Donnell Library Center

Donnell Library Center

The Donnell Library Center is a branch of the New York City Library at 20 West 53rd Street just north of Rockefeller Center.

The most famous aspect of the library is the collection of the original Winnie the Pooh dolls along with his friends Kanga, Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet which are housed behind Bulletproof glass in a display in the Children’s Reading Room.

The branch also has the largest New York Public Library circulating collection of materials in languages other than English. It also features the largest collection in the library system of magazines, hardcover, paperback and recorded books for seventh through twelfth grades in the Nathan Straus Young Adult Center.

The library opened in 1955 and cost $2.5 million, including the books. It is named for Ezekial J. Donnell (1822-1896), a cotton merchant who was an early library patron. Its exterior like other Rockefeller Buildings consists of Indiana Limestone. It was designed by Edgar I. Williams and Aymar Embury II. The formal name carved in the limestone above the entrance was "The Donnell Free Circulation Library and Reading Room."

Winnie the Pooh

In the 1940s Pooh author A. A. Milne donated the dolls to the American publisher E. P. Dutton. The dolls were then donated to the library in 1988.

In 1998 British Member of Parliament Gwyneth Dunwoody urged that the dolls be returned to the British Parliament after saying she “detected sadness” in the inanimate objects.

The Americans then dug in their heels with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani coming to their defense.

The mayor, after the visiting the library, and holding the bear with a group of children proclaimed in a "leaked" conversation that the bear told him "I want everyone in Britain and America to know that we're very, very happy here in New York City" and that it had also lauded the city's drop in crime and thought New York "capital of the world.

Other politicians were to join the fray with Congressman Nita M. Lowey proclaiming "The Brits have their head in a honey jar if they think they are taking Pooh out of New York City."

Mike McCurry, spokesman for Bill Clinton proclaimed "As the President indicated to some of us, the notion that the United States would lose Winnie is utterly unbearable."

Future plans

The five-story Library located between Rockefeller Center (which it resembles architecturally) and the Museum of Modern Art across 53rd Street (Manhattan) has long been considered a target for development given its low rise location amidst the Midtown Manhattan skyscrapers.

In November 2007 Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. which owns the 21 Club directly south of the library announced an agreement to raze the library and replace it with an 11-story hotel. The Library, which would be relocated during the building phase from 2009 to 2011 would then occupy the first floor and two subterranean floors in the new structure and would have a separate entrance from the hotel.


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