May 19, 2022

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

UPDATE (10/18/12) Harvard University Librarian Robert Darnton Comments on Changes to NYPL Central Library Plan in the New York Review of Books

From the Op/Ed:

These changes should go a long way toward satisfying the desire of researchers to follow up leads and check references by consulting works that are stored a short distance from their desks. Thanks to the new level under Bryant Park, the library will retain in onsite storage 3.3 million of the 4.5 million books now housed at the library. While these books will not include all of the three million books now stored under the Rose Main Reading Room, they will include most of them while providing substantial space for others: librarians will cull from the current onsite collection physical copies of works that have been digitized and a small number of books that are never or very rarely read, making room for another million books under Bryant Park in the future if needed. And all of them will be stored in excellent conditions, unlike those in the old stacks, which lack adequate temperature controls.


From the NYPL:

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.

[Our Emphasis] 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The plan calls for the removal of seven stories of outdated, above ground stacks inside the Schwarzman Building, which are closed to the public and are well below current preservation standards.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 advisory committee 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.”


In addition to the Bryant Park Extension buildout, which is expected to be completed by 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.

Learn More About the Central Library Plan

See Also: New York Public Library Dials Back Plan to Move Books

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.