New York Public Library

Patience and Fortitude are the names of the majestic lions who greet you as you walk up the steps of the New York Public Library’s main entrance, and patience and fortitude are what have been on display in the fight to save the NYPL.

The library has been in the news in the last week. with the decision being made to scrap a highly contentious refurbishment planned for their main branch, the beautiful research library on 42nd Street. Controversial from the very beginning, the plan to remove the seven floors of stacks under the Rose Main Reading Room has finally been, ahem, shelved.

A panoramic view of the Rose Main Reading Room

It’s a massive achievement, helped by findings that the initial quote for the multi million dollar project was vastly underestimated. A committee to save NYPL, comprised of authors, citizen groups and architects, fought hard against plans they saw as impractical and unsympathetic to the building’s history. Protests, civil lawsuits, campaigns…it’s been full on for all concerned.

Coming from Australia, where libraries don’t get much exposure nor capture much nostalgic sentiment, it’s heartening to see how impassioned and engaged New Yorkers got over the issue. Then again, we don’t have anything that compares in either scale or beauty to the New York Public Library. With over 53 million items, it’s one of the largest library systems in the world. It’s hard to comprehend a collection that size. Every single person in Australia could borrow two books and they’d still have enough to lend everyone in New Zealand at least three each. And if that doesn’t impress you, the building itself should. Plus, you know, it’s New York City people!

Here’s a few shots I took in 2009. Jorge Luis Borges once said he always imagined paradise would be a kind of library. I think he may have been right…

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