View Full Version : Library in NYC

September 14th, 2005, 04:24 PM
What's the best library in NYC?

September 14th, 2005, 04:38 PM
The main branch, at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

September 14th, 2005, 05:04 PM
The main branch, at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Is it better than the one on Flatbush? When I tried to go to that library it was closed on Sunday.

September 14th, 2005, 05:39 PM
Both are open Sunday afternoon, so.....

It's a tie!

September 14th, 2005, 05:43 PM
Look out: the main branch is closed on Mondays.

September 15th, 2005, 05:39 PM
The beautiful New York Public Library at 42nd and Fifth Avenue is formally known as the Humanities and Social Science Library (http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/index.html). Because it is a research library, the collections are for on-site use only and do not circulate. The Mid-Manhattan library (http://www.nypl.org/branch/central/mml/)is across the street at 40th Street (455 Fifth Avenue). It houses the largest circulating and reference collections among the branch libraries.

Those outside the metro region may not be aware that both Brooklyn and Queens maintain their own libraries. See: Brooklyn Public Library (http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/)and the Queens Library (http://www.queenslibrary.org/).

The New York Public Library is one of the great libraries of the world. Scholars from around the globe utilize its renown collections. To request collection materials in any of the reading rooms of the Research Libraries, you are required to present an ACCESS card. Collections of the Research Libraries are for onsite use only. ACCESS cards from the Research Libraries of The New York Public Libraries are free to all researchers, regardless of their place of residency.

A Branch Libraries' card is free to anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes, or attends school in New York State. Others may apply (http://javascript<b></b>:openCardApp()), with payment of a $100 annual fee, for a nonresident library card.

September 15th, 2005, 07:15 PM
Fioco, are you a librarian?

September 16th, 2005, 06:22 PM
@ ZippyTheChimp: No, I am not a librarian but research demands a quest for proper sources. My patch-quilt career threads through the academia and other disciplines. I have a real thirst for knowledge and that inquisitiveness led me to WiredNY during preparation for the WTC Memorial competition. Neither architect nor engineer, I post infrequently yet I greatly enjoy this unique, highly informative and welcoming forum.

May 30th, 2008, 05:34 AM
May 29, 2008, 10:35 am

Confusion at the Closing of Donnell Library

By Sewell Chan (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/schan/)

The Donnell Library has long been known for its strong collections of movies and music, materials in foreign languages, and books for children and teenagers. (Photo: Michael Nagle for The New York Times)

After 52 years as one of the most heavily used branches of the New York Public Library system, the Donnell Library Center (http://www.nypl.org/branch/central/dlc/) on West 53rd Street will mostly close at the end of this week. A small circulating collection will remain open, in the basement, through the end of August. Then the building will be razed to make way for an 11-story hotel (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/arts/design/07nypl.html). When the $220 million hotel opens, sometime around 2011, a new Donnell will occupy part of the first floor and an underground area, coexisting with hotel guests paying $750 to $2,000 per night for a room.

The changes have touched off confusion, sadness and even anger among employees and longtime patrons of the library, which was dedicated in October 1955 and has long been known for strong collections of movies and music, materials in foreign languages, and books for children and teenagers. Across from the Museum of Modern Art and around the corner from the luxury retailers of Fifth Avenue and the canyon of skyscrapers that is the Avenue of the Americas, Donnell has been one of the few accessible and free public spaces left in an area where land commands an ever-higher premium.

The display case holding Winnie and friends. (Photo: Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times)

“I cried,” said Esther Hautzig, 77, who works two days a week at the information desk at Donnell, recalling her reaction to the news last November that the library would close for several years. “I’ve been working here for 25 years.”

When asked if she would miss the current building, she replied: “You bet your sweet bippy! I am not disappointed. I am furious!”

As a girl in Rubstovsk, a small town in Siberia where she lived for five years before emigrating, Ms. Hautzig once waited six months for a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” One of the first things she did on arriving in New York in 1947 was go to the New York Public Library’s headquarters on 42nd Street. The staff would not give her a library card, she said,
because she spoke no English. (Since that time, Ms. Hautzig has written 21 children’s books.)

Library officials conceded that confusion has been fairly widespread.
“People have been really concerned and, in many cases, not understanding that Donnell is coming back, that there will be a library there,” said David S. Ferriero, who is the Andrew W. Mellon director overseeing the system’s research and branch libraries. “They are concerned about not having access to materials they’re used to having access to.” For example, he said, some writers and members of the publishing industry have expressed worry about the fate of the historical materials in the children’s collection.

“So clarifying just where things are going,” Mr. Ferriero said in a phone interview, “has been one of the challenges, because there are a lot of moving parts here.”

The intricate relocation process has resembled something of a game of musical chairs, a challenge compounded by the size of the collections. Donnell holds about 300,000 items. In the 2007 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2007, the library recorded 753,000 visitors (many of them repeat visitors, who would be counted more than once). They checked out materials from the library a total of 1.3 million times.

Here are the details (http://www.nypl.org/branch/central/dlc/newbuilding.html) of the move, as supplied by the library:

Historic and reference children’s materials will be moved to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library on Fifth Avenue in June, and be available through the Rose Main Reading Room.
Circulating children’s materials will move to the Humanities Library in the fall. (As part of a $1 billion expansion plan announced in March (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/arts/design/11expa.html), the Mid-Manhattan Library will eventually be sold and the circulating collections there absorbed into the historic main building of the library, which until now has solely housed reference materials. That process is also expected to take several years.)
Perhaps the library’s best-known holding, its famous Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends doll collection, has been moved to the third floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The doll collection, which was donated to the library in 1987, was briefly the subject of a dust-up in 1998 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/nyregion/thecity/12winn.html), when a member of the British Parliament demanded that the dolls be returned to Britain, a notion that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the mayor at the time roundly rejected.
Most of the Donnell Media Center’s collections — films and videos, compact discs and a study center for on-site viewing and listening — will move in June to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The documentary and world cinema video collections will move to the Mid-Manhattan Library.
The World Languages collection will move to the Mid-Manhattan Library.
Popular adult books, feature-film DVDs, paperbacks, large-print books, a classics collection and world-language books, along with a sampling of circulating teen and children’s materials, will be available on Donnell’s lower level — which has a separate air conditioning system from the rest of the building — starting next week and through August. Customers will also be able to pick up reserve materials there.
The Teen Advisory Council and its programs will move to the Columbus Branch, at 742 Tenth Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets.
Adult materials and the Teen Central collection will be moved, sometime after August, to a temporary location that has not yet been finalized. Library officials said they hoped to be able to announce the location soon. The temporary location will be in use until the new Donnell is completed around 2011.
Despite all those plans — detailed in fliers at the library and on the Web — volunteers and patrons still expressed sadness about the closing.

Ruth Ryer, 82, a retired business executive who was standing next to Ms. Hautzig at the information desk on Wednesday, has been volunteering at Donnell for more than 15 years. She said a feeling of devastation has run throughout the neighborhood.

“We’re all in mourning,” Ms. Ryer said. “The patrons are in mourning. The volunteers are in mourning. Everyone in my building is in mourning.”

Ms. Ryer said the announcement that a hotel would be built over the site of the Donnell branch came as a complete surprise. “No one had time to protest,” she said. “It was a fait accompli.”

Even though the hotel will contain a new, modernized Donnell branch, Ms. Ryer said she was convinced the library’s role in the neighborhood would be starkly diminished. Indeed, the new library to be built will be smaller than the current one, and it is not clear how many of the 300,000 materials will move to the new library.

Several people approached the desk asking where all the movies had gone. Ms. Ryer pointed to a single bookcase, with no more than 50 DVDs strewn about on half-empty shelves. “We used to have thousands of titles,” Ms. Ryer said.

The muted colors and wooden furniture and shelves in Donnell are a testament to its age. The library is named for Ezekiel J. Donnell, an Irish-born cotton merchant who died in 1896, and the new library that will be built as part of the hotel will still bear his name.

In the downstairs auditorium on Wednesday, “Andrei Rublev,” a 1966 film by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, played to an audience of about 50. It was the sort of eclectic cultural event, library patrons said, that they will miss the most.

“It’s a black day,” said Giovanni Rabadi, 58. “I think they will be mourning this day for a long time.”

Mr. Rabadi, a writer and filmmaker originally from Venice, has been coming to Donnell regularly for 25 years and considers it a second home. His favorite section is the foreign language books.

“A library is like a laboratory for culture,” Mr. Rabadi said. “We’ve lost the fabric of life. The whole place has become a shopping mall.”

He found no consolation in the fact that part of the new hotel will house a library. “They will offer us a grave in the basement,” he said. “Maybe this is a reflection on the value of culture. Capitalism has no mercy for culture. So culture becomes subversive — like reading in a bomb shelter.”

Mr. Rabadi has been spending more time than ever at the Donnell branch since hearing of its closure. “It’s like saying goodbye to a lover,” he said.
Steven Isigard, 51, who walks with a cane, the result of complications from a stroke five years ago, said that taking the bus to Donnell to read a book was a major step in his recovery. “I started out with a paperback because that was easier to hold,” he said, “It was important just knowing, ‘I can do this.’”

Mr. Isigard, a software developer, first came to Donnell at age 14. He was in the eighth grade and doing a report on hydroponics. “For me books have always been something nearly sacred,” he said.

“There are plenty of other places I could go, but this is the neighborhood library. It just has the feel of a neighborhood library — in the middle of this,” he added, gesturing toward the evening-rush crowds and skyscrapers outside.

The library has argued that rehabilitating the existing building — which has decrepit bathrooms and shows considerable signs of wear and tear — would be prohibitive.

Mr. Ferriero, the library director, pointed out that the New York Public Library system still has 87 circulating branches, and Herb Scher, a spokesman for the system, said that opening hours have increased by 30 percent since last year, with each branch open an average of 51 hours a week. A number of branches are open even on Sunday.

The library has received about a half-dozen letters expressing “confusion about Donnell going away forever,” Mr. Ferriero said, adding that officials have responded to dispel the confusion.

Still, he acknowledged that feelings were raw. “Change is difficult for everyone,” he said.

David Giambusso contributed reporting.


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

August 14th, 2009, 07:03 AM
A Spartan Beauty or a Plain Old Beast?



A discarded design for the library, 1946. The building was completed in 1955.http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/misc/spacer.gif

The architects’ sketch of the Donnell Library.

IS the 1955 Donnell Library on West 53rd Street a rare piece of midcentury Modernism? Or an empty suit of expressionless masonry?

As the vacant building heads toward demolition in two years, a cadre of preservationists still hope to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission that the limestone facade is not a nothing, but a something.
The Donnell was not supposed to be there at all. As John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Art Deco complex was nearing completion in the early 1930s, he had the idea of extending Rockefeller Plaza, from 49th to 51st Streets, by a block, or better yet two blocks, to the north. That way, the Museum of Modern Art, a favorite Rockefeller cause, would preside over the plaza at 53rd Street, which he found a particularly attractive vision.

By 1934, Rockefeller was buying land specifically for this purpose. But the “21” Club, at 21 West 52nd Street, stood smack dab in the middle of the route and refused to sell; a former speakeasy defeated Rockefeller ambition.

Four years later he began selling off the land, and in 1943 the New York Public Library bought the Donnell parcel, just opposite the museum. Aymar Embury II and Edgar I. Williams were commissioned to build a new $2.5 million library; construction began in 1950.

The new Donnell had a facade of Spartan simplicity, about as warm as a jail cell. Above a high ground floor of plate glass and square granite columns rise three stories of plain square limestone panels interrupted only by rectangular windows without frames, divisions or other detailing; they might have been cut out with a keyhole saw. The front could be one of those strange walls with empty windows in the paintings of de Chirico or Dalí.

Writing in his column in The New Yorker in 1956, Lewis Mumford likened it to the careful, ordered facade of a high Renaissance palazzo, but one “cleansed of ornament.” For Mumford that was not necessarily a negative, but he found the “cheerless” Donnell a design of “assiduous anonymity.” The library, he wrote, “has very little to say, and is content with not saying it.”

For decades the Donnell has otherwise escaped commentary, an architectural black hole opposite the lively modernism of MoMA’s marble facade.

In 2007, the New York Public Library announced plans to sell the Donnell to Orient-Express Hotels for $59 million. It was to be replaced with an 11-story hotel, connected internally to the “21” Club, which the group also owns.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is not interested in designating the Donnell Library, and only a micro-community of preservationists seems to care. Among them are Michael Gotkin and John Jurayj, co-chairmen of the Modern Architecture Working Group, which is active in preservation matters.

Mr. Jurayj says that the Donnell is being unfairly judged against the orthodox glass-box modernism of icons like Lever House and the Seagram Building.

He says it is part of a wholly different tradition, familiar in Europe but little seen in the United States, of a more expressive modern design, using shapes, materials and fenestration in ways completely different from the more common International Style.

Mr. Gotkin cites Erik Gunnar Asplund’s Stockholm Public Library of 1928, with windows cut through the front facade like the little perforations on an old computer punch card. Mr. Jurayj mentions the 1941 Aarhus City Hall in Denmark by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Moller. Its white marble facade also has featureless window openings.

Indeed, examined through that lens the enigmatic Donnell seems much more comprehensible, even charming — a Renaissance palace reimagined, instead of just a leftover packing box. The second-floor windows are extra-large, just like those on the piano nobile of a building in Renaissance Florence. It’s a neat trick.

Williams was for many years the consulting architect for the New York Public Library; perhaps he did the technical planning. Embury studied at Princeton and was a Robert Moses favorite; he designed the tepid but agreeable Central Park Zoo.

But Embury also designed the McCarren Park Play Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It is a stark series of open arches not far, indeed, from de Chirico. The McCarren is like a rib roast, rich and evocative; the Donnell, for all its pedigree, seems more like boiled spinach. However, that has never been a disqualifier for landmark status.

A reprieve for the Donnell seemed in the offing this spring, when Orient-Express said it could not continue with the project. But things have been patched up, and the company will take title in 2011.

Phillip Gesue, the director of global real estate for Orient-Express, says the company is re-examining its options, which now include a 40-story building if the owners of 666 Fifth Avenue can be persuaded to relinquish a light and air easement over the Donnell property.

Mr. Gesue said that “in the present climate,” it is difficult to predict the ultimate character of the project. In any event, time is dwindling for anyone who wants to listen to what the Donnell has to say, if it says anything at all.


August 14th, 2009, 09:50 AM
I'm a fan of the Donnell, but clearly the first, unbuilt proposal (which I'm seeing in this article for the first time) is the superior design.

August 14th, 2009, 09:59 AM
It's like Parke-Bernet/Sotheby's and that bank they just tore down Downtown with the allegorical bas-reliefs.


August 14th, 2009, 12:23 PM
Yes, a cousin to the old Moody's Building (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=137260&postcount=3) (1951) at 99 Church (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=184071&postcount=50) which recently has been replaced by a hole (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=290781&postcount=544).

August 14th, 2009, 04:18 PM
replaced by a hole.

Lost revenue, however small.