Story at a glance

  • Parts of the new library in Queens, New York, have now been blocked off to prevent kids from falling down stairs.
  • Books that were only accessible by a staircase have been moved to a more accessible area.
  • Having only one elevator has also proven to be a challenge for the new library.

The new library in Queens, New York, took a decade to build and cost more than $40 million. The building’s design was celebrated by visitors and architecture critics. But since it opened in late September, the library has had to reorganize to address accessibility issues.

When the library opened, three aisles of adult fiction were only accessible up a staircase, Gothamist reported at the time. The tiered shelves of books are not serviced by the elevator, so folks who can’t climb so many stairs couldn’t browse the books in that section. Queens Library officials said the library does comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because librarians could retrieve books from those sections if asked, the New York Times reports.

“To me, that is the response of somebody who never had the experience of going somewhere and not being able to fully participate,” Christine Yearwood, founder of Up-Stand, a disability rights group, told the New York Times. “Having to ask someone else to help you is, at worst, demeaning, and at best, a limiting experience.”

They have since moved the adult fiction books to an accessible location, and the staircase-access-only shelves are empty while the library decides how else to use them. But there isn’t much that librarians can do about the bottlenecks around the building’s only elevator, which are worst around toddler story-time when caregivers must park strollers on the second floor before attending the event back on the first floor. For now, the library has started offering a second story time event to try to distribute the crowd.

Another point of concern for parents was the bleacher-style seating in the children’s section. For now, the top section has been blocked off to reduce the risk of falls. Ravina Persaud, visiting the children’s wing with her husband and daughter, told the New York Times she was surprised that the architects had designed the stairs without realizing the risk they posed to small children.

“I’m sure that they didn’t have kids,” she said, “because as a parent, you know these things.”

Published on Nov 08, 2019