$1-Billion NYPL Expansion to Add Branches, Technology

$1-Billion NYPL Expansion to Add Branches, Technology

New York Public Library announced a five-year, $1-billion expansion March 11 with the goal of doubling its number of unique users.

Adopted after an 18-month study, the improvement plan has three major elements, the library said in a press release. A $300-million renovation of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library on 5th Avenue will transform it into a Central Library. “It’s going to be an integrated research and circulating library,” Herb Scher, NYPL director of public relations told American Libraries, noting that it last functioned as a circulating library in 1970. The renovated library will also feature improved exhibition spaces, hundreds of new computers, wireless access, meeting rooms, programming venues, and a café. Scher said the renovation is planned for completion in 2014.

Two new hub libraries, in northern Manhattan and Staten Island, will be built at an anticipated cost of $80 million. These will offer expanded services similar to those of the Bronx Library Center, including seven-day-a-week hours, dedicated teen and children’s areas, and a variety of classes and events tailored to the community. Another $130 million will be used for online expansion, including expanded digital content, systemwide technology upgrades, a new online catalog in 2009, and the newly launched “NYPL Labs,” which will create and test information-delivery methods.

Additional money will be used for branch refurbishment ($130 million), construction of a new Library Services Center in Long Island City and a new Donnell Library ($60 million); and endowment funds for acquisitions, processing, preservation, educational outreach, staff scholarships, and general operations ($300 million).

“The world of information and ideas has changed profoundly, and the needs of library users have changed in response,” said NYPL President Paul LeClerc. “In neighborhoods, on the internet, and at the heart of the city, our new plans provide a framework to deliver future generations of library users with the services that will be essential to their lives and livelihood in this new era.”

The project will be funded by proceeds from library real estate sales; city, state, and federal government; and private donations. The private fundraising campaign has raised more than half of its $500-million goal, including a $100-million gift from Stephen A. Schwarzman, founder of private equity firm The Blackstone Group and an NYPL trustee. The Humanities and Social Sciences Library will be renamed for Schwarzman.

“It’s a privilege for me, an honor for me, to be able to help out in this great reinvigoration of the library,” Schwarzman said at a March 11 press conference. “People of lower income, middle income—for them, the library is a passport to the achievement of the American Dream . . . . The New York Public Library is one of the unique institutions in the city that help continue to make it great.”

Posted on March 14, 2008.