The NYPL's Historic Rose Main Reading Room to Reopen on October 5

September 2016 - After being closed for more than two years for important repairs and restoration, The New York Public Library’s historic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room will reopen to the public ahead of schedule on Wednesday, October 5.

The two adjacent rooms on the third floor of the landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan will reopen at 10 a.m., providing access to the Library’s research collections and space for quiet study. Daily public tours of the building at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. will include both spaces.

“The Library has eagerly anticipated the reopening of these glorious rooms, architectural gems which for over 100 years have been home to scholars, writers, students, and all members of the public who want to access our renowned research collections, learn, and create,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “As great stewards of all of our libraries, we are proud of this important project, which ensures that these spectacular spaces remain as inspiring as they were on they day they opened.”

The reopening comes more than two years after an ornamental plaster rosette fell from the Rose Main Reading Room’s 52-foot high ceiling overnight in May of 2014. The  Library decided to conduct a full inspection of the ceilings of both the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, building scaffolding and massive platforms the length of the room for access. Although the ceilings - built with the rest of the Library in 1911 - were found to be in good condition by WJE Engineers & Architects, P.C., the Library decided to make several improvements to the ceiling, including:

  • Recreating and replacing the rosette that fell
  • Reinforcing all 900 rosettes in both rooms with steel cables
  • Enlisting renowned muralists EverGreene Architectural Arts to recreate a 27 by 33 foot James Wall Finn mural on the ceiling of the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room. Unlike the murals in the Rose Main Reading Room by the same artist, the Bill Blass mural had not been restored in the 1990s, and a fine arts conservator determined that it sustained irreparable damage, loss of original paint, discoloration, patch jobs and unsophisticated over-paint.
  • Working with Aurora Lighting to restore the Room’s chandeliers, including putting in LED lights.

Tishman Construction Corporation, an AECOM company, was the project manager on the $12 million restoration, which was completed several months ahead of schedule. The room will be the site of this year’s Library Lions fundraising gala on Monday, November 7.

While the rooms were closed, the Library maintained service for researchers in other rooms throughout the building. With work complete, research functions will return to Bill Blass and the Rose Main Reading Room - with improvements.

The Library, along with global design firm Gensler Architects and Tishman Construction, recently completed construction of a second level of state-of-the-art collections storage under Bryant Park, creating capacity for 4.3 million research volumes at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The Library began moving materials into the new lower level of the Milstein Research Stacks in the spring; the process is expected to be completed in early 2017. With this increased capacity, the Library estimates that it can fill over 90 percent of research requests with materials located on-site.

The Library also installed a new, modern conveyor system to bring materials from underground storage to the Rose Main Reading Room. The $2.6 million system - 24 individual cars that each carry materials on a track - is more efficient and easier to maintain than the previous conveyor belt system.

The Library is offering a free exhibition on the third floor of its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building documenting the recent work in the building as well as historic efforts entitled Preserving a Masterpiece: From Soaring Ceilings to Subterranean Storage. It is on view through October 9.

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