Trustee Abby Milstein and Howard Milstein’s gift to preserve access for scholars and researchers at New York Public Library

November 17th, 2015

The breadth of Howard and Abby Milstein’s support stems from a belief that education is a lifelong pursuit that happens both in the classroom and in other venues. At the New York Public Library, Abby has been on the Board for more than 15 years, and currently serves as Vice Chairman. Howard’s parents endowed The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy at the NYPL. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive genealogical collections in the world. More recently, in 2012 Abby and Howard provided support to allow the new Central Library Plan to move forward. The gift underwrote the construction of what is now known as the Milstein Research Stacks: modern, underground storage space that allows nearly twice as many volumes to be kept in the 42nd Street building, to provide easier access for researchers, scholars and students.

Project will improve preservation quality for on-site materials

The New York Public Library will soon complete the construction of modern underground storage at its iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, thanks in part to a very generous $8 million gift from NYPL Trustee Abby S. Milstein and her husband, Howard P. Milstein. The two-level underground storage facility will be named the Milstein Research Stacks.

“The Library’s research collection is an international treasure, and responsible for countless works of scholarship, literature, and beyond,” said Abby Milstein, Vice Chairman of the Library’s Board of Trustees and Chair of its Executive Committee. This gift is the latest in a decades-long tradition of Milstein family support for the capital needs of the Library, including the children’s floor in the 96th Street Library and the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy at the Schwarzman Building.

The Library already uses one level of underground storage beneath Bryant Park. When that facility was built in the 1980s, it included a second, lower level of raw space, all 55,750 square feet of which is now being renovated into state-of-the-art storage that can hold about 2.5 million research materials.. The project—approved by the Library’s Board of Trustees in September 2012—is being managed by Tishman Interiors and designed by international architectural firm Gensler.

With the additional storage space, the Library will hold as many or more research volumes on-site as it ever has: approximately 4 million research items. This will allow the Library to accommodate approximately 95 percent of all research requests with materials on-site.

The project—expected to be completed by spring 2016—will also dramatically improve the preservation environment at the more than 100-year-old Schwarzman Building, allowing the Library to better preserve materials for future generations of researchers.

“With this expanded storage capacity, we can provide on-site access to the researchers and writers who rely on our research collections while preserving these treasured materials for future generations,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “Decades ago, prior Library leaders made this ingenious investment—creating acres of underground book storage in the heart of Midtown—and we are elated that the world’s research community will soon be able to be enjoy its benefits.”

Before embarking on the project, the Library evaluated two options for necessary storage expansion: building out the lower level of its underground storage facility, or renovating an existing seven stories of shelving known as the central stacks. External, expert studies revealed a $24 million cost difference between the two options: renovating the underground storage facility would cost $23 million, while bringing the more than 100-year-old central stacks up to acceptable modern-day preservation standards would cost $47 million. Thus, with the Bryant Park construction, the Library can provide on-site access to as many or more books as it has ever had, and can provide the necessary preservation environment for its research collection—all at less than half the cost of achieving this same level of access and preservation through upgrading the central stacks.

SOURCE: New York Public Library

For more information on the Milstein Research Stacks, click here and here.

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