In 1982, the New York Public Library realized it had reached a critical point at its landmark main research library at 42nd Street. Its librarians needed solutions for a multitude of facility problems including the shortage of public spaces, inadequate mechanical and environmental systems, lack of information technologies, and restricted access to off-site collections. Davis Brody Bond approached this problem by undertaking a multi-phased master plan which returned the grand spaces of the building to the public, while creating state-of-the-art environmental and information retrieval systems for the collections. An on-going series of renovation and expansion projects spanning over 20 years updated the Library’s technology without compromising its historic integrity.
Significant among these have been the restoration of The Rose Main Reading Room, re-creation of the Catalog Room to accommodate a fully electronic catalog, re-establishing several galleries for the exhibition of the Library’s collections, creation of a multi-purpose forum enhancing the Library’s role in the community, and the design of an environmentally safe reading room for the Library’s Rare Books collection. Davis Brody Bond also designed a two-level underground stack expansion with a capacity of 3.5 million volumes, on 90 miles of compact shelving, directly connected to the existing stack areas. South Court, a six-story infill structure in the open south courtyard of the Center for the Humanities Building, is the first permanent addition to the historic New York Public Library in 89 years. The new building houses the Celeste Bartos Education Center, comprised of an electronic teaching center, an orientation theater, and an auditorium; administrative offices; and a staff lounge located on the glass-walled top floor.