New, Improved NY Public Library for the Performing Arts Re-Opens Oct. 29

News   New, Improved NY Public Library for the Performing Arts Re-Opens Oct. 29 Need piano-vocal sheet music of songs by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg? Seeking a biography of Agnes DeMille? Want to view a videotape of the Hal Prince staging of Company or the Meryl Streep Central Park Seagull? How about set designs by Robert Edmond Jones? It's all here.
The Miriam and Harold Steinberg Reading Room on the second floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The Miriam and Harold Steinberg Reading Room on the second floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Photo by Adam Green)

Need piano-vocal sheet music of songs by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg? Seeking a biography of Agnes DeMille? Want to view a videotape of the Hal Prince staging of Company or the Meryl Streep Central Park Seagull? How about set designs by Robert Edmond Jones? It's all here.

The doors swing wide Oct. 29 for those hungry for research materials related to the performing arts — scripts, sheet music, scores, audio recordings, newspaper articles, videos, biographies, and more — at the renovated, new and improved New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The public got a first-glimpse of the one-stop center of the universe for such material Oct. 13, when the vast performing arts library Lincoln Center offered a sneak-preview open house. For three years, the holdings of the performing arts library — some 9 million items — have been placed in temporary midtown locations and storage while its Lincoln Center home underwent mega-renovation.

The library, which previously served 425,000 visitors annually, resumes operation at Lincoln Center Oct. 29 as The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.

* Begun July 20, 1998, the remake is nearly complete. Expected to require two years and $30 million, the renovation ended up taking three years and $37 million, $12.5 million of which was paid for by a donation from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Major support also came from the family of Donald and Mary Oenslager. The City of New York also kicked in $20 million. Originally, Oct. 15 was to be the first day of public use, but due to delays and interruptions in the last month, the opening date was bumped two weeks to Oct. 29.

Polshek Partnership Architects, who also worked on the Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History, designed the renovation.

"The redesign of one of the world's most popular research libraries is a response to the enormous increase in its collections and usership, the extraordinary advances in information technology, and the development of large multimedia collections that document live performances," NYPL president Paul LeClerc said in a statement. "We've made the collections more accessible...and added the latest technology..."

Physically, the new space will have a well-lit reading room with two big skylights, loft-like galleries (the first exhibition, "Transformations," will examine the creative process), expanded storage, a technology training center and new information desk, 44 video playback stations, and four times as many public-access computers. Research Libraries senior vice president William D. Walker noted that "an automated system will control temperatures where delicate materials are stored."

The Lincoln Center library complex opened in 1965 and has been housing five collections: the music division, the Billy Rose theatre collection, the Jerome Robbins dance division, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound (which boasts more than half a million recordings), as well as the Circulating collection.

Oddly enough, only 30 percent of the Library's holdings are books; the rest are sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, videos, manuscripts, posters, programs and photos. There are 9 million items in the collection.

A new exhibition hall, the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery, has been built facing the entrance to the Library from the Lincoln Center Plaza (first floor). This gallery features double height ceilings which can accommodate larger pieces that might otherwise never be exhibited, according to the library. The Oenslager Gallery and the Vincent Astor Gallery on the Lobby level (Amsterdam Avenue) have been equipped with superior cases designed by Glasbau-Hahn, Frankfurt, and an advanced track lighting system which "provides both legibility and protection to the artifacts installed in the space." Both galleries have been wired for multimedia and interactive displays.

The library will offer expanded hours when it reopens. The building will be open for regular service until 8 PM four days per week (opening 10 AM Monday and noon Tuesday-Thursday). Hours Friday-Saturday are 10 AM-6 PM. The Oenslager exhibition gallery will be open until 8 PM six days per week.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center is at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza.

For more information on the Library's renovation schedule, check out their website at http://www.nypl.org.

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According to NYPL, here are some quick facts about the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts:

* Original Architect: Gordon Bunshaft; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Architects. Opening Day: Nov. 30, 1965.

* Renovation Architect: Polshek Partnership Architects. Reopening Day: Oct. 29, 2001.

* This $37 million renovation has transformed the 1965 "international style" library building into a light-filled, open space while updating and improving library areas, and services.

* One main reading room unites all four Research Collections: the Billy Rose Theatre Collection, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the Music Division, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound. The new unified reading room allows users to work easily with materials from different research collections. Bays of skylights fitted with Low-E glass to protect the Library material flood the unified Research Collections Reading Room with natural light.

* Audio and video materials are played through a new centralized playback system. High-speed wiring installed to carry analog and digital sound and video, data from the internet and research databases, and signals that allow remote control playback of video and audio materials.

* Circulating collections are available on two floors. First floor: recorded sound and orchestra materials, and audio video recordings. Second floor: music, dance, drama, film, and arts administration.

* Red signs and information desks aid users in orienting themselves in the Library.

* Custom-made tables and carrels are constructed from a combination of light-colored beech wood and brushed stainless steel. Flat black Aeron chairs made by Herman Miller.

* Two new book lifts ferry Research Collection materials to and from stacks in the basement, increasing the speed of delivery to users.

* The Technology Training Center on the lobby (Amsterdam Avenue) level provides 12 computer workstations for use in classes on library and Internet resources to research the performing arts.

* The 203-seat Bruno Walter Auditorium has been completely renovated, featuring a new sound and projection system, a green room, and dressing rooms and shower facilities for performers. The renovation also includes an acoustic upgrade to improve sound for live music.

* The Library for the Performing Arts has been equipped with three public elevators and two wheelchair lifts, so that it conforms to the Americans with Disabilities act on every level.

* New security, fire, and sprinkler systems have been installed throughout the building.

* New HVAC and particulate filtration systems rectifiy long standing environmental problems. The climate-controlled environment throughout the library preserves materials and improves general air circulation.

* On-site labs have been created for the preservation of paper and audiovisual collection materials.

* Library staff work areas have been reconfigured and expanded.

* Compact shelving in the basement of the Library provides increased storage capacity.

* On-line library catalogs, research databases, and free Internet access available from workstations throughout the library.

* Self-service copying (for approved materials) available for the first time for research materials.

* Color copying and printing available in circulating and research areas.

* New seminar room, wired for video and computer projection, for use by staff and public.

* 160 reading table seats in the Research Collections Reading Room.

* 219 public access computers for Library users (four times the original number).

* 44 video playback stations and 12 audio stations with individual networked computers for use in accessing Research Collection materials.

* 14 audio stations in the Circulating Collections.

* 12 workstations in the Technology Training Center.

* 8 microfilm and microfiche reader/printers.

* Area designated for the use of rare materials.

— By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz