NEW YORK – The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL), the New York Public Library's (NYPL) wholly remade central circulating branch, officially opened on June 1. The transformation of the library was made possible in part by a $55 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the second-largest one-time individual gift in NYPL's history. Among those present were New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos.
“It is the central circulating library New York City has long needed, wanted, and deserves,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx. “As we all look towards our next chapter of recovery and renewal, it is important that public infrastructure be strong, and education and opportunity be readily and freely accessible. There is no greater public project than this one to accomplish those goals."
"This library is exactly what New York needs right now: a truly open and public place accessible to all, where people of all ages and backgrounds can experience wonder, grow in their understanding of the world, and launch on new trajectories that enrich life for all of us,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “Thriving public space is space that people can truly make their own, where everyone belongs, and SNFL is beautifully designed to encourage just that. As New Yorkers and global citizens, we could not be prouder and more excited for all SNFL has to offer the city in the years to come.”
The library partially opened a year ago to offer grab-and-go service through the pandemic, and COVID-19 precautions remain in place: the rooftop and adult learning center remain closed for now, and in-person programs are not yet on offer.
"I thank Andreas Dracopoulos from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for making all this possible," said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, noting that the delivery of this important work to the public has its own symbolic significance while New York is trying to fully recover from the nightmare of the pandemic.
"What drives us is the ability of New Yorkers to come back. We have seen it through our history and you see it now. Citizens are building the recovery and this building is its epitome,” said Mayor de Blasio.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson noted that those who thought New York was dead were wrong, while NYPL Deputy Director Caryl Matute said this was a project she had been waiting for since she used the services of the Library as a student, decades ago.
In his remarks at the event, Dracopoulos, first thanked the NYPL and the City of New York for the opportunity they gave to the Foundation to make the donation, while emphasizing that the development of the Library was always based on the public-private partnership.
"The history of the New York Public Library itself is based on a real collaboration between the public and the private sector, which is often taken for granted by the public. The library was founded in downtown Manhattan in 1971, moved to this building in 1980, so it took more than 40 years for this beautiful structure," he said, and then referred to author and sociologist Eric Klinenberg and his book on the value of public libraries, titled Palaces of the People.
"Eric Klinenberg, in his book on libraries, described them as `palaces for the people,' offering nobility and integrity. This is one of the 92 libraries within the NYPL system and it is a real palace for the people. With dedicated spaces for children, teens, and adult learning, business center, and rooftop terrace. It is at the frontline for helping NYPL deliver its mission and its vision of providing lifelong learning and also strengthening the communities at a time like today when we need that more than ever. The value, also, of true public spaces is as important as it has ever been and the Public Library's system provides that notion and that reality of a truly public space, free space, for all to come and enjoy," said Dracopoulos.
The ribbon cutting followed to mark the official opening of the SNFL. It was also noted that the two famous NYPL lions, nicknamed "Patience and Fortitude" by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in the 1930s, would also watch over the SNFL from their post in front of the NYPL's Schwartman Research Library across the street.