On June 1, 2021, The New York Public Library organized a socially-distanced ribbon cutting to open additional floors and expanded service and hours at its completely-transformed central circulating library, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL).
The library on 40th Street and Fifth Avenue, formerly named the Mid-Manhattan Library, was renovated and completely transformed with generous support from New York City, and a landmark $55 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)—the second largest one-time individual gift in The New York Public Library’s 126-year history. The building’s modern interior and overall inspiring design is by Dutch architect Francine Houben of Mecanoo architects, a “library whisperer” who also designed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC among others, along with the unique expertise of renowned New York City-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle.
The opening ceremony was held in the presence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYPL President Anthony W. Marx, NYPL Board of Trustees Chairman Evan Chesler, Architect Elizabeth Leber of Beyer Blinder Belle, Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, NYPL Senior Director Branch Libraries and Education, Caryl Matute, and Francine Houben of Mecanoo via video-link.
The transformative $200 million renovation of the Library’s central circulating library—455 Fifth Avenue, a building constructed in 1915 as a department store and occupied by the Library beginning in 1970—includes eight floors of important amenities that serve all ages. Key elements of the new 180,000-square-foot library include:
- Capacity for approximately 400,000 books and other materials, the largest capacity for circulating materials in The New York Public Library system, which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island
- A “Long Room”—the central element and most significant architectural intervention in the transformed branch—offering five levels of open, browsable book stacks, as well as two connected floors of classrooms, education and programming spaces, meeting rooms, and consultation rooms.
- The only free and publicly-accessible rooftop terrace in Midtown
- The 21,000-square-foot Thomas Yoseloff Business Center (named for the grandfather of NYPL Trustee and donor Anthony Yoseloff), occupying an entire floor and providing the services and circulating collections of the former Science, Industry and Business Library. It will offer patrons access to electronic resources (such as Bloomberg Terminals), comprehensive print materials, and in-person programs, classes, 1-on-1 sessions, and offerings in the fields of personal finance and investing, small business resources, business and financial research, and career services.
- The 20,000-square-foot Pasculano Learning Center—the Library’s largest adult learning center—which will provide a seamless continuum of educational opportunities to support lifelong learning (including technology training, ESOL and citizenship classes, and so on).
- A new 26,000-square-foot floor of separate spaces entirely for kids and for teens; there were no dedicated spaces for children or young adults in the former Mid-Manhattan Library.
- Approximately 44,000-square-feet of open, general public library space, including twice the number of seats than pre-renovation, computers, shelving, and more, on the Library’s second through fourth floors. Those floors hold the majority of the library’s circulating collection for adults—a collection named the Marron Family Circulating Collections in honor of long-serving NYPL trustee and former Chairperson of the Board, Catherine Marron and her family and their lifetime of leadership giving.
The renovated branch—NYPL’s largest and busiest branch with more than 1.7 million visits a year and an annual circulation of 2 million items— is central to the Library’s plan to create a world-class learning center in the middle of Midtown, uniting in one central campus the Library’s full spectrum of resources—from the Library’s renowned historical collections cherished by scholars from around the world to its much-needed circulating materials, programs, and events for all ages.
Construction began on SNFL in 2017, when the Mid-Manhattan Library was temporarily closed and its services moved across the street to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building’s ground floor. The project—managed by Tishman Construction—was completed on time, on budget, and ready for a planned grand opening in May of 2020 (coinciding with the Library’s 125th anniversary). The opening was delayed as part of the Library’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In July 2020, the first floor of the transformed building opened to provide New Yorkers with grab-and-go book checkout service, and in May of this year, the Thomas Yoseloff Business Center opened for appointments. Now, beginning at 1 PM on June 1, the lower level through fourth floor will be open for limited browsing and by-appointment computer use, and New Yorkers can get their first look at most parts of their new central circulating library.
Expanded hours for the building will be Monday to Thursday, 10 AM to 8 PM, and Friday and Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM.
Due to safety protocols and staffing capacity, masks are required, there are still no in-person programs, and in the immediate future the Pasculano Learning Center and rooftop terrace need to remain closed. But the Library is working towards restoring all services as soon as circumstances allow.
About The New York Public Library
For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at www.nypl.org/support.