NYPL: Big Spenders…. in New Jersey


The three million books that were secretly moved from the 42nd Street Library stacks are still located 50 miles away at the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP) in Princeton, New Jersey. Library leaders have sought to justify the empty stacks as a cost-saving measure. They claim upgrading climate controls to the seven floors would cost $46 million.

But how much does it cost to build and maintain off-site storage at ReCAP in New Jersey? A lot, it seems.

According to Tax Form 990 filed by the New York Public Library, NYPL has paid $20,067,805 to ReCAP and $3,267,805 to Clancy Relocation & Logistics (Clancy Moving Systems, Inc.) over the last three years. A total of $23,335,395 has already been spent on off-site storage, a sum which does not include the cost of packing and transporting materials back and forth to 42nd Street so they can be used.

Here’s a breakdown of the $23,335,395 spent over the last few years:


2014: $8,533,420
2013: $10,161,203
2012: $1,322,967    

Total: $20,067,590

Clancy Moving/Storage (removing books and additional storage)

2014: $1,710,791
2013: $1,557,014
2012: $0                   

Total: $3,267,805

Currently, NYPL stores nearly five million books in ReCAP. Although NYPL expects to complete the expansion of its underground book storage below Bryant Park in 2016, the expansion aims to provide additional storage for only 2.5 million items, meaning a substantial portion of the approximately 8.5 million volume research collection will remain in New Jersey. Upgrading the climate controls in the stacks would allow NYPL to keep 7 million volumes at the 42nd Street Library.

The per book retrieval cost for items stored in New Jersey is hard to find, but surely handling at four loading docks and two trips on the New Jersey Turnpike for each round trip costs much more than the efficient elevator ride from stacks to reading room. NYPL must disclose these costs so any new plans for the 42nd Street Library can take advantage of operating efficiencies embedded in the existing building.

In the same period, NYPL shelled out $9,478,658 to Fosters & Partners for plans now abandoned and $34.5 million to the Church Pension Group for administrative office space at 445 Fifth Avenue.

NYPL’s recent Midtown Campus Renovation survey revealed, the “vast majority of respondents list quiet spaces and the availability of materials” as their top priority. The costly reliance on an off-site storage model that is wasteful and inefficient must be re-examined. Updating the stacks now so more books can be stored in the 42nd Street Library will address the priorities of library patrons and pay dividends in the future.

Illustration courtesy of Simon Verity.
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