to transform seven floors of “stacks” in its magnificent 42nd Street research library into a post-book paradise (by shipping millions of volumes to a New Jersey storage facility) so far remains only a semi–fait accompli, thanks to the tireless legal efforts, demonstrations, and petition circulations of the Committee to Save the NYPL and its smaller but no less feisty Brooklyn counterpart, Citizens Defending Libraries. The need for these groups’ hectoring became apparent this summer, when the 300,000-volume Donnell reopened as the slickly designed 53rd Street Library in a basement space a third its former size and with only 20,000 books. Alarmingly, similar moves are afoot at the NYPL’s 115th Street branch and at the Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. So long as members of the city’s real estate and financial communities run our libraries, deals like this will continue to be promoted — and it will be left to grassroots activist groups to bring transparency to the process.”
Image courtesy of The Village Voice.
New York magazine absolutely nails it on the new Donnell replacement library, “a sleek but shrunken pit fitted out with bleachers, bar stools, and a megascreen, plus a smattering of circulating volumes.”
Aptly titled “The New 53rd Street Library Is Nice, Unless You Like to Read Books,” the article goes on to note:
Neither architects nor librarians shaped this branch; a real-estate deal did, one that reserved the cream of the square footage for the hotel and condo above, and sloughed off the leftovers on the public…
This narrow buried amphitheater gives library patrons a split-level vista: above, a rat’s-eye view of the street and passers-by; below, a wide screen playing a promotional slideshow for New York and its libraries. Architects love choreographing such chance urban spectacles, but this one enjoys a special kind of pointlessness…
…the Donnell was a shabby wonderland, crammed with so many circulating books of so many different varieties, that it felt endless. Its sequel feels limited and spare. An abundance of outlets is a wonderful thing, but it does not replace those free experiences that are unique to a public library: browse, borrow, read, repeat.
NYPL views this as the library of the future; read the entire article to understand more fully why this is a terrible idea.
UPDATE: Vanishing New York has just published a review of the replacement Donnell, and they are not happy:
Sleek, stark, and only one-third the size of the old Donnell, the new space is true to the architect’s original fantasy rendering, a bizarre scenario in which people sit on designer bleacher seats, staring blankly into space, not reading books.
We’d like to thank everyone who joined us in protesting the opening of Donnell Library’s shrunken replacement last week. It was a good turn out. The glitzy, stage-managed ribbon-cutting ceremony was moved indoors, but our demonstration received ample coverage in DNAInfo and The Wall Street Journal.
Perhaps the defining take on the sordid affair appeared last week in City Journal, where Nicole Gelinas has written a scathing indictment on the Donnell Library sale.
Here’s a snippet:
The new library branch would be a proud civic achievement in a small, wealthy suburb. But New York is not a small, wealthy suburb. It deserves better. Unlike the Donnell, most of the new underground library has no natural light. Space for books is limited, because of the real constraints of being in a basement that wasn’t the hotel developer’s priority. The library is less than a third of Donnell’s size. What looks like a massive internal space for bookshelves, for example, is an underpinning of the skyscraper above.
The bookshelves that surround that support structure create an illusion of plenty. But it’s just an illusion. The NYPL has dispensed with almost all of the Donnell’s books. Just 20,000 are on site, a mere 7 percent of the previous holdings. Browsing the 53rd Street branch is more like browsing a bookstore that doesn’t have the room or the money to offer an interesting inventory. The Donnell’s specialized holdings in film, music, and foreign language aren’t coming back; the NYPL dispersed them to other branches. Yes, you can order any book or film you want from any branch you want, and pick it up here, quite conveniently. But a library isn’t an Amazon dropbox.
The entire article is a must-read.
Unfortunately, it’s not clear if library officials have learned their lesson. When commenting on Donnell, NYPL President Tony Marx blamed the recession: “None of us foresaw the financial difficulties of 2008 and 2009, which got in the way of our initial plan.” But as Ms. Gelinas points out, the plan was flawed from the very beginning.
By rallying last Monday, we sent a clear message to the leaders of NYPL that the Donnell fiasco must never be repeated. As NYPL moves forward with its renovations to the 42nd Street Library and Mid-Manhattan Library, we will continue to insist on greater public input and transparent decision-making. We’ve seen what happens when libraries ignore their users.
Image courtesy of Citizens Defending Libraries.
After eight years of delays, the replacement for Donnell Library will open next Monday at 10am. If you are free that day, please join us as we remind NYPL officials that the opening of the new (significantly smaller) library is no cause for celebration.
Beloved for its children’s literature and foreign language collection, the Donnell Library was one of NYPL’s most heavily used circulating branches. But in a trial run for the defeated Central Library Plan, Donnell was sold to private developers for a pittance in 2007 and shuttered the following year. The deal was hatched in secret, and no public review preceded the sale.
The new replacement library is less than a third the size of Donnell and has been shoehorned into the basement of a luxury condominium-hotel, where rooms start at $850 per night. The special collections will not be returning.
Unfortunately, we can’t bring back the old Donnell. But with your support, we can prevent further sales of our libraries. Let’s rally to remind library executives and elected officials that public libraries belong to all of us!
Where: 18 West 53rd Street, Manhattan (Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
When: June 27, 2016: 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM
NYPL is not the only New York library emptying its stacks. New York Univiersity’s Bobst Library is removing the stacks from the entire seventh floor to make way for more study space and a remodeled media center.
NYPL has announced the completion of the underground storage facility built when Vartan Gregorian led the Library in the 1980s. CSNYPL has long advocated the use of this space. But even as they fill it with books, questions remain. On-site books, once routinely delivered in fifteen minutes, now take forty-five. And, while boasting of the capacity of the new facility, NYPL refuses to make plans to renovate the stacks where capacity for three million more volumes sits empty and unused. Those books take days to be trucked in from New Jersey.
The best way for a research library to serve its users is to deliver all available information to patrons as quickly as possible. Whenever they have been consulted, patrons have said they want the 42nd Street Library repaired so it can hold its full capacity of 7.5 million books. In the information age, why should we settle for fewer books with longer waiting times?
Image courtesy of Melville House.
We are pleased to announce that the Committee to Save the New York Public Library is one of the recipients of this year’s Grassroots Preservation Awards!
Please join us as we celebrate this great honor at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 6:00 pm.
Given annually by the Historic Districts Council, the city’s leading advocacy group for historic preservation, the award acknowledges the efforts of individuals and groups defending our historic neighborhoods and buildings.
Tickets are available online or at the door.
We hope to see you there!
It turns out the Koch brothers think libraries (or at least government-funded public libraries) are a bad idea. As usual they are throwing their money around, this time dropping the big bucks in a small Illinois town to defeat a bond issue to support the local library – read the full article here. No, this isn’t a parody.
Plainfield IL is trying to raise money for a new library building. The library is currently an anchor for downtown and is a much-loved and heavily used part of the community. They are asking for a 20-year bond and a small increase in property taxes…The Plainfield Library came up with this after years of focus groups, surveys, and public town meetings. The leadership of the library worked closely with community leaders and stakeholders to create a comprehensive plan that would give them cutting edge library services in ways that the community values. This is good old American democracy in action, a public institution needs an update, the community gets involved, a shared vision is formed, people move forward. That is how America is supposed to work.
But that was before a Koch-funded super PAC brought in a team of professional political operatives to shoot down the plan. The wort part of this story? The library lost.
Update: And it’s not just Plainfield, Illinois. It turns out that the Koch brothers are also going after public library systems in Kansas.