Key Questions to Ask at NYPL’s Upcoming Public Meeting

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On March 26th from 6 to 8 pm NYPL is holding a public meeting on their plans for renovating the Mid-Manhattan and 42nd Street Libraries.  The meeting will be in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room on the third floor of the 42nd St. Library. Please sign-up to attend here. Library leaders say they will listen, so make sure you are heard. Ask tough questions and demand honest answers.

Here are just a few questions that need to be answered:

• Why not use the seven floors of currently empty stacks below the Rose Reading Room to keep more books quickly accessible to New Yorkers?

NYPL leadership claims the cost to upgrade the stacks is $46 million and the cost to build out the storage space under Bryant Park is $22 million. But the stacks can hold nearly twice as many books. The cost per book is nearly the same, but the capacity is vastly different. NYPL claims to place a high priority on access to its research collection, but they are willing to settle for onsite storage of 4 million books when there could be 7 million books.

• How will 2.5 million books fit in the lower level of storage under Bryant Park when the identical floor space above it now holds only 1.2 million books?

The 42nd Street Library is a block from Times Square and library administrators are playing a shell game with research books by moving them from place to place, never accounting for how many there are in any location. They have claimed that one floor of the existing storage facility under Bryant Park holds 1.2 million books and that the rest of the 42nd Street Library (without the stacks) holds 300,000 to 400,000 books. Now they claim that building out a second floor under the Park will provide capacity for 4 million books. They must account for the books and where they are stored.

• Will NYPL allow the public to comment on proposed architectural designs for the proposed “Midtown Campus” renovation?

This information should be public so the people can make informed choices. NYPL squandered a staggering $18 million on the secretly developed and now abandoned Central Library Plan but never revealed the Foster + Partners plans to the public. Promised cost estimates for those plans have never been disclosed.

• What is the cost to store and retrieve books stored in Princeton, New Jersey?

Currently, nearly five million NYPL books are stored in ReCAP facilities in New Jersey. They take days to retrieve and require handling at two loading docks and an hour truck trip each way, and NYPL leaders refuse to compare the cost of this complicated, environmentally destructive system to the efficient use of on-site storage.

• If a “Midtown Campus” is planned why abandon SIBL, which was built only a few decades ago at enormous cost?

Based on the recommendations contained in the Center for an Urban Future’s recent report, Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries, SIBL is a model library and allocates a significant portion of library space to quiet study areas, provides access to many computers, and offers career counseling and entrepreneurial services. The building features ample electrical outlets, conference rooms, and an inspiring interior designed by the noted architectural firm Gwathmey Siegel. NYPL plans to fold SIBL’s functions into the 42nd Street Library. If it must be moved, it should be relocated into the Mid-Manhattan building, not the 42nd Street building.

• Does NYPL support interior landmark designation for the Rose Reading Room?

While New York has 117 designated interior landmarks, the Rose Reading Room is not one of them. Although the NYPL administration insists they are responsible stewards of the 42nd Street Library, only landmark designation offers safeguards against insensitive alterations and additions. As we’ve seen with the Central Library Plan, the interests of the NYPL trustees do not always align with preservation of its historic, city owned buildings. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the passage of New York City’s landmarks law, NYPL should formally request interior landmark designation for all the public rooms in the 42nd Street library, including the Gottesman Exhibition Hall, Bill Blass Catalog Room, DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, Celeste Bartos Forum, and other important rooms in the 42nd Street library designed by Carrère and Hastings.

If NYPL is seriously committed to creating open dialogue with the public, they should disclose all the information about renovation projects to city owned buildings. This meeting should be an opportunity to consider all of the alternatives. If there are tough choices, citizens and library users must have access to all the facts.

Please attend this meeting and speak up for the world renowned research collection and the remarkable building that should continue to house it.

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