Best for NYC: Best Practices

by Don Friedman on October 29, 2015

Part of working with old buildings is having a library that includes not only current engineering and preservation information but that also covers the era in which we work. In oath words, the 1916 New York City Building is often as useful to us as the 2014 code. When I started my own firm in 1992, I had a library with a few hundred old books in it. Those books were vitally important but were also expensive, heavy, bulky, and occasionally smelly and worm-eaten.

The paperless revolution – or in our case, the less-paper revolution – changed the way I approach our library. We’re not antiquarians but rather people looking for the information contained in the old books. If a book is available via Google Books or the Internet Archive, it’s as useful to us as if we had an original copy. The long-term result is that our library now has several thousand items, about 60 percent of which are PDFs.

Nearly all of the PDFs are items in the public domain either because of their age or because they were originally released in the public domain. For example, most document from the federal government are never copyrighted. Therefore, we are free to send those documents (or excerpts) to clients to explain the basis of our work. This is part of what we se as our goal to help educate people about the context of our work, which we believe is beneficial in the long run to our community.

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