Handling Paradigm Shift on a Monumental Scale

The New York 42nd Street Library is a behemoth. It collection, research resources, size and architecture dominate. But, what happens when internet access brings the information online, and leaves the infrastructure, with all of its related costs, sitting on prime real estate?

$300 million has been committed to bringing the two-block long giant up to date. Underused collections will be moved off-site to create free space in lower levels of the Mid-Manhattan Library. This will make room forĀ  activity, education, and study areas, and, of course, computers.

In the article, Loud Debate Rages Over N.Y. Library’s Quiet Stacks by Margot Adler over at NPR.org, you can get a feel for the scope of the project. She states, “A renovation plan for the New York Public Library building on Manhattan’s 42nd Street is being hotly contested. The plan calls for demolishing seven floors of stacks and moving many of the books to New Jersey. Supporters say the plan will salvage a strapped library system…”

Not everyone is happy with the bold plans to update the branch, though. It requires, the sell-off of other Library property, splitting up of collection assets, and structural changes to the historic building itself. Wall street Journal Architectural Columnist Ada Louise Huxtable delves into the details in this article.

The variety of solutions to 21st Century change in libraries will be intriguing. With so many people deeply attached to America’s public library system, there is no shortage of input. The free-wheeling discussion surrounding the Manhattan plan should help to inform some of the decisions that libraries across the world are grappling with.