NEW SCIENCE LIBRARY OPENS ----------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 1996 June 1
Doors threw open on Thursday 2 May 1996 at the world's largest library of science. Three years abuilding in the former Altman's emporium, the Science, Industry, and Business Library. (SIBL) contains 1.2 million items in hard medium and an allout connection to Internet. All services, except printouts from onsite computers, are free to all visitors. The entry is.on the northwest corner of 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Previous newsnotes about SIBL put it on the Fifth Avenue side of the Altman structure. The rest of the building is occupied by Oxford University Press and a new Graduate Center for the City University. Altho the public areas take up only parts of two floors the library stacks, services, and offices spread over the full ten floors of this corner of the old store. Total floor area is 16,000 square meters! The street floor houses the circulation section with about 50,000 books and a 60,000 book reference section. Both are on open shelf. All the books were trucked from the MidManhattan branch. Hence, for a brand new library the materials are surprising well-worn and even vintaged. For astronomy there are 28 full shelves of books! The items cover all aspects of the profession: historY. telescopy, cosmology, biography, textbooks, theory, and so on. Adjacent shelves hold sumptuous collections in maths, physics, computers, technology, chemistry, and general science. The top shelves are out of reach of the shorter visitors. Also, the plastic jackets on the upper shelf books reflect room lights, masking the titles and numbers. Yet there are none of those rolling library stools around to stand on. There are two card catalogs here. One is the old paper-based catalog in 800[!] volumes for material acquired before 1970ish. The other is the online version for material after 1970ish, accessible from computers spotted around the floor. Your current New York Public Library card allows you to charge out books. If you got a card from the Brooklyn or Queens library -- each being an entirely separate library empire -- you can get a New York card at the circulation desk. With no card, you fill out an application from scratch. Downstairs is the. cyberlibrary. Scores of desks march across the. floor for individual use. Most have power and signal sockets for your oWn computer to plug into the SIBL main computer system. To use the sockets you need Ethernet or serial (dialup) TCP comms on your machine. Details for the connection are in a flyer at the general inquiry desk on the street floor. Once attached to SIBL's grid you may run any Internet software mounted on your system; it doesn't have to be Netscape. Other desks have Gateway brand Pentium 120s running Netscape under Windows and hooked to LaserJet printers. These are for Internet research. You can not save, capture, or download material: there is no disc slot on these rigs. All personalizing functions are cut out from the menus. For some visitors the lettering is a bit tiny and the arrow gets lost in busy screens. Bolding and enlarging the letters and arrow is a trivial trick in Windows and a librarian.I spoke with noted that SIBL already got several comments about this. You can print the webpages. First buy from a nearby vending machine a cashcard. Slot it into a meterbox between the computer and the printer. As you print, the meterbox bites 20 cents per page off of the card. If you insist on squeezing your nickel, bring lots of pencil and paper to copy off the data you collect from Internet. More desks have computers tied to assorted collections of magazines, journals, and databases. These are held em CDs that uncannily swing into place as needed within 'jukeboxes'. Still other desks allow computer lookup of US patents and a good set of overseas ones. For starts you may sit at any vacant desk and tickle the ivories. As traffic builds up, you'll have to go on a waitlist. If traffic gets really heavy, SIBL may set a time limit, like one hour, per session. The 1.2 megabooks on the upper floor are yours for inroom use. After looking up the citation, write out a request slip and present it at the call desk. Just like in the Main Library, you wait for your number to turn up and then collect the books. While the library is totally tied to the digital world and you really must be conversant with computers to exploit it, there are flesh & blood librarians. In addition, SIBL offers free classes in library skills. These tutorials, however, assume a prior comfort with computers: there is no 'DOS for ninnies' or 'the cretin's guide to Windows' here. The conversion of the i9th century department store into a 21st century library is quite sensitively done. This place is not a TriBeCa new media loft. You know you're in a library. There's lots of wood and stone and carpets and cushioned chairs. The lighting recalls the old store lights and you think you still hear the store's bong-bong bells. The street floor kept Altman's legendary show windows. Thru them you.. can survey the outside streetscape and passersby can peer at the activity in the library. SIBL is open Monday thru Saturday 11:00 to 18:00: closed on Sunday. It is near the 33rd Street station on the green line and a lazy walk from the orange and yellow lines in Herald Square. 34th Street, Fifth Avenue, and Madison Avenue buses flank the library. Within arm's reach of the library are copious shopping, eating, and tourist attractions.