The New York Public Library Opens New Center for Research in the Humanities at Iconic 42nd Street Building

Center’s nine restored rooms include the Lenox-Astor Room, filled with books and paintings donated by philanthropist Brooke Russell Astor

Photos of the center (credit Jonathan Blanc / NYPL) here. Time lapse of books being added to the shelves of the Lenox-Astor Room here. 

Media Contact:

Angela Montefinise |

OCTOBER 21, 2019—The New York Public Library today opened its new Center for Research in the Humanities, a nine-room space dedicated to quiet research, work with the Library’s research collections, temporary displays, and collections-related programming.

The over 8,000-square-foot Center—located on the second floor of the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and designed by architects Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle—has 56 seats exclusively for use by authors, scholars, students, and others engaged in extensive research, doubling the number of seats available in the building for that purpose.

At opening, 30 scholars had already applied to work in the Center.  

In addition, the Center—created from space long used primarily for staff and storage—also includes revamped spaces for staff, short-term displays, class visits, and public programs, lectures, and panels related to research collections. 

One of the spaces—The James Lenox and John Jacob Astor Room—is a lecture and programming space filled with 1,800 books and three paintings that belonged to and were gifted to the Library by philanthropist Brooke Russell Astor.

Planned regular public programming includes:

  • “Research Instructional Series” to teach the public how to conduct various types of research

  • “Collections Open Houses” on the first Wednesday of each month with small displays of collections materials

  • “Scholarly Communications Series” for those in the research / scholar community looking to learn practical things such as how to copyright material or make citations

“The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is many things, but first and foremost a research library, dedicated to learning and the pursuit of understanding, knowledge, and scholarship,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. “To restore these rooms to their original purpose—research and work with our collections—while ensuring that we are preserving the significant architectural elements is something the whole Library is extremely proud of.” 

The Center was built as part of the Library’s master plan to restore, improve, and increase public space in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Work began in 2018 and included:

  • Cleaning the original stone walls and floor border, as well as utilizing salvaged existing stone to recreate missing room stone borders.

  • Improving room acoustics and providing new and enhanced AV in programming rooms.  

  • Restoration of existing materials and finishes throughout

  • Installation of new cork flooring which is historically used throughout the building

  • Introducing new lighting that is historically sympathetic to the architecture (this will be fully installed in November)

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at