March 13, 2012

Save the stacks at the 42nd Street NYPL

Do you see this magnificent room? It's the Rose Reading room at the New York Public Library at 42nd Street here in Manhattan. I've been there many times, researching 19th and 18th century vocal pedagogy. The room - indeed - the whole building was built for research. Hand in a call slip and your book is brought to you from a central desk, which underneath lies seven floors of books. Guess what? A plan is afoot to move most of the books to New Jersey. I can't tell you how upsetting this is to someone like me. I've already had to deal with 'off-site' material at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts since its renovation. It's a pain in the ass. Half the time the material never shows up, is missing, or is otherwise inaccessible.

There is a great article about all this in The Nation. Please take the time to read it here. It reveals that a great building is in danger of being torn apart.

Devotees of New York City architecture are also growing alarmed. Charles Warren, a Manhattan architect who co-wrote a 2006 book about Carrère and Hastings, says, “The building is a machine for reading books in. The stacks are part of what the building is. There’s an idea there: that the books are in the center and they rise up out of that machine into the reading room to serve the people. It’s a whole conception that will be turned on its head by ripping out the stacks. It’s a terrible thing to do.” 

I agree that it's a bad idea. Please add your voice in demanding transparency and full disclosure to an otherwise secretive process. If you've liked what you've been reading here, you already know that research matters.

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