President of the New York Public Library Discusses Past, Present and Future

| July 16, 2014 5:01 PMvideo

Jack Ford talks to New York Public Library President and CEO Anthony W. Marx about the past, present and future of the nation’s largest library system.

Digital age or not, New Yorkers make 40 million physical visits to the city’s public libraries every year, tallying more visitors than the city’s many cultural institutions and professional sporting events combined.

New York Public Library President and CEO Anthony W. Marx joined reporter and anchor Jack Ford on MetroFocus to discuss changes in the main and branch libraries over the years. 

“The library is the one place in New York where you have the student and the immigrant and the homeless and the Nobel laureate and the Pulitzer Prize winner – everybody’s using the library,” said Marx.

In 2008, the library announced plans to renovate the iconic, central Steven A. Schwarzman building. The ambitious plans involved removing the research collection from beneath the main reading room and transferring those 1.5 million books to a New Jersey storage facility. The renovation was projected to cost $300 million – more than $150 million in funding from the city, in addition to proceeds of the sale of two library buildings. The project lost steam during the economic downturn but regained momentum after Marx was appointed in 2011.

“It was actually an ingenious plan. And as you say, a controversial plan for many reasons,” Marx said.

The plan was unpopular with community activists and various library stakeholders across the city, generating several lawsuits and garnering disapproval from Mayor Bill de Blasio. In May 2014, the library announced that it would be abandoning the central library renovation. Instead, books will be moved to a storage space under Bryant Park which spans two square city blocks. The Mid-Manhattan Library will be renovated, and more of the Schwarzman building will be opened to the public.

“I think people love the library, and people are worried about change. And they want us to get it right,” Marx said.


  • Michael D. D. White

    As ultimately documented and disclosed, the Central Library Plan was estimated to cost $500 million (a half billion dollars), hundreds of millions more than previously publicized by the NYPL! (That’s before any cost overruns). .

    . . . And this was to sell two libraries, drastically shrink library space (more than 400,000 square feet down to 80,000 square feet), destroy the research stacks of the 42nd Street Central Reference library and banish and exile books.

  • Demi Monde

    Why are the criminally paltry $39 million “proceeds” from the 2007 sale of Donnell (a parcel of land now valuated at 1/2 billion dolllars) always left out of these articles when discussing the privatization and monetization of public/publicly funded properties? Is it deliberate historical revisionism? Poor, unscupulous journalism? Paid for propaganda? That, the sale of the deeply treasured and heavily used 53 year old midtown public library Donnell, in 2007, is when the gauntlet was thrown down in earnest in the war to exploit the public arena for private gain courtesy of public libraries. See BPL, and what’s going on at the Red Hook branch right now, just for the most recent deadly serious foderol. And then see how the same “not for profit” Dance Space, Red Hook’s latest invasive Bloomberg species, has been given free space at the wildly successful and coveted Brooklyn Bridge Park. But space from a public library is being pimped out to them.

  • Michael D. D. White

    Having watched the interview now I am astounded how flush it is with unchallenged inaccuracies all bent toward a renewed pitch for implementing the discredited Central Library Plan. At about 8:40 in the clip interviewer Ford introduces that now derailed $500 million plan referring to it as “an expansion,” exactly the reverse of what it actually is/was. Why must anyone persist in inaccurately describing the sell-off of two central libraries, the destruction of the Central Reference Library’s research stacks and the exile of books as “an expansion” when over 400,000 square feet of library space would have been contracted and squeezed onto just 80,000 square feet?

    Then there is the question of the huge reduction of books- All of SIBL’s books and materials, all of Mid-Manhattan’s and all of the Central Reference Library’s would have, according to Marx’s City Hall testimony, have been reduced to a possible (not promised- they were only “working towards”) “capacity” for 4.2 million. That’s far fewer than the 6.2 to 6.5 million books that the Central Reference Library ALONE is meant to hold and less than the well over 7 million books that the reference library apparently once held.

    The libraries are all open to all the public and the Central Reference Library being open to all the public is a critical library for putting CUNY students on an equal footing with elite institutions that have access to restricted private libraries. It was NEVER true that opponents of the Central Library Plan* boondoggle opposed public use of the Central Reference Library. This disingenuous divide-and-conquer ploy is an embarrassment that ought to be roundly disavowed.

    (* The Central Library Plan furthered the abject departure from principled decision-making we saw with Donnell- sold and shrunk for a pittance, far less than it was worth.)

    At one point Mr. Marx professes confusion about any vitriol on the part of opponents of the Donnell sale and Central Library plan? Really? When he promulgates such infuriating inaccuracies? And perhaps hopes, based on this interview, to resurrect these real estate sell-offs of system assets?

    Citizens Defending Libraries offers an antidote, a petition opposing all the sales and proposed shrinkages and underfunding of libraries afoot: Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction.

  • Susan Bernofsky

    I’m sorry to see that Tony Marx is still, even in defeat, trying to characterize those who opposed his plans to gut the research library as elitist. At minute 7:03 in this interview he quotes unnamed critics as saying “We don’t want the public in the main building.” Never in all the time I have been following the fight to preserve the library from its Board of Trustees’s destructive plans did I once hear anyone say or imply anything of the sort. It is a profoundly democratic undertaking to preserve a high-level public resource for the use of the public (NYPL is the only open-to-the-public research library in all of New York State, and the finest in the country); stripping the building of its resources as Marx and the NYPL Trustees proposed to do is not in any way democratic. These false charges of elitism that Marx has repeatedly made are just a smoke screen and suggest that he is preparing to re-propose the same old demolition plan in some slightly altered form a year or two down the line. I hope to be proved wrong in this suspicion.

  • lenny

    Learn more about books from Leonard Jones who grew up in New York Public Libraries

  • superior papers reviews

    Just what has accreditation related to an excellent as well as useful high quality education? Income! And also a chance to earn cash! Schooling does not and really should definitely not need dollars!

↑ Back to top

About Us    Contact Us    The MetroFocus Team   Mobile   WNET Pressroom   Privacy Policy    Terms of Service

Mutual of America


MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Rosalind P. Walter and Jody and John Arnhold. Corporate funding is provided by Mutual of America, your retirement company.
© 2015 WNET    All Rights Reserved.    825 Eighth Avenue    New York, NY 10019