December 8, 2014

Inside the Periodical Room and Map Division at the New York Public Library


Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated that Ken Weine’s answer to my question was that the books removed from the historic stacks would be returned in two years. In an email he clarified: “one part of the renovation includes expanding the book storage underneath Bryant Park—and when that is complete the Library will be able to have the capacity to have the same amount of books on site as it had prior to the renovation… The work to expand the stacks underneath will begin this winter.  Separate from that is the work to renovate MML and Schwarzman Building.  As has been reported the planning for that is underway, and in the spring we expect to be ready for next steps.”

Last week, I took a tour of the New York Public Library with a Pratt alumni group. Tours of the Schwarzman Building at the main library branch on 42nd Street are free and open to the public.

Ken Weine, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the NYPL introduced the tour and gave a general overview of the changes and renovations coming to the library over the next few years. From the restoration of the Rose Main Reading Room to the complete renovation of the interior of the Mid-Manhattan Library and the upgrades to the recently vacated space for employees on the lower level of the main library building, there are a lot of changes happening at the library. My question was: What will happen to the books that were removed from the historic stacks and stored in New Jersey? Specific plans for the library’s renovation (the Norman Foster Central Library Plan was scrapped earlier this year) are expected to be announced next spring.

The tour took us to some rooms that I don’t normally visit—the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room and the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division—which were absolutely spectacular. We got to peek in the window of the Berg Collection (which has the largest manuscript holdings of Virginia Woolf and W.H. Auden) and see the lamp, desk, and belongings of Charles Dickens in the corner.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.