New York Public Library Board of Trustees Approves Construction of Additional Book Storage at Landmark 42nd Street Building

Gift of Howard and Abby Milstein supports 30,000 square feet of new space that can hold an additional 1.5 million volumes on-site

September 19, 2012— The New York Public Library’s Board of Trustees today approved the development of 30,000 square feet of additional collections storage at its landmark 42nd Street building, creating a space that can properly preserve approximately 1.5 million volumes.

Thanks to a generous gift of $8 million from Library Trustee Abby S. Milstein and her husband, Howard P. Milstein, the Library can now move forward with a proposal to develop the lower level of the Bryant Park Stack Extension (BPSE), two floors of storage space underneath Bryant Park that is connected to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The facility was opened in 1991, but at the time, only one floor was outfitted to store valuable research material.

The project marks a key adjustment to the Library’s Central Library Plan (CLP), which will transform the historic Midtown building into the world’s largest combined research and circulating library facility and generate an estimated $15 million per year in additional resources for NYPL.

The plan calls for the removal of seven stories of outdated, aboveground stacks inside the Schwarzman Building, which are closed to the public and are well below current preservation standards. With the increased collections storage space approved today, the Library can now keep 3.3 million of the 4.5 million volumes currently housed at the 42nd Street building on-site. This is an increase from the 1.8 million volumes that would have remained without the additional storage and means that nearly all volumes currently located at 42nd Street will remain, except those available digitally, often instantly. 

NYPL President Anthony W. Marx, Chairman Neil L. Rudenstine, and the Library’s Trustees all agreed—after listening to the concerns of scholars, staff, and the public—that more volumes needed to stay on-site.

“It is clearly important to scholars to have immediate access to research material,” said Marx, who along with other key NYPL staff met on multiple occasions with an advisorycommittee of scholars. “Practically, we will always rely on off-site storage, with the goal to get those materials to researchers as quickly as possible. But after hearing feedback on our plan, we also think it is important to do all we can to keep as many research materials on-site, particularly those that are not digitized. Today’s vote by the Board, along with a generous gift from the Milsteins, makes this possible.”

“My experience on the Library’s Board has shown me the importance of The New York Public Library to every community we serve,” said Abby Milstein. “Maintaining the heart of our research holdings adjacent to the Library will preserve this invaluable resource for scholars and researchers, while allowing space for a spectacular new circulating library to better serve all of our users.”

Howard Milstein added, “This exciting new project will propel The New York Public Library into the future. It deserves the support of the Board and people who love the Library. Our commitment is a vote of confidence in President Tony Marx and the entire Board of the Library.

In addition to the Bryant Park Extension buildout, which is expected to be completed in 2014, the Board also discussed several other adjustments or additions to the CLP plan, all developed through its listening process, at its September meeting.

  • The immediate launch of targeted fundraising for new curatorial positions in the research divisions, including a specialist for Middle Eastern studies and, for the first time, a curator for Latin American collections.
  • The expansion of space for writers and scholars in its landmark building beginning in early November. The Library will transform existing, nonpublic space into specialized research rooms, including a Global Studies Room.
  • Improved delivery of off-site material to the 42nd Street building.

“In the past few months, President Marx and the Central Library Plan Oversight Committee have continued to work on the CLP, and the results have been exceptionally positive,” said NYPL Chairman Neil L. Rudenstine. “With the addition of the new circulating library, the Fifth Avenue facility will once again be in a position to serve all types of users—scholars, research fellows, readers from the Mid-Manhattan branch and the Science, Industry and Business Library, college and high school students, and children. It will be an even more expansive, free public library for all who enter its doors.

He continued, “As part of the plan, NYPL’s research facilities and staff will be greatly enhanced. An entire new storage facility beneath Bryant Park will allow the Library to maintain over 3 million volumes—and all Special Collections—on-site, and there will be a major drive to endow several major curatorial positions. The architects are already developing preliminary plans for the new Mid-Manhattan circulating library, enabling NYPL to advance its traditional mission while also adapting to the realities of the new digital era in which we now live.”

The CLP is a $300 million capital project that will merge two Midtown NYPL locations into the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building:  the outdated Mid-Manhattan Library—the largest circulating library in the NYPL system—and the Science, Industry and Business Library, which has seen usage of printmaterials drop as more business journals and other core resources become digitized.

The plan will return a circulating library to the landmark building after two generations, doubling the amount of space open to the public. It will also solve two major problems—the outdated aboveground stacks that are not protecting the Library’s collections, and the rundown Mid-Manhattan Library, which is not serving its patrons as it should. In addition, merging the three facilities will also generate millions of dollars in operating savings annually for NYPL priorities.

The public can see updates on the CLP at

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