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NEW YORK CITY-At a press conference Tuesday in Astor Hall here, New York Public Library chairman Catherine Marron and president Paul LeClerc revealed a $1-billion transformation plan. The plan will take at least five years to realize, and represents the greatest change to the New York Public Library system since its founding more than 100 years ago.

The plan, which calls for a total investment of approximately $1 billion will include a renovation and reconfiguration of the Fifth Avenue building at 42nd Street. The reconfiguration will add a lending library alongside its existing research divisions. The library currently houses the research collections in humanities and social sciences, including millions of volumes of general reference material as well as unique archives and rare special collections. By moving the general research collection from the original 1911 stacks to high-density shelving under Bryant Park, vast spaces that were formerly inaccessible to the public can be repurposed in order to create a multi-level, light-filled new library that overlooks the park.

Marshall Rose, chairman emeritus and chair of the building committee of the board, is providing oversight of the building’s renovation. “Over the past 27 years, I have been involved with many capital improvements in this great building, and the restoration of many of its historic rooms, but none can match this spectacular transformation in terms of the impact it will have on the public.” A number of leading architecture firms are currently under consideration to create the design for the Central Library.

The new Central Library will serve users of both the lending and research collections at a single midtown location, rather than two. As a result, according to a statement from the library, it will be able to sell the outdated Mid-Manhattan Library next year and use the proceeds toward the plan. Likewise, many of the collections and services currently housed at the Donnell Library Center and the Science, Industry and Business Library will be relocated to the new Central Library.

Another major element of the plan will include building two new “hub” libraries in Northern Manhattan and Statin Island with expanded hours and services. The “hub” libraries will be modeled on the Bronx Library Center on East Kingsbridge Road.

Demand for the New York Public Library’s services has soared in the past two years. In fiscal year 2007, the NYPL received more than 16 million visits to its 89 locations–two million more visits than in 2006.

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and founder of the Blackstone Group, has donated $100 million in support of the plan. Marron says that Schwarzman’s gift “moves the Library’s plan forward in a powerful way and will have a lasting impact for generations to come.”

Joshua Steiner, vice chairman and co-chair of a special board committee that led the library’s planning process says that “this plan will give the library the facilities and endowment necessary to respond to inevitable changes in the ways New Yorkers access and share information.”

The plan will be financed through a partnership between the library–which will contribute proceeds from real-estate sales; city, state, and federal government; and private donors. A private fundraising campaign, with the lead gift by Schwarzman and donations by other library supporters, has already raised more than $250 million toward a $500 million goal.

Calls to the media relations department at the library regarding specific information about the new hub space, including locations and square footage, renovation and reconfiguration plans of the Fifth Avenue location, and further information regarding potential plans to sell the Mid-Manhattan library were unreturned by deadline.

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