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In his corner of the New York legal universe, Frank A. Reiben-Rella keeps watch over about 10,000 books and exactly one computer at the Lincoln Building’s law library. The books have never crashed. And just to be sure nothing is ever lost, Rella maintains what may be the only traditional library card catalogue left in Manhattan. By popular demand, the books will soon be taken from the shelves and removed to a bigger and better place: from their basement quarters of nearly half a century up to the marbled main floor. Thus, the new and improved library will continue as a feature of daily life among the Lincoln Building’s 145 medium to small law firms. In fact, tenants told the landlord it had better remain — or else. “I’ve been practicing law for a hell of a long time, so I’m somewhat set in my ways,” said Herbert Monte Levy, a sole practitioner of mostly civil appellate law. “This computerized research, it’s not based on concepts. It’s just keywords. It doesn’t give me the insights I might get by thumbing through books the old-fashioned way.” Rella said the serendipitous experience valued by Levy “happens all the time” among his library clientele, young and old alike, computer literate or otherwise. In deciding to invest $300,000 to move and upgrade the library — part of a $30 million renovation program at the venerable East 42nd Street professional building opposite Grand Central Terminal — the landlord polled law firms on the fate of an amenity that has been part of the place for five decades. “Our tenants made it very, very clear to me that if [the library] wasn’t there, they would move to other locations,” said Kevin J. Driscoll, managing director of the building for Helmsley-Spear Inc. Instead of eliminating the long-standing library, he said, “We’re going from 1,600 square feet to 2,500 square feet. “We’re preparing the space with an eye toward growth to a 15,000-volume library. And the new library will be adjacent to our new 1,800 square foot conference center.” The new library will include the additions of two new computers with Internet connections and a printer, said Driscoll. But there will be no Westlaw or Lexis access. Rella said nearly all the tenant law firms had such features already in their offices. NEW LIBRARY INCLUDED IN RENT Driscoll was quick to note that the new library would not mean a rent increase. The common research space and bookish retreat has been a standard clause in leases since 1954, when the late real estate syndicator Lawrence A. Wien, whose initials prophesied his career, bought the property and established a law library. “I don’t know of many buildings that have this,” said Fred C. Posniak, director of marketing for Wien & Malkin, the firm likewise begun by the late Wien that still occupies one of the Lincoln Building’s 55 floors. “Despite the computer age, there is still a need for a real library. There is a human need to touch a book.” Jeffrey S. Abraham would agree. “Books can be more efficient than computer research,” said Abraham, a Lincoln tenant and securities lawyer with Abraham & Paskowitz. “A lot of book research tools have developed over the past hundred years. You can actually move pretty quickly through them. “It’s easier to read a book than a computer screen. With a computer, you have to print out first. It’s just easier on the eyes that way,” he said. “Besides, we grew up reading pages in books, not text online.” FREQUENT USER Jonathan M. Landsman, a sole civil litigator, said he conducts virtually all his legal research in the Lincoln Building. “The library is very helpful because it maintains up-to-date statutes, treatises, digests and case reports,” said Landsman. “And it’s all right downstairs. I’m there several times a week. “Every so often, I’ll do computer research,” he said. “But I prefer paper and books.” This is music to the ears of Rella, a man who scribbles notes with a fine old Schaeffer fountain pen rather than a Palm Pilot stylus. “There is something about having all these books around me that makes me feel good,” said Rella as he made a sweeping glance at his realm during an interview. “You have a sense of continuity with history.” History begins at the lobby, where visitors may admire the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln by sculptor Daniel Chester French. A president with a certain literary bent, Lincoln authored the classic crime story “The Trailer Murder Mystery,” based on a case from his Illinois lawyer days. Prospective law firm tenants are often convinced to sign a lease when their tour of the Lincoln Building winds up at the library. “As soon as they see it, they want in,” said Rella. Driscoll confirms this. “Many times, we’ve had tenants see the [library] space on a Monday,” he said. “And then they’ll move into their offices on Friday.” The Lincoln Building’s law firms, constituting about 40 per cent of the tenancy, are not the only ones that make use of the library, as this recent letter to Driscoll shows: “I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the law library at the building,” wrote Lynne L. Pantalena, a senior vice president for Fleet Bank’s Private Clients Group. “I also wanted to tell you how helpful Frank Rella has been,” Pantalena added. “He knows exactly what is in the library and where . … Mr. Rella regularly goes beyond the call. “Recently, I needed a non-copyrighted copy of IRS documents. This was not available in the Lincoln Building library. Frank went out of his way to procure a copy from the City Bar Association library for me . … As a result, I was able to get a presentation out on time and in good form.” LIBRARIAN PLAYWRIGHT Rella has been the Lincoln Building’s librarian since 1996. Prior to that, he ran the law library at Wien & Malkin for 15 years. He lost that job during the firm’s staff reductions in the mid-1990s. “I was out of work for a year,” he said. During which time he made use of his fountain pen. “I did some writing,” he said, “and I saw some friends I hadn’t seen for awhile.” With his friends, Rella collaborated on a number of off- off-Broadway plays — among them, “Danny Boy,” “Mother” and “Herod’s Pig.” “They centered around themes of returning Vietnam veterans and their problems and alcoholism,” Rella said of his theatre oeuvre. “I worked with people who had artistic aspirations but who, for one reason or another, got sidetracked in their lives.” Although not an attorney, Rella earned a degree in civil law from Oxford University in England, following his undergraduate work as a history major at Queens College. In his Oxford years, Rella wrote a thesis on the influence of Roman law on European civil law. He is, therefore, quite at home in the Lincoln Building law library. Among his favorite selections are 19th and 18th century legal opinions, Rella said. “There was a literary quality to them. You don’t have that so much anymore.” He then pointed out books by frequent visitors from upstairs offices: “Registration of Trademarks” (Aspen Law & Business, 1998) by Steven Bazerman and Jason Drangel of Bazerman & Drangel and Levy’s own “How to Handle an Appeal” (Practising Law Institute, third edition, 1990). “Right now, I’m doing work on the supplement,” said Levy. “Of course, I’m doing the research right downstairs.”

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