New York Public Library Will Go High Tech with Its $300 Million Renovation

June 30, 2014

Norman Foster’s design for the New York Public Library (NYPL) may have been scrapped, but the library isn’t giving up on the opportunity to turn its space into an innovative learning hub. As the NYPL gears up for a new $300 million renovation plan, they’re turning to a very unlikely locale for their inspiration: The South.

The NYPL is using two high-tech libraries in Tennessee and North Carolina as models for their new spaces at the Schwarzman building and the highly trafficked Mid-Manhattan branch across the street. The renovation will be geared towards the needs of teachers, students and entrepreneurs, and will be designed to support collaborative pursuits within the library walls.

chatanoog -library, 3d printerImage © Chattanooga Public Library 

The Chattanooga Public Library 4th Floor in Tennessee and the Snøhetta-designed Hunt Library at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh are the libraries currently being evaluated as models for the NYPL’s new plans. The two libraries have ditched the traditional reading room and stack model and developed “maker spaces” where patrons can to a very large degree dictate the technology and the types of areas they want to see within the walls. At the Chattanooga library in particular, library users are invited to suggest the types of classes they would like to take and even teach by writing their ideas on one of the library’s white walls. With this crowd-sourcing approach, Chattanooga’s classes have evolved far beyond ‘Excel for Dummies’ with courses focusing in on recent tech innovations such as Arduino, a class that has been hugely popular with both adults and kids alike.

“It’s the evolution of libraries, right?” Anne Coriston, the New York Public Library’s vice president for public service, said to the Wall Street Journal. “Libraries are becoming cool.”

Some of the other major offers at the two libraries include:

Chattanooga Public Library’s ‘4th Floor’

  • raw, open space
  • tabletop 3-D printers
  • laser cutter
  • vinyl cutter
  • loom
  • classes taught by patrons
  • 1 gigabit-per-second Internet speed (which has made this a major pole for tech startups)

North Carolina State University’s James B. Hunt Jr. Library

  • group study rooms with videoconferencing
  • media-production rooms
  • visualization lab with a 270-degree display
  • writable surfaces on tables and walls
  • movable whiteboards

No architect has been named for the project yet, but there is a bit of a stink already rising over the new plans. The same scholars who brought down Foster’s now-abandoned design want the new high-tech spaces to be relegated to the NYPL branch across the street from the 1911 Beaux-Arts building.

“It ought to be in a place that is much better designed and suited for it,” said Stanley Katz, director of Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, to the WSJ.

Either way, we can’t wait to see the NYPL’s transformation into a high-tech incubator.

[Via WSJ]

Lead image courtesy of the Hunt Library

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