Initial designs for the project reveal a spectacular circulating library with views of Bryant Park, offering New Yorkers 100,000 square feet of books, computers, classrooms, programming spaces, quiet study zones, job search resources, free and open to all. The new library will also include an expanded children's centre and a new teen centre.

In addition, core research materials will now be housed more securely, preserving them for future generations of scholars, writers, and students. Currently, research volumes are stored in 101-year-old book stacks that lack climate controls and other safeguards, putting the collections at risk. Under the plan, the technologically outdated bookshelves, which have always been closed to the public, will be removed, and the materials rehoused in modern storage underneath Bryant Park.

The enormous space where the stacks are situated today will become a vast, light-filled lending library. Portions of the historic book stacks will be repurposed in the new circulating library, allowing the public to see and enjoy them for the first time.

This aspect of the plan has created some controversy. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal argues that the NYPL is overseeing its own destruction...