Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 7th & 8th 2014- Our Press Release and Breaking News Headlines As NYPL Does About-Face Abandoning Its Central Library Plan

NYPL's scrapped library plan is front page of the New York Times today, front page and above the fold in Wall Street Journal's interior section. Far too much news to keep up with? Articles on Facebook and they are also on Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Yes, it's true!  The New York Public Library has done an about-face abandoning its Central Library Plan. 

Headlines have been breaking and the news flowing so fast it is hard to keep up.  You can do some one-stop shopping on this page to make sure you haven't missed links to the important coverage.  Headlines appear below followed by our press release respecting what we have accomplished.  We are also providing statements about events from the New York Public Library (NYPL) about events, both internally circulated and on the web.

 •    New York Times: Art & Design- Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark, by Robin Pogrebin, May 7, 2014.
In a striking about-face, the New York Public Library has abandoned its much-disputed renovation plan to turn part of its research flagship on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street into a circulating library and instead will refurbish the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library, several library trustees said.

"When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget," Anthony W. Marx, the library's president, said on Wednesday.

    * * *

The change in course comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares to announce his final budget on Thursday. The library is still expected to receive the $150 million that had been allotted to the project under the Bloomberg administration, but the library now hopes to use it for other purposes after discussions with the city.

Mr. de Blasio had expressed skepticism about the library’s renovation plan during the mayoral campaign and recently met with Mr. Marx to discuss the city’s interest . . .

* * *

This shift is something of a defeat for the library, which had already paid the British architect Norman Foster $9 million . .

* * *
. . Now the library hopes to complete Mid-Manhattan's gut renovation in stages, so that part of the building can stay open during construction.

* * *

Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, released a statement commending the library on reworking its plan.

"It always takes courage," she said, "to change your mind."

 •    Wall Street Journal: NY Culture- New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans- The Controversial Renovation Plan Prompted Three Lawsuits, by Jennifer Maloney, May 7, 2014.
Its decision came amid three lawsuits and skepticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was under pressure from his supporters to claw back $150 million in city funding for the project.

The library on Wednesday said that an independent cost analysis it commissioned showed that the renovation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman building would have cost significantly more than the $300 million it originally projected.

* * * *

The so-called Central Library Plan prompted an outcry from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, preservationists, community groups and politicians.

Many took issue with the library's plan to move millions of research volumes to New Jersey, a plan the library later dialed back. Others objected to the removal of stacks that in 1911 represented an architectural innovation: They not only held the books but provided structural support for the renowned Rose Main Reading Room above.

* * *

Under the new plan, the stacks will be preserved but will remain empty . . .

* * *

"It's the right thing to do," said [New York real estate mogul] Marshall Rose, a library board member who spearheaded the renovation plan. "Time, economics, there's a whole series of reasons. And it's a different world."

* * *

David Levering Lewis, a two-time Pulitzer-winning biographer who was a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, called the library's reversal "a sensible abandonment of their insane grand design."

But he and others questioned the decision to keep the stacks empty, rather than install new climate controls and use the stacks to hold books.

"It seems like a real waste of this magnificent machine for storing and retrieving books not to do that," said Charles Warren, an architect and co-author of a book on Carrère and Hastings, the architects of the library's flagship building.
 •    The decision about ending the Central Library Plan in large part because of its extreme and disproportionate costs came a little more than a week after a City Council hearing about the role of the NYC Department of Design and Construction in overseeing library construction and renovation costs where there was testimony about how the costs of the Central Library Plan were significantly out of line (by many multiples) with the typical costs for such projects even at the high end.  For more on this see Citizens Defending LibrariesApril 28, 2014 City Council Subcommittee on Libraries Hearing: Testimony By Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee To Save the New York Public Library- More.

 •    The Leonard Lopate Show: New York Public Library Abandons Its Renovation Plans
Thursday, May 08, 2014
Scott Sherman, contributing writer at The Nation, discusses the recent decision by the New York Public Library to abandon its controversial plans to remodel the 42nd Street building.

 •    The Nation:  NYPL Shelves Plan to Gut Central Library, After public outcry, the library's $300 million project to demolish stacks and sell off branch libraries has collapsed.  By Scott Sherman,
May 7, 2014.
In November 2011, The Nation revealed the details of a radical plan conceived by the board of trustees of the New York Public Library: the removal of 3 million books from seven levels of historic book stacks beneath the Rose Reading Room, the subsequent demolition of those stacks and the insertion therein of a modern computer library designed by the British architect Norman Foster. How would the NYPL pay for such an undertaking? By selling two of its nearby libraries to private interests. It was a Bloomberg-era scheme conceived in absolute secrecy by the trustees, with assistance from McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen, which was paid $2.7 million. The NYPL's librarians were almost entirely excluded from the process; and not a single public meeting preceded the creation of the plan in 2007.

* * **

Credit for the NYPL retreat goes to the following: three vibrant citizen groups, the Committee to Save the NYPL, Citizens Defending Libraries and Library Lovers League, whose members worked around the clock for more than a year, and whose efforts prompted mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio to oppose the CLP at a July press conference in front of the Library; Micah Kellner, a New York State assemblyman who held a crucial public hearing in 2013 at which Marx received rough treatment, and who toiled behind the scenes to unearth details of the plan; and two exceptionally fine writers: Ada Louise Huxtable, whose stirring Wall Street Journal critique of the CLP was written from her deathbed; and New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, who not only demolished the CLP on the front page of the Times in January 2013 but kept the issue alive on Twitter and his regular Times column.

Has the battle over the CLP truly ended? In an e-mail to his staff today, Marx declared: "No final decisions have been reached." . . .
 •    Melville House: In a major reversal, NYPL to let the stacks live and keep Mid-Manhattan,
by Kelly Burdick, May 8, 2014
. . . The news that the library has called off its plan has come as something of a shock to the library's critics, but the scrapping of the controversial plan has long seemed inevitable for at least one reason: the math never worked.

As the novelist and critic Caleb Crain detailed in an essay called "Finding numbers for Plan B," a close consideration of the cost estimates behind the library's plan never really made sense. . .

* * *

A post by Scott Sherman at The Nation questions the cost that the renovation plans have incurred the library thus far. . . .  It would seem that the library's leadership must openly account for these costs, as well as for the deep secrecy with which it has operated. . .
 •    Melville House: Critics of the Central Library Plan react to New York Public Library's change of course, by Claire Kelley, May 8, 2014

In a major reversal on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the New York Public Library's Central Library Plan to sell off the Mid-Manhattan Library and destroy the historic stacks would not go forward as originally announced.
* * *

While the NYPL has not issued a formal statement about the developments (NYPL Vice President of Communications Ken Weine did not respond to a request for comment), there are some indications that the new plan for books at the 42nd Street main library may not allow them to be accessible as many had hoped.

* **

While some are cautious until further details emerge, those who had spoken out and advocated to protect the library buildings reacted with surprise, relief, and resolve to the news. In addition to the new tenure of Mayor Bill DiBlasio and an independent cost analysis of the Central Library Plan, it was the outcry from the public- including protests from scholars, architects, designers, writers and activists, as well as four pending lawsuits-that apparently convinced the library administration and board of trustees to change their minds. We owe these heroes our gratitude for their tireless work in this fight.

"We see this as a victory for the public, for common sense and for the preservation of our public assets.  It shows how important it is to shed a bright light on these deals: The public was always opposed to this Central Library Plan, virtually unanimously, once they understood the facts. Too bad we were not in time to save Donnell, but now there are more libraries to save, SIBL (or what remains thereof), Brooklyn Heights, Pacific Street, Clinton Hill, the Northern Manhattan libraries, the BPL's plan to "leverage" all the real estate it owns.  As much of a victory that we hope this will ultimately prove to be, we can't rest on our laurels because there is no assurance our other libraries can be saved without hard work.  The good thing is that abandonment of this wastefully expensive plan frees up hundreds of millions of dollars that can be spent to go a lot further for other libraries around the city, hopefully in all the boroughs." -Michael D. D. White, Citizens Defending Libraries
 •    Brooklyn Heights Blog: NYPL About Face on 42nd Street May Impact Brooklyn Heights Library, by Michael Randazzo on May 8, 2014.
Michael D.D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries . . was confident about the decision's impact on public libraries throughout the city, including the BPL's Cadman Plaza branch.

"I think it [the NYPL's decision] is absolutely appropriate and the thing that we should be doing," Mr. White said in a telephone interview. "With the abandonment of this plan we are not selling libraries or shrinking them and getting rid of books to the same extent we were."

The NYPL's plan to fund their grand 42nd Street project by selling off the Mid-Manhattan library and the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) echos the BPL's proposal to sell its Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branches to raise capital funds for other BPL sites. The BPL recently backed away from selling the Pacific branch, but has fielded proposals from seven developers for a residential building on the Brooklyn Heights branch site that would contain a substantially smaller library.

White and his supporters have challenged both the BPL and the NYPL, and the long-time Brooklyn Heights resident sees parallels in his fights with the city's two largest public libraries. "The most important thing was to bring to light the fact that the public was always vehemently opposed to the plans once they understood the underlying facts," White said about CDL's public and social media protests. "The other thing that we did was to make clear that the fates of all the other libraries in the city were interlinked and that it wasn't just the Central Library Plan where libraries were being sold and shrunk."

Saying that he had "qualms" about the Mayor's decision to allow $150 million to remain at the NYPL's discretion, White suggested that "Brooklyn and Queens should have a claim on some of that money-money that was boondoggle to begin with. The fact that everything in the Central Library Plan was going to cost a phenomenal amount isn't a reason to be sending all that money to the NYPL which only serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.". . .
Respecting the Wall Street Journal article that follows, the author, Jennifer Malony tweeted: The NYPL declined to let us photograph its empty stacks for this story on its empty stacks.

 •    Wall Street Journal:  NY Region- In New York Public Library's New Plan, the Stacks Stay...Empty-  Books Will Be Housed in an Expanded Climate-Controlled Storage Space Under Bryant Park.  By Jennifer Maloney, May 8, 2014

Scholars, preservationists and community activists are celebrating the New York Public Library's decision this week to preserve, rather than demolish, the century-old book stacks in its flagship Fifth Avenue building.
But one part of the library's new plan has left people scratching their heads: The stacks won't hold any books.

* * *

"Stacks without books," said David Levering Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit opposing the stacks' destruction. "Isn't this pretty Kafka-esque?"

* * *

The library spent $18 million from 2008 to 2014 on the renovation plan.

* * *

Many who fought the renovation plan say they will now push for the library to use the stacks for their original function-as the nerve center for a building designed to house books.

"It's doable. You can protect your books," said Annalyn Swan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who was a plaintiff in two of the lawsuits. "Didn't they learn anything from the first time? This is a prime example of where public input should start."

Other prominent research libraries have renovated their stacks. The Library of Congress over the past few decades has been upgrading fire-suppression systems in its stacks. A spokeswoman estimated the cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

In Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is restoring- and opening to the public-a closed book-stack area as part of a broader renovation. Because the area can't be fireproofed, it will be able to hold no more than 199 people at a time.
 •    City Journal: Overdue Decision- The New York Public Library shelves a controversial renovation plan, by Stephen Eide, May 8, 2014

In explaining its decision. . . the New York Public Library claimed to have both overestimated and underestimated its powers. . .   the library will instead renovate the Mid-Manhattan branch, an alternative it had long dismissed as impractical. We may never know the full story behind the library's motivations for shelving a plan whose justification was never clear to begin with.

* * *

Some have interpreted the library's acknowledgment that the critics were right as a sign of a more inclusive, post-Bloomberg era.
 •    Daily News: Stacks to stay after New York Public Library halts plan to transform historic branch
The NYPL is abandoning plans to turn its iconic branch from a research facility into a circulating library, which would have required the demolition of historic book stacks under the landmark building's Rose Reading Room,  by Barbara Ross , Corky Siemaszko, May 7, 2014.
The New York Public Library has pulled the plug on its planned stack attack.

* * *

The NYPL's change of course comes a day before Mayor de Blasio, who was not a supporter of the scheme, is supposed to unveil his final budget.
 •    New York Post: New York Public Library scraps $300M expansion* plan, by Jamie Schram, May 7, 2014.
(* The plan actually was a plan for substantial shrinakge and sell-off of assets and a conversion of the library’s intended purpose.- The Post headline's use of the word "expansion" falls into the trap of the NYPL’s Orwellian PR nonsense)
The New York Public Library has dumped a plan to convert its iconic research branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street into a lending library, a move that would have dismantled century-old subterranean stacks to make room for a massive atrium, officials said Wednesday.

Library brass abandoned the ambitious $300 million project after it drew howls of protest and a slew of lawsuits seeking to block the relocation of more than a million volumes to a New Jersey storage facility.
 •    Daily News (editorial): A reversal for the books- New York Public Library's overdue plan expires, May 8, 2014.
. . .  Remember the beautiful, light-filled renderings commissioned, for $9 million, from famed British architect Sir Norman Foster? Remember how fantastic it was all going to be, as indefatigably touted by NYPL boss Tony Marx?

. . .  88 miles of cast-iron and steel bookshelves will someday soon hold nothing but cobwebs, once books move to new underground storage. The library can't live with them - because they aren't properly climate- and humidity-controlled - and it can't remove them. Because, well, that's apparently just too complex and pricey.. .

* * *

Was the sudden turnabout because of change-resistant protesters who absurdly howled that the renovations were an attack on scholarship?

Was it because of four lawsuits?

Because Bill de Blasio, who has been deeply skeptical of the plan, became mayor?

Or was it because of fatally shortsighted planning by the library that failed to take rising costs into account?

Couldn't be. Couldn't be because of that.
 •    Gothamist: NY Public Library Backs Down From $300 Million "Vegas"-Style Renovation Plan, Jen Chung, May 7, 2014.
Sir Norman Foster was the architect behind the renovation plans; Foster told the Times, "Obviously I respect the decision of the trustees and whoever's been involved in the decision. If I have any kind of sadness on the thing - besides obviously not having the project going ahead and having spent a huge amount of passion on the project with colleagues - it is that the proposals have never been revealed, and there hasn't really been a debate by those involved . . .

* * *

Computer programmer Matthew Zadrozny, whose protest against the NYPL's renovation plans gained noticed after Humans of New York featured him, told us, "I applaud the NYPL for courageously stepping in the right direction and look forward to inventing the future of the library with them. This is a good day for New York."
 •    Curbed: New York Public Library Abandons $300M Renovation Plans, May 7, 2014, by Jessica Dailey
Sorry, Norman Foster, but your plan for a mindboggling makeover of the main branch of the New York Public Library is no longer needed. . . A variety of factors to the decision, but the strong opposition by the community and many scholars played a significant part, as did the four lawsuits filed against the library and the fact that the renovation was likely going to cost more than the projected $300 million.
WNYC News: NY Public Library Scraps $300 Million Renovation, by Thalia Beaty, May 07, 2014.
In an abrupt change, the New York Public library announced it was dropping its controversial plan to move 1.5 million books from its flagship Fifth Avenue branch to New Jersey, and turn the space into a four-level atrium overlooking Bryant Park.

Instead, library president Tony Marx said that they would rebuild the Mid-Manhattan circulating library across the street. . . ..

Many library-goers were relieved. "I depend on it and having the materials onsite is important to me," said post-doctoral student Molly Pulda. "If the library is going to be for everybody, that needs to include scholars as well."
 •    Wall Street Journal/AP: NY library shelves revamp, won't move 1.5M books, Associated Press, May 7, 2014.
The plan had drawn widespread opposition from scholars and was the target of four lawsuits.

Library president Tony Marx didn't detail the reasons for the change in plans but said library officials and New York City officials are discussing alternatives.

* * *

The plan involved closing and selling two midtown branch libraries.

* * *

Scholars complained that moving so many books would have created hardships for researchers.

"I was not happy with so many of the books being off site, and I think many people weren't," said Antony Grafton, a Princeton University historian who consulted with the library on the project.

* * *
Grafton praised the library for changing its plans.

"I think it's really remarkable to see an institution of this size change course, as it's doing," he said.
 •    Architect’s Newspaper Blog: New York Public Library Closes the Book on Foster + Partners Renovation Plan, by Alan G. Brake, May 7, 2014.
The New York Public Library has canceled its controversial renovation plan by Foster + Partners, according to a report in the New York Times. The plan, which would have removed the historic book stacks and turned the non-lending research library into a circulating library, was widely opposed by scholars, writers, and architectural historians.

* * *

The Huxtable Initiative (named for the late Ada Louise Huxtable), a group of architects, critics, and historians opposed the Central Library Plan, released the following statement:
 •    Epoch Times: Victory for Manhattan's Midtown Libraries, by Genevieve Belmaker, May 9, 2014.
The change was a hopeful note in an ongoing battle of ideals over best practices for the city's libraries. It also came just one day before Mayor Bill de Blasio, in his first executive budget released Thursday, promised to end the annual "budget dance" that has left libraries perpetually scrambling for funds.

"We're in a much better place with this mayor than with the previous administration," said City Council member Costa Constantinides of Queens on Thursday. Constantinides is chair of the sub-committee on libraries. "This mayor has taken out a lot of the budget dance."

Though the City Council is still trying to restore $65 million to make sure all libraries are open 6 days a week, the prospects of success are good.

According to Constantinides, the difference with the new administration is simply that they aren't playing games with public assets like libraries.

* * *

Community Board 5, which supported NYPL's original plans, also issued a statement Thursday saying that it is waiting for a sit-down briefing about changes. The community board had previously stood behind the renovation plans.

* * *

. . the cost of the renovation would have been 20 times higher than the citywide average, according to the city's Department of Design and Construction. The proposed renovation would have cost about $3,500 per square foot, or about $350 million for the total renovation. The average cost of library renovations runs about $660 per square foot.
As for the library's still-uncertain future, Constantinides has newfound optimism about the road ahead.
(More on Department of Design and Construction and costs here. )

 •    Meshalim/Amthal/Exiemplos- Notes from the Life of a Medievalist: Rhetorical Devices for NYPL Trustees, by Sarah Pearce, May 9, 2014
Dear Dr. Marx and trustees of the New York Public Library,

I was so pleased to learn of your decision to scrap the Central Library Plan, the proposed renovation that would have gutted the main branch of the research library. I was surprised and dismayed to learn, however, that the stacks will be left in place simply as architectural support for the reading rooms, with the books that were removed to storage sites under Bryant Park and across the river in New Jersey remaining where they are, in part because the removal was done so hastily that things are now badly out of order and there is no inventory of what is where and what items have been damaged in transit.

Please allow me to explain the rhetorical devices at play in the slogan "save our stacks" that appear to have created this confusion, in the hopes that a clearer, plainer communication of the issues at stake will lead to a quick resolution and a restoration of the books to the library:

1) Synecdoche is a rhetorical device that names an object or an idea with its most . ..

* * *
2) Metonymy is a rhetorical device that substitutes the name of an idea with an object or concept that is . .

* * *

I hope that this clears up . . .
 •    The Guardian: New York Public Library abandons controversial renovation plans- Campaigners shocked and elated as plans to turn iconic Fifth Avenue research institution into a lending library are axed, by Jason Farago, May 7, 2014.

The move is a substantial and unexpected U-turn for the country's second-largest library system, which for two years faced concerted protests from employees, library patrons, and architectural preservationists but insisted that its proposals were the only way forward.

* * *

The shift is also a victory - if perhaps an accidental one - for Bill de Blasio, the city's new mayor, who campaigned against the renovations during last year's municipal election. In his previous role as New York's public advocate, de Blasio joined demonstrators on the steps of the NYPL to oppose the Central Library Plan.
 •    The New York Observer: NYPL Dumps Much-Maligned 42nd Street Renovation Plan, by Kim Velsey, May 7, 2014.
In an unexpected turn of events, the New York Public Library has abandoned a controversial plan to renovate the main branch of the library on 42nd Street, a move that would have hollowed out the core of the structure, removing the historic research stacks underneath the main reading room and replacing them with an airy public space and circulating library.

* * *
In an unexpected turn of events, the New York Public Library has abandoned a controversial plan to renovate the main branch of the library on 42nd Street, a move that would have hollowed out the core of the structure, removing the historic research stacks underneath the main reading room and replacing them with an airy public space and circulating library.

* * *

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who had criticized the previous plan, praised the news, writing in a statement that the library was "one of the crown jewels of our city and I'm extremely pleased they listened to the public and decided to shelve their Central Library Plan. The new course of action keeps intact the research mission of the Central Library and allows resources to be devoted to the renovation of the Mid-Manhattan branch, which at 1.5 million visitors a year is the most popular of the circulating branches."
 •    Gawker: The New York Times Declares War on the New York Public Library, by Tom Scocca, May 7, 2014.
The New York Public Library has abandoned its plan to hollow out its central building and eliminate its research stacks. It was undone by critical and public opposition, and possibly by the fact that the whole scheme-for which Sir Norman Foster took home $7.9 million regardless-was structurally unfeasible.

* * *

This plan from the New York Public Library to have Sir Norman Foster gut its beloved central building and rework it, getting rid of the pesky "books" there in the process, all in the name of modernization and The People and prudent money-management-
 •    Christian Science Monitor: New York Public Library cancels renovation plans, by Husna Haq, May 8, 2014.
Here's proof that the public cares about public libraries: thanks to passionate public protests and political pressure, the New York Public Library, the country's second-largest library system, announced it is abandoning plans to renovate its flagship Fifth Ave. location.

* * * *

For two years, the much-disputed $300 million revamp drew opposition across the board, from employees, patrons, architectural preservationists, and even notable authors and politicians, including Salman Rushdie, Francine Prose, Junot Diaz, and New York mayor Bill de Blasio. It was also the target of four lawsuits accusing the library of "endangering its purpose as a research institution" and "damaging the architectural integrity" of the flagship Fifth Ave. beaux arts landmark.
 •    Architectural Record: New York Public Library Drops Controversial Building Project, by Fred A. Bernstein, May 9, 2014.
It's typical for a public institution to announce a big building project with fanfare. But when the same project is dropped, the institution may invoke its right to remain silent.

That's what happened with a plan to turn part of the New York Public Library (NYPL), at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, into a public lending library.

* * *

. . . the effort to stop the plan was multipronged: it included protests by authors, lawsuits by citizens' groups, and campaigns by architects. Among the most effective organizers was Charles Warren, an architect and the author of a book on Carrere and Hastings, who helped found the Committee to Save the New York Public Library. Reacting to the turnaround, Warren said the battle isn't over yet. The NYPL has already emptied the building's original cast iron and steel stacks, and plans to keep them empty, claiming they cannot be fireproofed. To Warren, the real victory will come when the stacks are returned to their original use. "They're part of the perfect machine that is the 42nd Street library," he said. "We need to bring the books back."
Once upon a time the New York Times ran a front page story extolling sale of libraries and schools as a good idea.  Now the Times praises the demise of the NYPL's CLP selling and shrinking libraries as being "common sense."
  •    New York Times (editorial): Common Sense at the Library- by The Editorial Board, May 13, 2014.
There will be no hybrid lending-and-research library behind those stone lions on Fifth Avenue, no towering glass atrium looking out on Bryant Park. The dumpy Mid-Manhattan Library, across the street, will not be sold. No books will be banished to New Jersey.

What will happen instead, according to the library: A more modest, cheaper, quicker and, by the looks of it, smarter plan. . . .
  •    Library Journal: NYPL Ditches Controversial Renovation Plans in Midtown Manhattan- by Ian Chant, May 13, 2014.
"By more than doubling the storage capacity on site underneath Bryant Park, we can provide adequate humidity and temperature conditions for the research collection at less than half the cost-$24 million less-of doing so in the central stacks," NYPL president and CEO Anthony Marx to LJ in an email. "That's $24 million more to hire library staff and to buy books."

Warren, however questions whether even expanded storage in nearby Bryant Park will be able to accommodate the entire collection, something he says is a key to the branch continuing to function as it was intended, with even rarely requested books on hand for perusal by scholars and researchers. "The collection is not a best seller list," said Warren. "It's a deep, rich compendium of the world's knowledge, and scholars need access to those books."

Warren also levied a familiar criticism at the new plan-that the process that went into creating it lacked transparency and public input, saying that, as with the initial plan, NYPL representatives are "just revealing what it is they've decided to do, rather than discussing with critics and the public what they want to do."
  •    The New Yorker: The New York Public Library Comes Around, by Caleb Crain, May 12, 2014.
The New Yorker: May 12, 2014.
It takes time to get a book from New Jersey into Manhattan, and if a researcher has to wait a day or two to see a new text some of the serendipity goes out of research. If a researcher's deadline is tomorrow, a book that he can't see until the day after is of no use to him. Other aspects of the plan worried me, too. I was saddened to think that a classic, century-old building was going to be radically altered, and I was unconvinced that the finances added up (by 2012, the cost estimate had jumped to three hundred million dollars), or that finances ruled out alternatives as decisively as the administrators were then arguing.

* * *

Fortunately, Warren, Scott, Katz, and others continued to agitate, and they and other activists formed several new groups-including the Committee to Save the New York Public Library, Citizens Defending Libraries, and the Library Lovers' League-to protest the library's plans. Though I stopped following the story closely, I was aware that these groups were holding rallies on the library steps, making posters, passing out flyers, filing lawsuits, and meeting with the city's political leaders. I noticed when the Facebook page of Humans of New York featured a photograph of the activist Matthew Zadrozny eating his chicken lunch out of a tin on the library steps; in the caption, Zadrozny championed the preservation of the stacks. The picture went viral, making Zadrozny the closest thing the campaign got to a Jackie Onassis.

* * *

As a matter of economics, the decision to leave the shelves empty may be eminently rational, but to many people it doesn't feel quite right, if only because it's hard to believe that the library's leaders would ever have chosen to empty the stacks if they hadn't been planning to knock them down. In my conversation with Marx, and in a follow-up e-mail exchange, I tried to kick the tires a little. I was told that . . .
  •    Pew Internet: "Stack attack"? The NYPL controversy and the future of public libraries, by Kathryn Zickuhr, May 13, 2014.
The NYPL's situation is more complicated than a "books versus digital" debate, and it's worth noting that the historic stacks of books in question were not open to the public to begin with (researchers would put in requests for books, which would be mechanically retrieved but could not leave the building). But public libraries across the country are grappling with similar issues of how central their collections of books should be as they strive to add digital services, expand learning resources, and serve as all-purpose community spaces.

Borrowing print books and browsing the stacks are still the two most popular activities among recent library visitors, but Americans value libraries as internet access points and general gathering spaces as well: 77% of Americans say that it is very important for public libraries to provide free access to computers and the internet, and 59% say that libraries should "definitely" create more comfortable spaces for reading, working, and relaxing at the library.

* * *

As the accompanying charts show, many Americans support a wide range of library resources, from free literacy programs for children to interactive learning experiences-as well as creating separate spaces in the library to accommodate these different types of services. For their part, libraries across the country are experimenting with new and innovative services in order to meet the particular needs of their communities.

Yet even as many Americans embrace the idea of a library experience that offers a wider variety of services and resources, most are wary of deemphasizing print books' central place. Our research has found that Americans are less enthusiastic about automating the majority of library services or moving most services online, and even fewer are willing to sacrifice books for other services: Less than 20% of Americans say . . .
  •    Historic Districts Council: New York Public Library Drops Plan to Destroy Book Stacks- Details for Renovations Still Unclear, by Historic Districts Council, May 12, 2014.
. . What exactly is going to happen next is still to be determined, but it is clear that the Library has committed to thinking about preservation and reuse, rather than purging and real estate.  As Gale Brewer said, "It always takes courage to change your mind".  That's courage we can applaud.

And while we're handing out applause; congratulations to the Committee to Save the New York Public Library, the Citizens Defending Libraries and the Library Lovers League.  These volunteer organizations and their leaders and supporters pulled off the seeming impossible - they faced down the giant and they won.

The Brian Lehrer Show: The NYPL Charts a New Course, May 12, 2014.
Last week, the New York Public Library announced that it was abandoning a controversial plan to renovate its flagship midtown building. Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, discusses the decision, and what comes next for New York's libraries.*
[* The most important part of this are the comments on the show segment page and the phoned in comments from our supporters.  The exchanges between Lehrer and Marx alone are apt to be deceptive or misinterpreted unless the listener listen carefully and critically.]

  •    Wall Street Journal: The Huxtable New York Public Library- In gratitude to the woman who thwarted a misguided renovation, by Eric Gibson, May 14, 2014.
Ms. Huxtable's was one of the first comprehensive critiques to appear in the mainstream media, and it didn't so much run as detonate. At a stroke it shifted the ground of the debate from the library's "What" to the critics' "Why?"-galvanizing the opposition and establishing itself as the touchstone for all subsequent discussions of the issue, whatever side you were on. It is still talked about.

It's worth noting that Ms. Huxtable determinedly pursued the story over several months in the teeth of escalating illness and Nixonian levels of stonewalling by library officials. A few days after her article appeared, she entered the hospital for the last time. She died on Jan. 7, 2013, at age 91.

* * * *

We can be thankful the library trustees have come to their senses, but they need to do one thing more: rename the Schwarzman building in honor of . . .
Library Journal: NYPL: Why We're Changing the Central Library Plan | Opinion, By Anthony Marx on May 13, 2014.
. . the plan to replace the stacks with new public space, after much study, has proven more difficult, less flexible for the future, and more expensive than we had hoped for.

* * * *

Making the right decisions about how to renovate and integrate our midtown campus is just a part of the larger endeavor of positioning the New York Public Library system for the future-. . .

  •    NYPL: NYPL Statement On The 42nd Street Library Renovation- New York Public Library President Tony Marx (May 7, 2014).
When the facts change the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget.

* * *

Instead of removing the central stacks and placing the Mid-Manhattan Library in that space, we are proposing to renovate Mid-Manhattan Library at its current site.

* * *

. . . We look forward to discussing our revised plan with our partners in government, library stakeholders and the public.
* * * *
Here is the Press Release we issued with our attorney in the the lawsuits:



    Yesterday, after 10 months of litigation that included three lawsuits, two temporary restraining orders, a preliminary injunction and another three Article 78 proceedings, the President and Board of Trustees of the New York Public Library succumbed to the inevitable and scrapped their “Central Library Plan” to gut the Central Branch and close two satellite branches.  Reconfiguration of the Central Branch would have permanently displaced more than 3 Million rare books and other historic research materials, as well as required the demolition and removal of seven stories of Carnegie Iron and Steel Bookstacks, which are generally considered the metaphorical spine and soul of the Central Branch.

    The Central Library Plan has been the subject of controversy since its inception.  Academics, Pulitzer Prize winning authors, National Book Award winners, Nobel Laureates, and preservationists of every stripe have complained that the Central Library Plan would hamper research, disfigure the beautiful Central Branch – a New York City and National Landmark -- and alter its mission.

    News of the NYPL’s abandonment of the Central Library Plan drew swift approval from all quarters.  Charles D. Warren, an architect and historian who co-authored the preeminent two-volume study on the architects who designed the Central Branch, said that he was “both thrilled and relieved that reason and judgment triumphed over useless novelty.”  Warren further noted that abandonment of the Plan ensures that the Central Library can “continue to fulfil the grand civic mission that its founders envisioned for it more than a century ago.”

    Michael Hiller of Hiller, PC, the law firm that brought five of the six cases challenging the Central Library Plan, commented that “this outcome is a victory, not only for those who brought the lawsuits challenging the Plan, but for everyone who relies on the New York Public Library, including its various branches, every day.”  Echoing Mayor DeBlasio’s call to action during his mayoral campaign, Hiller also noted that by abandoning the Central Library Plan, the Trustees “have ensured that the City’s most precious public assets won’t be sold off to private real estate interests.”

    Preservationist Christabel Gough, a plaintiff in five of the six lawsuits, remarked that “the design of the Library is a paragon of architectural form fulfilling a great civic function. The Carnegie stacks must survive, but they must go back to work.”  Ms. Gough proceeded to “call on the [Library] trustees to consider restoring and modernizing the climate control equipment installed in the 1980s under the guidance of Mrs. Vincent Astor, so that the bulk of the research collection can return to its original home.”

    Carolyn McIntyre, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a 17,000 member grass roots organization which spearheaded three of the legal cases, was more cautious in her assessment, noting that, “while we are obviously elated that the Central Library Plan has been scrapped, we still have plenty of work to do to preserve and protect branches in Brooklyn, Queens and other areas of New York City.”  Ms. McIntyre indicated that her organization will “continue the fight to ensure that libraries play the vital role of informing our citizenry that our democracy surely demands.”

Contact:    Michael S. Hiller (Hiller, PC) (646- area code) 408-5995 (mhiller@hillerpc.com)
        Charles Warren (212- area code) 689-0907
        Christabel Gough (646- area code) 509-4944       
        Carolyn McIntyre (917- area code) 757-6542
* * *
 •    NYPL: Statement from NYPL President Anthony Marx to all NYPL staff when Times article broke: Subject: [NYPLStaff] Update on the 42nd Street Renovation, Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:36 PM
Dear Colleagues,

I write with an update on the 42nd Street Renovation.  Several months ago, we shared with staff and externally that the Library was committed to reviewing all aspects of the plan -- its programming, the design, and all costs -- to ensure that the Renovation was the best possible way to fulfill our three goals: to create an improved space for our largest circulating branch, to provide a superior storage environment for our treasured research collections, and to expand public access to the iconic 42nd Street Library.  

As you know, this is a high-profile topic that has been the subject of much public discussion. Accordingly, the New York Times has posted an article reporting that the Library is exploring an evolution of our plans.  As we shared with the paper, we have undertaken a very rigorous review of all aspects of the Renovation, and are now in the early stages of entering into conversations with our Trustees and our partners in City government.  No final decisions have been reached.  That said, we wanted to share the article with you, which may be found at the following link: http://nyti.ms/1o79Sph

Mostly important in all this is our commitment to get this project right, and to have that process led not only by our leadership but by the wisdom of our phenomenal staff and our users.  We will continue to provide updates as information is available.

 •    NYPL: Statement from NYPL President Anthony Marx to all library patrons and users: Subject: Subject: A Message from NYPL President, May 7, 2014 7:16 pm
 Dear Ms./Mr. [INSERT Library Patron Name]

As you are a close member of the Library family, I wanted to reach out to give you an update on our plans regarding the 42nd Street renovation.

Several months ago, we shared with staff, friends, and the wider public that the Library was committed to reviewing all aspects of the plan - its programming, the design, and all costs - to ensure that the renovation was the best possible way to fulfill our three goals: to create an improved space for our largest circulating branch, to provide a superior storage environment for our treasured research collections, and to expand public access to the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Ultimately, the facts have changed, and, over the last few weeks, the NYPL Trustees have deliberated over an analysis of the renovation's original elements as well as alternative plans. This week, the Board authorized the Library to propose an alternative to our partners in City government. This evolved plan would renovate Mid-Manhattan Library where it is and undertake the most comprehensive renovation in the Schwarzman Building's history, dramatically increasing public space and the capacity to store the building's research collections in state-of-the-art storage under Bryant Park - preserving them for generations to come. This proposal aligns with the Library's programmatic vision, offering even more space for books and educational and cultural programming for all.

Most important in all this is our commitment to get this project right, and to ensure that it reflects the wisdom of our phenomenal staff, our users, and all who contribute to and advocate on behalf of this remarkable institution. We are excited to continue our conversations with the City, with the public, and with all of you as we further develop our plans.


Tony Marx, President
 •    NYPL: Portion of updating statement from NYPL President Anthony Marx to NYPL staff when Times article broke: Subject: [NYPLStaff] Update on the 42nd Street Renovation, Wed, May 8, 2014.
...I want to clarify a few key points and to share more with you on our next steps.

This week our Trustees authorized the Library to begin speaking with the City on our alternative plan for the renovation. This evolved plan will renovate the Mid-Manhattan Library where it currently stands, open up 50 percent more public space in the Schwarzman Building, including an integrated SIBL, and have the capacity to safely store the millions of volumes that once resided in the stacks onsite under Bryant Park. In the days ahead the Library will enter into extensive conversations with our partners in City Hall on what we think are the many benefits of this new approach. As soon as we conclude negotiations with the City, we intend to proceed with this alternative plan...

As we begin our discussions with City Hall, we will also engage all of you - to inform but also to ask for your input. On this final point, let me be clear: the renovation of MML and expansion of public space in SASB will be driven wholly by our system-wide programmatic ambitions. With even more library space, there are significant opportunities for us to provide even more essential and innovative services to the public, and to create new ways for the research and circulating libraries to interact in a midtown campus. We have many programmatic decisions still to make about the revised plans and will rely upon all of you and our users to realize our ambitions...

By the end of the week, we will develop a fact sheet for all staff. We will also schedule
information sessions soon across our system to ensure all understand the Library's new

A few weeks after this flurry of headlines covering the Central Library Plan's collapse, the NYPL belatedly, just before a City Council hearing on the library budgets, released previously withheld information that the study the NYPL had commission the previous June had found out that the Central Library Plan would have cost more than $500 million, hundreds of million dollars more than the figure the NYPL had previously been highly publicizing.

For more on this, including coverage from the New York Times and Melville House, see the report on the City Council hearing:
Report on Tuesday, June 3rd-9th City Council Hearing On Budget For NYC Libraries Plus Testimony of Citizens Defending Libraries
More Interesting Tweets

Tweet: Thrilled had the vision + courage to change course. Ada Louise would be happy. NYC and the branches will benefit. A model for .
Tweet: In from a friend re NYPL's CLP abandonment: "Does Schwarzmann now want his $100 million back? Inquiring minds want to know!".
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