The New York Times says the plan had languished because of the economy and changes in library leadership.
But on Wednesday, the board gave British architect Norman Foster approval to proceed with the next stage of designing a new circulating library inside the main branch. It would be built below the famous Rose Reading Room, overlooking Manhattan's Bryant Park.
Two of the system's best-known libraries will be sold: the Mid-Manhattan branch and the Science, Industry and Business Library.
Plans for new libraries in Upper Manhattan and on Staten Island have been abandoned. They would have cost $40 million each.
The board approved a pilot program to expand educational programming at branch libraries.
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