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At storied NY Public Library, renovation plan leads to debate over libraries' changing goals

Plans for a major change within the New York Public Library's landmark main building have kindled an intellectual culture clash over its direction and the future of libraries themselves.

The $300 million-plus proposal entails moving millions of books out of the Fifth Avenue building's research stacks and into storage. That would make way for a lending library with other volumes, computers and a cafe.

Two other nearby library spaces would be sold to help pay for it.

Library officials say the plan will save the research books and millions of dollars, among other benefits.

But some scholars, preservationists and other critics say the project will turn a singular institution into library lite.

The controversy comes amid broader debate about libraries' role when information is only a touchscreen away.

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