More on Changes to the the New York Public Library Main Reading Room

A letter to the Editor from the director of the Harvard U. Library, Robert Darnton via The New York Review of Books on the anticipated changes to the Rose Reading Room of the Main Library. LISNews reported on the story this past spring.

"Polemics rarely lead to happy endings. They usually produce hard feelings and a hardening of positions, rather than mutual understanding and mutually acceptable results. The loud debate about the Central Library Plan (CLP) of the New York Public Library may, however, be an exception to this rule—not that it has come to an end, but it has reached a turning point, which should satisfy both sides.

Critics of the CLP were especially incensed about its provision to remove books from the seven levels of stacks under the Rose Main Reading Room and ship them to offsite storage in order to make room for a circulating library to be installed on the lower floors. They petitioned, they provoked a debate—some of it conducted in these pages [Letters, NYR, July 12—and they were heard.

After studying the problem further, a committee of the library’s trustees has made the following recommendations, which were accepted by the full board on September 19:

• Another level of stacks under Bryant Park will be developed, creating room for onsite storage of another 1.5 million books.

• Books shipped to ReCAP, the offsite storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey, from the onsite collection will mostly be works that are already digitized and available online.

• The library will make a firm commitment to deliver books from ReCAP within twenty-four hours, provided that the orders are placed before 2:30 PM on weekdays. Orders can also be made online from home and on Saturdays for Monday. Additional resources will be allocated, if necessary, to guarantee the effectiveness of the twenty-four-hour deadline.

• New curators will be hired to expand collections and improve services in a half-dozen special fields.

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