reblogged via City Room, NYTimes:
May 29, 2008, 10:35 am
Confusion at the Closing of Donnell Library
After 52 years as one of the most heavily used branches of the New York Public Library system, the Donnell Library Center on West 53rd Street will mostly close at the end of this week. A small circulating collection will remain open, in the basement, through the end of August. Then the building will be razed to make way for an 11-story hotel. When the $220 million hotel opens, sometime around 2011, a new Donnell will occupy part of the first floor and an underground area, coexisting with hotel guests paying $750 to $2,000 per night for a room.
The changes have touched off confusion, sadness and even anger among employees and longtime patrons of the library, which was dedicated in October 1955 and has long been known for strong collections of movies and music, materials in foreign languages, and books for children and teenagers. Across from the Museum of Modern Art and around the corner from the luxury retailers of Fifth Avenue and the canyon of skyscrapers that is the Avenue of the Americas, Donnell has been one of the few accessible and free public spaces left in an area where land commands an ever-higher premium.
"I cried," said Esther Hautzig, 77, who works two days a week at the information desk at Donnell, recalling her reaction to the news last November that the library would close for several years. "I've been working here for 25 years."
When asked if she would miss the current building, she replied: "You bet your sweet bippy! I am not disappointed. I am furious!"
As a girl in Rubstovsk, a small town in Siberia where she lived for five years before emigrating, Ms. Hautzig once waited six months for a copy of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." One of the first things she did on arriving in New York in 1947 was go to the New York Public Library's headquarters on 42nd Street. The staff would not give her a library card, she said, because she spoke no English. (Since that time, Ms. Hautzig has written 21 children’s books.)
Library officials conceded that confusion has been fairly widespread.
"People have been really concerned and, in many cases, not understanding that Donnell is coming back, that there will be a library there," said David S. Ferriero, who is the Andrew W. Mellon director overseeing the system's research and branch libraries. "They are concerned about not having access to materials they're used to having access to." For example, he said, some writers and members of the publishing industry have expressed worry about the fate of the historical materials in the children's collection.
"So clarifying just where things are going," Mr. Ferriero said in a phone interview, "has been one of the challenges, because there are a lot of moving parts here."
The intricate relocation process has resembled something of a game of musical chairs, a challenge compounded by the size of the collections. Donnell holds about 300,000 items. In the 2007 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2007, the library recorded 753,000 visitors (many of them repeat visitors, who would be counted more than once). They checked out materials from the library a total of 1.3 million times.
Here are the details of the move, as supplied by the library: