It houses some of the greatest works of literature known to man, but now, the New York Public Library is bringing a different kind of classic to its Rose Main Reading Room when it reopens on October 5 — a train. After two years of closure for repairs and restoration, one of the city’s most treasured landmarks is getting a landmark of its own in the form of a book train, or really, a book roller coaster.
The New York Public Library will soon be unveiling a “new, state-of-the-art conveyor system in its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street to transport requested research materials from newly expanded storage under Bryant Park to researchers throughout the library.” But because “conveyer system” doesn’t quite do this ingenious contraption justice, we’re calling it a book roller coaster (or at the very least, a book train).
Designed by architects at Gensler, the system is comprised of 24 individual red cars, and makes use of a rail system that allows the cars to not only run seamlessly, but also “automatically transition from horizontal to vertical motion” (hence the roller coaster-esque vibes). “As designers working in research libraries and cultural institutions like these, it is incumbent upon us to think creatively to preserve often rare and valuable cultural artifacts,” said Anthony Harris, Project Architect at Gensler. “The new system embraces innovation and design in an unprecedented way so that these cultural products continue to be available to the public.”
Much like a real train, the purpose of these cars is to “pick up requested materials from the newly expanded Milstein Research Stacks — which now have two levels that can hold up to 4 million research volumes — and deliver the materials to library staff in two locations: one on the first floor and the other in the Rose Main Reading Room. Staff then provide the materials to researchers for use in the library,” the NYPL said in a statement.
Boasting 950 feet in total of vertical and horizontal tracks, the book coaster moves at a respectable 75 feet per minute, and throughout 11 levels of the library. Each car can carry around 30 pounds of material, and takes just five minutes to go from the Milstein Stacks (27 feet below ground) to the Rose Main Reading Room on the library’s third floor.
“This new dependable and efficient system will ensure a seamless delivery of research items from our storage facility to the researchers who need them,” said Matt Knutzen, director of the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Divisions within the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. “Our priorities include preserving our materials and making them increasingly accessible to the public in an inspiring space for research — our recent storage expansion, our restoration of the Reading Room, and the installation of this system are all elements of that work.”