by Aimee Levitt
Have you ever had a burning desire to visit the stacks in the Central Library downtown? Even if you're not usually an aficionado of libraries, you really should. The stacks are seven levels of clouded glass floors and narrow staircases and, yes, books and eerily beautiful. And after this Saturday, June 12, they'll be gone forever.
OK, that's not technically true: They may be around for as long as another year. But at five p.m. Saturday, they'll be closed to the public forever. And after the St. Louis Public Library completes its two-year-long renovation project -- which starts Monday -- the stacks will be gone, replaced by a new entrance and atrium and a more modern book-retrieval system.
The guts of the library -- originally built in 1912 -- will be rearranged to allow more room for technology, children's books and the genealogy collection. A 288-seat auditorium will fill the space originally intended for coal-storage.
During the library's reconstruction, most of its contents will be put in storage at the old Famous-Barr warehouse at I-44 and Vandeventer Avenue. Patrons will be able to order books from the Central Library's collection and have them delivered to other branches.
The genealogy, local history and newspaper microfilm collections, meanwhile, will eventually be available for public perusal at the Charles H. Compton Library at 1624 Locust Street -- next winter, after the space has been outfitted with new heating and cooling systems. In the meantime, a library spokeswoman told the Post-Dispatch, researchers will be directed to county libraries or the Missouri History Museum.
The plan is for the Central Library to reopen in time for its centennial in 2012.