Mark Lamster | Essays

Save the Library


These are tough times for those of us who care about books. The publishing industry is in a tailspin; electronic readers (ie, the Kindle) and the Internet are challenging the primacy of the printed page; libraries — those physical bastions of the word — are rethinking their place in our cities and seem to be spending as much time worrying over real estate values as literary ones.

Here in New York, the NYPL is literally taking the research out of its central research library, the beaux-arts landmark on Fifth Avenue at Forty-second Street. A new plan by Norman Foster will move the main stacks out of the building to offsite storage beneath Bryant Park and in New Jersey. (Gone also will be one of the city's last pneumatic tube systems, used to page books.) This represents a fundamental change in mission for the library, from an emphasis on scholarly research to a far broader spectrum of services and functions (education, entertainment, technology). The situation is altogether worse in Atlanta, where a plan is afoot to demolish Marcel Breuer's spectacular Central Library building—a concrete fugue of blocky forms and complex spaces—and replace it with a multi-use skyscraper. This would be a terrible loss for both architecture and books. Please sign the petition to save it.

Posted in: Architecture, Media, Social Good

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