Monthly Archives: May 2014


An outstanding editorial in The New Yorker gets it exactly right:

Physical, public space and physical books will continue to be vital to a library whose research collection, amassed over more than a century, is a cultural treasure… Given the importance of books, it follows that as many as possible should be on-site. Keeping them there, and moving back many that are off-site now, is a worthwhile goal. If the Schwarzman Building’s stacks need major refitting in order to preserve the books better, ideally that should be done, even at the projected cost of tens of millions of dollars. The Mid-Manhattan Library has long been falling apart. It should be fixed up, as the N.Y.P.L. has recently promised to do. Many of the eighty-seven branch libraries also need extensive improvements and renovations—a need more urgent than others, if the money could be found…

America now has the highest level of income inequality in the developed world, and New York’s is among the worst in America. The public library has always been a great democratizer and creator of citizens, and a powerful force against inequality; it must not retrench, especially now.

Read the full article here.


The leadership of NYPL has finally come to its senses and abandoned its hugely unpopular Central Library Plan. All of us at the Committee to Save the New York Public Library are gratified that the Mid-Manhattan Library will be saved and the stacks in the 42nd Street Library left intact. Now it remains for us to persuade the library leadership to fix the mechanical systems in the stacks so the books can be returned there. This great building, meant for readers and the books they love, can now fulfill its purpose for another century. It is a great victory for the people of New York and for the library at the heart of the city.

Our group started with a petition signed by scholars, readers, architects, and citizens. Through the effort and support of library lovers from all walks of life we have organized and led the opposition to NYPL’s wasteful Central Library Plan. Today we thank our allies: Citizens Defending Libraries, the Library Lovers League, Landmark West, and the Historic Districts Council; all were crucial to this victory. We will continue to work together to be sure the great libraries of our city are cared for and preserved and that their financial and architectural resources are used wisely.

Bill de Blasio’s demand during the waning days of the Bloomberg administration for greater transparency and a public review of NYPL alternatives set the stage for yesterday’s change of course at the Library. The multiple lawsuits brought by scholars and activists helped insure that no final decisions were made until they could be properly reviewed by the new administration when it came into office.

Borough President Gale Brewer advocated keeping the Mid-Manhattan Library and just days ago Councilmember Dan Garodnick questioned the wisdom of the NYPL’s extravagant plans. State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Jose Serrano, State Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, and other elected officials spoke out forcefully to urge the NYPL to heed the public outcry against their plans. Assemblymember Micah Kellner held a crucial hearing so the public could learn what library leaders were reluctant to disclose. Union and community leaders spoke out strongly against the plan, as did many prominent writers. We thank them all and hope they will continue to stand with us.

The turn-around at the New York Public Library is a great beginning, but there is still much to be done. We will continue to press to bring the books back to the stacks so that the 42nd Street Library can serve all the people as a great research library. We will continue urging elected leaders to fully fund the neighborhood branches. And we will continue to demand greater transparency and accountability from the NYPL trustees and  administration.

In a victory for library users across the city, the New York Public Library has announced it will abandon the hugely unpopular Central Library Plan.  The Mid-Manhattan Library will be saved and renovated, and the 42nd St. Library stacks will be kept intact “for present”.  But NYPL is refusing to return the books to the stacks!

Here’s a summary of coverage:

Wall Street Journal: “In Library’s New Plan, the Stacks Stay… Empty
NYPL’s new plan has people “scratching their heads” – save the stacks but keep them empty?! As Pulitzer Prize-winner David Levering Lewis says, “Isn’t this pretty Kafka-esque?”  Also, the Wall Street Journal reveals that the NYPL trustees and administration have spent a jaw-dropping 18 million dollars on the plan they just abandoned.  And why did NYPL refuse to let the Wall Street Journal take a photo of the empty stacks to illustrate their article?

The Nation: “NYPL Shelves Plan to Gut Central Library
Scott Sherman, who first broke the news about the Central Library Plan over 2 years ago, reviews the questions surrounding the NYPL’s decision to abandon the plan.

Translationista: “A Library Without Books?
Translationista analyses the NYPL’s rationale for not returning the books to the 42nd Street stacks. Conclusion? Returning the books to the stacks is the most cost-effective way to store them. “[NYPL President Tony] Marx and [NYPL Communications Officer Ken] Weine know all these things as well as I do, so the question remains: Why are they so hellbent on keeping the books off those shelves? It just doesn’t compute.”

Melville House: “Critics of the Central Library Plan React to New York Public Library’s Change of Course
A great round-up of reactions to NYPL’s decision to abandon the Central Library Plan.

Wall Street Journal: “New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans
The initial Wall Street Journal story, which revealed that NYPL did not plan to return the books to the 42nd Street Stacks.

New York Times: “Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark
The story which first broke the news of NYPL’s decision to scrap the Central Library Plan.

The Wall Street Journal confirms the earlier NY Times article.  The NYPL is abandoning the Central Library Plan.  BUT THERE’S A BIG CATCH: “Under the new plan, the book stacks would be preserved but would remain empty of books. The research collection would instead be stored in climate-controlled storage space under Bryant Park.”

The only thing sillier than the original plan would be preserving the empty stacks free of books – an utterly and obviously pointless state of affairs that will just beg for resolution via a new “renovation” project a few years down the line. And the planned additional storage space under Bryant Park will only hold 1.5 million books, less than half the books that were in the stacks; the remaining 1.5-2 million books will still have to be shipped to New Jersey.

Saving the Mid-Manhattan is a great victory, but we still have work to do!

Can this be true???!!!!  The New York Times reports the end of the Central Library Plan:

In a striking about-face, the New York Public Library has abandoned its plan to turn part of its research flagship on 42nd Street into a circulating library and instead will renovate the Mid-Manhattan library on Fifth Avenue, several library trustees said.

There’s been no official announcement yet, and we’re waiting with bated breath to read the fine print…


A beautiful statement from The Belladonna Collaborative, a Brooklyn-based feminist poetry colllective, on their reasons for opposing the Central Library Plan:

We write books with the thought that our books will be one day in a place where people will read them. That place for books is a library; it is that simple. That place is not a store, a café, an events space or an echoing room with free wireless. We write books after reading books. We read, and then we write. We create new books inspired by the thousands of books before us. At the Central Library, we are sometimes the first person to open a book and read it. We relish that a book has been kept carefully at the same place in which we are writing and thinking and reading, and that we can get it, almost immediately, when the ideas we are holding in our head at that moment need the book to develop them further. Many of us also write in the moments between our jobs and our families; many of us are not part of a university and don’t have access to university libraries. So our moments at the Central Library are precious, sometimes few, and not always repeatable. In short, we often don’t have time to wait.

Since we are poets, here is the metaphor: the library in midtown is the heart of the city. To rip out its stacks and “monetize” its space is to say to the world that we have failed as citizens. It is to say that we have nothing left to our lives but luxury condos fueled by the meaningless movements of derivatives and gains and exploitation. It is to say that we are driven only by corporate “strategy” that dehumanizes community and knowledge and creativity, and, exactly opposite to the purpose of a library, destroys connection to the diversities and unpredictability of thought across time, as recorded in the extraordinary existence of books.


Richard Stallman, President and Founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the GNU/Linux operating system, speaks out about NYPL’s Central Library Plan:

Don’t switch the NYPL to e-books! Typical commercial e-books don’t give people or libraries the same freedoms as a printed book. In ethical terms, they are a big change for the worse. See for the specifics.

Most commercial e-books are so restrictive that libraries are not even allowed to buy one and then lend it. A self-respecting library should stand firm for its own rights, and readers’ rights. Since e-books trample readers’ freedom, libraries shouldn’t encourage people to read that way.

The NYPL’s proposed Central Library Plan stores millions of books far away, so that there’s a long wait before you can see them. It means chilling surveillance, requiring patrons to identify themselves even to _look at a book in the library_.

The plan would also eliminate two major branch libraries, the Mid-Manhattan and the Science, Industry, and Business Library, to get the money to ruin the 42nd St Library — like ripping your feet off to make cudgels to bash yourself on the head. The Donnell branch, where I borrowed many books when I was in high school, was foolishly destroyed; let’s learn the lesson and do no more such harm.