The Nation magazine has just published an in-depth investigative report by Scott Sherman on the New York Public Library’s quest to monetize its assets. Sherman was the first to uncover the NYPL’s renovation plans in late-2011, and has been following the story for two years.
The article, “The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan”, is available online: http://www.thenation.com/article/175966/hidden-history-new-york-citys-central-library-plan#axzz2dQOd8GW7
Sherman’s article, which is based on internal documents, reveals the extent to which the Central Library Plan (CLP), from its inception, was characterized by secrecy and hubris, and included a $2.7 million payout to Booz Allen (the well-known military defense contractor) to help shape the plan. Sherman asks how and why one of the world’s greatest libraries got into the real estate business and adopted a $300 million transformation without any significant public debate. For nearly two years, the NYPL has refused to discuss the CLP in detail.
MAYORAL FORUM ON PUBLIC LIBRARIES AUGUST 30
The Committee to Save the New York Public Library is cosponsoring a MAYORAL FORUM ON PUBLIC LIBRARIES with Citizens Defending Libraries.
Friday, August 30, 8 – 10 a.m.
Kane Street Synagogue
236 Kane Street, Brooklyn
(Between Court St and Tompkins Pl. F or G trains to Bergen, or any train, East or West Side, to Borough Hall, plus a 10-minute walk.)
Candidates will be asked to explain their positions on the Central Library Plan, the sale of publicly-owned library buildings for private development, and the reduction in library services across the city.
The hour is early, but the time for libraries, and the NYC mayoral primary, is late. We need you to show up and tell the candidates to save our libraries!
More information will be announced next week, including which candidates will appear, and who the moderators and additional co-hosts will be.
On July 24, Anthony Marx, President of the New York Public Library, defended the Central Library Plan on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show. Those comments, which offered a false picture of the virtues of the plan, are refuted below.
Marx referred to the stacks as if they were mere bookshelves easily taken down and made part of the fabric of the new Norman Foster plan, but they can never be a Proustian reminder of the library’s history. In fact, the stacks are an essential part of the structure and function of the research library. They provide the support for the unencumbered space of the magnificent, nearly two-block-long Rose Reading Room and they were designed as a highly efficient system for delivering the books to the readers there.
Marx asserted that the state of the stacks are a threat to the books they store, implying that there have been no improvements to them in over 100 years. In fact, advanced temperature and humidity controls were put in place in the 1980’s and in 1991 a dry pipe sprinkler system was installed. The Library of Congress has recently brought stacks of the same vintage up to modern standards.
When asked about the reduction of space that will result from the insertion of SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library) and the Mid-Manhattan circulating library into the 42nd Street structure, Marx resisted a straightforward apples to apples comparison when admitting that library space was being reduced. He insisted that this will somehow be made up for by opening other rooms in the building that have hitherto been closed to the public. In fact, these rooms can be made available to the public at any time and have no connection with the planned transfer of the Mid-Manhattan library and SIBL into the building.
Concerning the possibility of renovating Mid-Manhattan, Marx stated decisively that it would be impossible since it would involve closing one of the most heavily used libraries in the country during a renovation. Major libraries, such as Columbia’s Butler Library, the Firestone Library at Princeton, and the Library of Congress have been kept open during renovations. If, as Marx promised, the Rose Reading Room would remain open through the Central Library Plan reconstruction, the same should certainly be possible at Mid-Manhattan.
Finally, and most egregious, was Marx’ statement that the lawsuits against the Central Library Plan say, in essence, “don’t let the public into the building.” On the contrary, the concern is for the general public to continue to have the free, ongoing access to the research collections they have always had. Readers will suffer if the Central Library Plan is implemented. Students, such as those at the City University, who lack automatic access to private university libraries, will be especially hurt by offsite storage.