Three Library Presidents Discuss Building the 21st Century Library at New York Building Congress Luncheon
City’s Libraries Undergo Most Dramatic Period of Growth Since the Carnegie Era—as Library Heads Fight to Close $900 Million Combined Capital Needs Gap and Design Libraries for the 21st Century
Marquee projects include the Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street; Sunset Park library and the Central Library in Brooklyn; and Hunters Point in Queens
New York, NY—Libraries are some of New York City’s truest civic spaces— and ensuring they remain bright, safe, welcoming and meet the needs of the modern era is one of our city’s most sacred obligations, said the City’s three library heads in front of leaders of the building and development industries at a New York Building Congress luncheon today.
Moderated by Sharon Greenberger, President & CEO of YMCA of Greater New York, the three library heads—Anthony Marx of New York Public Library, Linda Johnson of Brooklyn Public Library, and Dennis Walcott of Queens Public Library— delved into each of their innovative projects to modernize and re-envision the library for the 21st century, celebrated increased city funding in the 2018 city budget, and made the case for continued attention on the part of the construction and development industries.
Hunters Point library in Queens, Sunset Park Library in Brooklyn, and the Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street are each undergoing dramatic and innovative capital improvements to support the diverse programmatic and space needs of the 21st century patron. More than a third of Brooklyn Public Library’s branches are in the process of, or slated for, necessary repairs.
No longer are libraries spaces of quiet contemplation and solo study; instead, they’re vibrant community centers, built around dynamic educational opportunities and social services programming, modern technology and innovative cultural offerings. Every year, demand on libraries grows.
At the same time, the average New York City library is at least 62 years old. Manhattan and Brooklyn have 40 branches that have been in service for more than a century. More than half of the 207 branch libraries are over 50 years old, and a quarter were built at least a century ago.
The three library systems have fought to close a nearly $900 million combined capital needs gap that has come alongside the aging of each system’s physical infrastructure. The luncheon also served as a celebration of the City dedicating $60 million in capital funding and $16.7 million in operational funding to the three library systems in this year’s budget, which will help them meet the needs of New Yorkers.
“Almost everyone has a library story—New York’s three public libraries are truly some of the best and most important resources that New York has for its residents,” said Milo Riverso, New York Building Congress Board Chair. “Never has there been a better time to support our libraries, and help them reach their full potential as anchors of education and communication in our neighborhoods.”
“Our city’s libraries and construction industry are at the forefront of innovative design for public spaces. Together, we are building libraries that are flexible, welcoming, and able to meet the technological and social needs of today’s and tomorrow’s New Yorkers,” said Carlo Scissura, President & CEO of New York Building Congress. “We are thrilled to meet with the three heads of our city’s library systems to talk about how we can create inspiring and open civic spaces that will benefit generations to come.”
“Libraries are the key civic spaces in New York— a library is the one truly free space that welcomes everyone. It’s the one place where New Yorkers truly share, at a time when our national ability to live and work together is under some threat,” said Anthony Marx, President & CEO of New York Public Library. “It is our job to meet every New Yorker where they are and help empower and elevate, to bring them along and help them meet their goals.”
“Our libraries are transforming from passive but essential civic spaces to active and vibrant community hubs, with over a million and a half annual visitors,” said Dennis Walcott, President & CEO of Queens Public Library. “Our job is to send a signal that all people are welcome. People know that they can come to our doors and feel safe and protected. And that comes with good programming and inspiring spaces.”
“Brooklyn Public Library is a convening place for all types of literacy—in the traditional sense, and in the sense of digital and civic literacy. We help people wrestle with what it means to be a citizen, a member of a community,” said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “To support those goals, it’s also our job to ensure that our libraries are inspiring and safe, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, flexible enough to handle the ways people use them today and the ways they will use them in years to come.”
About New York Building Congress:
The New York Building Congress is a non-partisan, public policy coalition of business, labor, professional and governmental organizations, which serves the design, construction and real estate industry by promoting strategic infrastructure investment and enlightened economic development throughout New York City.