A New Home for the Metropolitan New York Library Council

The Background

Nate Hill
Jul 27, 2016 · 4 min read

Metropolitan New York Library Council, a non-profit organization founded in 1960 that develops, maintains, and augments essential library services throughout New York City and Westchester County, has been located in the Union Square area at 11th and Broadway since 1990. Our membership currently consists of a diverse group of individuals and over 250 libraries, archives, museums and other information organizations ranging from New York’s largest libraries to small community archives. We are growing and expanding all the time.

Twenty-six years ago, when METRO settled into its current space, the organization had very different needs. METRO has responded to environmental change by designing new services over the years, but the space that enables and delivers these services is ready for growth.

METRO on 11th street, home since 1990

The time has come for METRO to cover new ground!

We have just signed a lease on a new space on 11th Avenue and 45th street: the west side of midtown Manhattan. We will leave our current space October 1, 2016 and expect to move our staff into the new space before the new year.

In 1990, when METRO began its time in Union Square, the area was grimy, gritty, depressed; it became a target for future economic development. Union Square succeeded in its transformation and is now a busy hub of commerce and activity. From May’s to Klein’s, Tad’s Steaks to The Coffee Shop, Virgin Megastore to Best Buy, the history of Union Square in recent decades is an urbanist archaeology of culture, media, and commerce, perhaps best summed up in the bizarro Metronome public sculpture. Now in 2016, as METRO moves to the west side, history is repeating itself. As METRO signs a 10 year lease in this neighborhood, we feel confident that we are moving to an area that is emerging as the latest center for economic development in the city.


The new space at 599 11th Avenue is a blank slate. It is the entire 8th floor of an eight story building featuring 8,000 square feet with views of the Hudson River, Hudson Yards, Midtown Manhattan, and the Intrepid Museum. We are working with Marble Fairbanks to design and construct the first iteration of architectural and systems interventions in this space. We aspire to create a space that works as a dynamic laboratory for individual or organizational members to come together to learn, share ideas, and collaborate. Partitions, furniture, technology, and other systems will all be flexible so that over the course of 10 years we will be able to adapt to change and iterate as our members’ needs shift.

The Future

METRO is a member-driven organization. We do our work best when we listen to our members’ needs, analyze and interpret what we hear, and then design practical service responses for either broad or targeted impact. The move to 599 11th Avenue offers an unprecedented opportunity for New York’s libraries, archives, museums, and other information organizations to come together in a shared space and influence its programs, and culture. METRO will begin assembling and hosting charrettes, socials, and member community meetings in the coming months.

The first phase of development will include construction of the necessary infrastructure so that METRO can continue to operate and grow as a vital resource for our membership. The design will include space-based responses to needs that our members have already identified: convenient meeting space, event space, and access to software and tools that may not be available in their workplaces. After the initial pieces are in place, after the lights are on and the wifi is up, is when the truly fun co-creative, community building begins.

METRO’s new space on 11th Avenue: a blank slate

We will be closing METRO’s 11th Street location at the end of September. Initial construction in the new space will take place during the months of October and November. There will be some office-less limbo for METRO staff during this time, but our services will remain up and running. If everything goes according to plan we will be open again on December 1, and you can bet we will have an epic party. Or two.

Or more.

Finally, thanks to all of our members for all of their support, thanks to the amazing METRO staff for their reliability and their flexibility, and thanks to METRO’s board of directors for their commitment and dedication to our community.

Nate Hill

Written by

Nate Hill

Executive Director, Metropolitan New York Library Council

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