June 19, 2014
NYPL reading room to remain closed for six months
by Bradley Babendir
In late May, a piece of plaster tumbled down from the ceiling of the New York Public Library’s famous, if somewhat superfluously named, Deborah, Jonathan F.P., Samuel Priest, and Adam R. Rose Main Reading Room around 2am. The library was closed and so, despite the structure’s best efforts, nobody was hurt. Since then, the room has been closed, and according to a Wall Street Journal article, it will remain that way for the next six months to allow for inspection and repairs.
In 1998, a restoration of the room was completed with a $15 million gift and a whole lot of love. Now, the 103 year old room with undergo a presumably more elaborate facelift. Considering that it is 17 years older than sliced bread, it seems due. According to Charles Warren, the author of Carrère & Hastings, a book about the architects who designed the building 103 years ago, an event like this was bound to happen: “I’m not astonished that a ceiling that’s that old and that elaborate would fall … Trusses move and things wear out … It’s a cause of concern, but it isn’t a cause of alarm.”
It is also not the first old, frequented building to have a piece of its ceiling attempt to become a piece of its floor. In 2004, Wrigley Field, 90-year-old home of the Chicago Cubs, had three pieces of concrete from beneath its upper deck fall in the span of a month and a half.
Team officials took care of the problem by installing a net to catch the concrete before it could potentially injure anyone. While that might be curing a symptom instead of a disease, no more pieces of concrete have made it down to the lower levels.
Though nobody from the NYPL has ruled out just throwing some netting beneath the ceiling, I imagine they will endeavor to reach more comprehensive solutions. Despite the inherent predictability of a room that was finished 12 years before the Ottoman Empire fell needing some tender loving care, there were no documented plans to renovate the room before Chicken Little’s worst nightmare came true. The NYPL did, however, recently scrap a planned renovation to their historic book stacks because it was going to cost an estimated $200 million more than they planned.
In the meantime, those looking to use the library’s services will still be able to do so:
“The other spaces in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building will remain open. Services previously rendered in the reading room, such as book requests, will take place on the second floor’s central corridor.
Rooms previously closed to the public will be opened and outfitted with seats and Wi-Fi, and tables and chairs will be added to rooms already open to the public.”
I think a “Hard Hats Only” sign would serve just as well, but their plan should work, too.