The NYPL has 88 branches in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island; Brooklyn and Queens have their own city library systems. But this building, of all things, which is often regarded as the headquarters of the NYPL, houses a lot of literature. But it also makes know-it-alls rejoice when someone in a film walks down the stairs with a stack of books.
You can’t borrow anything there, but you can investigate, with expert help. It’s wonderful, such a huge building for people who want to know more than what Wikipedia and Internet search engines spit out. Around 15 million works bring together human thinking that everyone can delve into, from comics and baseball trading cards to non-fiction and novels to medieval writings.
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Public Library inside
In this or that wood-paneled reading room, a journalist searches for information about a hitherto blank spot on his map of Niger, a writer researches details for her next novel, an antique collector squats over catalogs that he hopes will help classify a flea market bargain, while a designer is inspired by ancient wallpaper patterns.
All because another building is about to become a tourist attraction. Diagonally across from the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building—named for a Wall Street banker who also bought a renaming with his $100 million donation—is the unassuming Mid-Manhattan Library, a multi-story branch of the lending library. It is being modernized and the plans look promising. However, the books have to go first, the doors are closed for three years.
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And so it happened that people suddenly walked between the two lions with books under their arms. The temporary lending library is located in the basement of the NYPL, and the path to it is impressed with thick marble, wood, and light.
Downstairs the most popular books are on a row of simple shelves, everything else is stored behind the scenes and eager staff fetch what you need. Kind of like the research departments above, except that you can actually borrow something here.
Problem solved, one might say
The owners of luxury apartments next to the Mid-Manhattan Library find it impossible to transform the library, which was stuck in a 1970s mustiness, into a bright, modern haven of books and educational events. Because that’s definitely messy! And maybe you can also capitalize on it? The apartment owners are demanding $15,000 a month from the library for the inconvenience.
The local press didn’t sit well with the fact that luxury homeowners want money from a nonprofit that provides books and education to New Yorkers. Our city library is not a public institution, but its history is based on donors. Much of the library network in Manhattan was built by Andrew Carnegie, and to this day each branch continues to solicit donations large and small.
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Shortly after the neighborhood lawsuit, another major donor came on board. $55 million should help finish the renovation of the library branch on time. After that, the Mid-Manhattan Library will also have a new name – after the sponsor, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. So libraries are possibly the new stages, and I’m curious to see whether this development will also spill over to Europe, despite the different backgrounds.
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