After a slight delay caused by a downturn in the economy, The New York Public Library is pushing ahead to transform the Stephen A. Schwarzman main branch on Fifth Avenue into the nation's largest circulation library, while unloading other very large branches nearby. British starchitect Norman Foster will design the new circulating library destined for the main branch, below the Rose Reading Room. Circulating stacks will remain in levels beneath Bryant Park, which Foster's branch-within-a-branch will overlook. Library president Anthony Marx is sanguine in the Times about replacing two million non-circulating volumes (being re-located to New Jersey) with a circulation library. "We need to provide the opportunity to browse for books at a time when bookstores are closing. Scholars and researchers should be able to enjoy the serendipity of what they find on the shelf."
Plans for the main branch are projected to cost $300 million. In order to fund the transformation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch, the City will chip in $150 million, and the balance will be raised through donations and via the sale of three nearby branches. The NYPL will close its Mid-Manhattan Branch, just across Fifth Avenue from the main branch on 40th Street. The Science, Industry, and Business Library space on 34th Street and Madison Avenue will also being checked out of the NYPL property catalog. The NYPL already sold the Donnell library branch (closed in 2008) to Tribeca Associates and Starwood Capital in July.