May 8, 2014 / 3:53 PM / 5 years ago

New York Public Library reverses course on renovation plan

The main reading room of The New York Public Library is pictured in a file photo. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Public Library announced it is abandoning a controversial renovation plan that would have replaced floors of research material at the city’s flagship Manhattan building with a circulating library.

The original $300 million plan would have moved circulating collections from the system’s Mid-Manhattan Library and Science, Industry and Business Library into the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the iconic Beaux-Arts library building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

That plan has been widely criticized as it would have moved the research materials to a facility in New Jersey, potentially delaying retrieval for scholars. The renovation plan was also the subject of at least three lawsuits and repeated protests by academics and activists.

“When the facts change the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” New York Public Library president Tony Marx said in a statement.

Under the new plan, the landmark building will still undergo the “most comprehensive renovation” in its more than 100-year history, doubling its exhibition space and opening a new education area, the statement said. The research materials would remain on site at an expanded storage area under nearby Bryant Park.

Marx testified to the New York City Council last September that the renovation was needed to safeguard research collections that “suffered without modern temperature and humidity controls” in the Schwarzman building. The building houses some 15 million items, from books to medieval manuscripts and ancient Japanese scrolls, according to its website.

The New York Public Library system is the fourth largest public or academic library in the United States, behind the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library and the Harvard Library, according to the American Library Association.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner; editing by Scott Malone and G Crosse

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