The Future of the New York Public Library: Will It Be Improved or Gutted?

An article in The Nation today exposes growing rifts over the future of the New York Public Library. The main concern involves its so-called Central Library Plan, an upcoming renovation that will remove the stacks from the central Stephen A. Schwarzman building at Bryant Park and store print books and other physical materials off-site. Patrons will also be allowed to borrow books from the central library and the newly opened rooms currently holding the stacks will be filled with computers and other media.

The article’s author, Scott Sherman, reports that the plan is prompting animosity towards NYPL executives, “some of whom have MBAs but not library science degrees; a feeling among some that the NYPL administration is excessively enamored of social media and Google Books (a plan to digitize tens of millions of books, now in legal limbo) to the detriment of old and new materials printed on paper; and widespread staff skepticism about the CLP.”

As one disaffected librarian puts it in the story, “I gave a talk about my new book across the street at the Mid-Manhattan branch. That place is utter chaos. And it will all come here—the noise, the teenage problems, the circulating DVDs.”