Posted by: bluesyemre | December 8, 2015

What should a #library be in our digital age?


New York, a city which seems to reinvent its own urban landscape every week, can be ruthlessly unsentimental when it comes to its heritage. Consider the 1910 Beaux-Arts masterpiece Penn Station, inspired by the Gare d’Orsay in Paris. It was demolished in 1963 when, under financial pressure, the Pennsylvania Railroad sold the air rights to the property. A sports and office complex was built in its stead and the station moved below ground. Then there’s the case of the Domino Sugar Factory: an enormous, landmark building on the Brooklyn waterfront dating from 1882. It’s been in the headlines recently as it hosted the artist Kara Walker’s huge sugar sphinx sculpture; but in March this year the City Planning Commission signed off on plans for a $1.5bn redevelopment of the property, including a high-rise apartment building.

And then there’s the New York Public Library’s main building in Bryant Park (often referred to as the NYPL): all 20,000 white marble blocks of it a National Historic Landmark since 1965. On a hot Monday afternoon in early June, those thronging its steps fall into two groups: tourists, who take artful selfies of themselves in front of the building’s columns or beside its famous stone lions; and scholars, biographers, students, academics, writers, amateur researchers and the longstanding resident oddballs that venerable institutions like this invariably attract. As these two camps attest, it is both a monument and a resource: a tourist attraction, but also one of the world’s finest research libraries. Its collection of 8.2m books makes it second in size only to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. But unlike the Library of Congress, the NYPL is open to everyone for free.

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