News & Events

Essential Reforms Needed at NYPL – Share Our City Council Testimony With Elected Officials

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We’d like to thank everyone who attended last week’s City Council hearing. Below you can read a copy of the testimony we submitted before the Council. We are sending out copies to elected officials, and you can too!

We recommend sending a polite email to City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer ([email protected]), Chair of the Committee of Cultural Affairs, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ([email protected]) encouraging them to read our testimony and work with us as we strive to make the library administration accountable to the people whose tax dollars fund our libraries. Simply download the PDF version and attach it in your email.  You may also want to cc City Council Member Costa Constantinides ([email protected]), Chair of the Sub-Committee on Libraries.

Be sure to let them know that you want NYPL to conduct future capital projects with greater transparency, upgrade the climate controls in the 42nd Street library’s stacks, return the 3 million books that were exiled to storage in New Jersey, and abandon their misguided plan to sell the Science, Industry and Business library.

. . .

Testimony of Charles D. Warren of the Committee to Save the New York Public Library before the New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries. December 10, 2014

I am Charles Warren and I represent the Committee to Save the New York Public Library (CSNYPL), a citizens group that has sought to keep the popular Mid-Manhattan Branch as a library rather than a real estate deal, keep three million books in the stacks of the Central Library at 42nd Street, and maintain the Science Industry and Business Library (SIBL), the library closest to the CUNY Graduate Center.

With the support of thousands of New Yorkers, students, librarians, celebrated authors, union leaders, elected officials, and others we insisted that the $300 million price tag for the Central Library Plan (CLP), which escalated to $500 million, was too high. Thanks to our efforts and the elected officials who recognized the wasteful folly of this plan, we have stopped it.

The election of 2013 brought a new energy to our city government and the abandonment of NYPL’s destructive and extravagant Central Library Plan gives us all the opportunity to set a better course for the future. Base-line budgeting for the operating budgets of the three library systems is a positive step. And now, we welcome the opportunity to rethink the capital spending budget for our city’s libraries. As you know the many years of under-funding have left a pressing need for intelligent planning and stable funding.

The Center for an Urban Future has performed a great service in its careful study of the branch libraries and I want to add to that with some comments about what NYPL is calling the Midtown Campus, a scheme that encompasses its research library on 42nd Street and the popular Mid-Manhattan Library across 5th Avenue. I urge you to see that these two libraries are intertwined with and complimentary to the citywide network of neighborhood branches. Their central location and unique resources extend their importance beyond NYPL’s three borough system – they serve the whole city.

Public money and Private control – Is that a public/private partnership?

To citizens of New York it seemed the $151 Million contributed by New York City to the Central Library Plan was conjured from thin air; $100 Million from the Mayor; $50 Million from the City Council; $1 Million from the Manhattan Borough President. This money was granted when NYPL claimed it did not yet have even schematic designs. There were no public hearings, there was no public input. Now, most of this sum remains in the adopted FY 2015 capital budget. What is it for?

The NYPL Midtown Campus includes the Central Library at 42nd Street and the Mid-Manhattan Branch, but it fails to mention the Science Industry and Business Library, (SIBL) just a few blocks away.

Will the city council follow the old pattern where it grants $151 Million for a vaguely described plan being developed in secret? We need to know what our tax dollars are paying for. We must not stand for a partnership where the money is public and the decisions are private.

Just last week NYPL conducted a survey about plans for the Midtown Campus, but the survey omitted key questions. They did not ask:

• Does it make sense to leave the stacks empty for want of modern climate controls?

• Which Midtown Campus building is best suited to which library service?

• Should SIBL be sold or made part of the Midtown Campus?

• What balance should we strike between books and electronic services?

Instead, all the poll questions were skewed to avoid these important choices and reinforce a narrow set of pre-determined outcomes. This cannot be presented as meaningful public consultation.

If NYPL will not ask difficult questions, we must. And we must add a budget question: What is the best, most resilient, least destructive, and most economical way of achieving the public’s objectives for the library and the city? Long term capital plans should encompass all parts of all NYPL buildings.

Mistakes made with an insular process

NYPL is a not-for-profit corporation with a $1.1 Billion endowment. I often disagree with its president, Tony Marx, but I have no doubt that he is motivated by the same devotion to the library and the city that motivates the CSNYPL. I know the NYPL trustees are similarly well intentioned. We should applaud their extraordinary generosity and hard work. But insular decision-making at NYPL has led to a series of bad consequences:

•Ten years and countless millions wasted on the Central Library Plan.

• The fiasco of Donnell Library, where the anticipated real estate bonanza for NYPL has not been realized. Money from the sale of this beloved and busy neighborhood library has been chipped away at by bad deals, long delays, and millions spent to rent substitute space for years. In the end an irreplaceable neighborhood library of about 90,000 square feet will be replaced with a largely subterranean space 1/3 its size.

• SIBL was built at the cost of about $ 100 Million. It is a commercial condominium owned by NYPL, not by the city. But many costs associated with this facility were funded with NYS bonding authority. Should NYPL now be free to sell it without city approval? NYPL is now silent on the future of this huge investment in the “library of the future” (focused on CD-ROMs and an object lesson for those thinking they can predict the course of fast changing technology).

An on-going example of private planning with consequences for public funds is the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP) in Princeton, New Jersey. NYPL continues to spend its capital funds to construct and expand its remote storage facility there. These substantial capital investments are represented as “private funds.” and they are being made outside of New York City. Meanwhile, NYPL refuses to invest in its stacks, the uniquely efficient shelf system at the heart of its city owned 42nd Street building. Without public input, it has decided to leave the stacks empty, warehousing this space like a landlord waiting for an uptick in the real estate market.

Is it efficient to shuttle books back and forth from Princeton on a continuous basis? Is it environmentally responsible? Is it good for the preservation of the books? Is it good for New Yorkers? The answer seems to be that ReCAP is paid for with “private funds” and so it is not subject to city oversight. But “private funds” spent in New Jersey are dollars that are not spent on New York City facilities, and this means fewer jobs in New York. That leaves more needs to be met by city taxpayers and a bigger hole in the capital budget.

The public was barely consulted on these decisions, or consulted after they were set in motion. They have real consequences for library services and a real impact on the city’s capital expenditures. We need reform.

Make all information available to all

In order to make informed decisions about capital projects, the City Council and the public need access to cost and other information for past, present, and future projects. Decision-making is hobbled when public cost data are disclosed, but private cost data are concealed. NYPL leaders promise openness but fail to disclose important information.

For example: At the June 27, 2013 hearing before State Assembly Committee on Libraries, NYPL CEO Anthony Marx testified about CLP:

…. we understand that this plan needs an independent cost estimate and we will provide one as soon as we have an actual architectural design that can be assessed. We are as eager to [do] that as quickly as possible…., but we have to get it right. We also understand the public interest in having a cost estimate done by independent actors of what it would instead cost to make the current stacks work at state of the art preservation or for that matter to renovate the current Mid-Manhattan on site…. We will provide that information. We would love to do it sooner it looks at this point like we won’t have all of that complete till the fall. As soon as we have it we will make it public.

What was finally disclosed in the Wall Street Journal, as CLP was being scrapped, was that its cost had ballooned to $500 Million, that fitting out the unused storage under Bryant Park would cost $24 million (rather than the $8.5 Million NYPL estimated earlier) and that the cost to provide proper environmental controls in the stacks was estimated at $46 Million. No estimates were supplied for renovating the Mid-Manhattan Library, no professional cost-estimator was identified, nor was detail supplied. Indeed, the plans and specifications that formed the basis of these estimates have never been disclosed.

The failure of NYPL to fulfill its promise leaves the City Council and the public in the dark. We are deprived of important information and cost data needed to assess alternatives or estimate present capital plans for these buildings.

A closed book from an institution devoted to information access

Partial, selective disclosure of information is a pattern with NYPL. Its trustees’ meetings are open to the public, but much of the substance of those meetings is hidden within the briefing books provided to the trustees and not made public. I have asked Carey Maloney, the Speaker Mark-Viverito’s new representative to the NYPL trustees, to make his copy of these briefing books public, I have made the same request to the Comptroller’s staff. It should not require a quarterly Freedom of Information Act request to make public the substantive information underlying public meetings. Failure to disclose this information makes a mockery of open board meetings.

Pass-through contracts and NYC Department of Design and Construction

As this Committee knows, there are existing tools to require greater disclosure for the construction of city owned buildings. In a hearing held by this committee on April 28, 2014, the role of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) in library construction projects was examined. Testimony by Commissioner Peña-Mora and his deputy David Resnick emphasized the safe-guards and requirements for transparency in the DDC process. Under questioning, they compared this openness to the lack of transparency when pass-through contracts are used.

At the September 17, 2014 NYPL trustee meeting Anthony Marx claimed that pass-through contracts allowed the NYPL to deliver library projects at half the cost in half the time (compared to DDC). If this can be verified, it is a remarkable record of efficiency (even considering the lack of Wicks law requirements in pass-throughs contracts) and the city might want to fill vacancies at DDC from the staff of NYPL. But only NYPL has the data to support their claim.

We need to reform the rules for pass-through contracts so the use of some “private funds” does not cast a veil of secrecy over public building projects. I urge you to use the expertise within the DDC to find a more transparent process for these contracts. Absent greater transparency, our tax dollars are spent without sufficient public scrutiny or safe-guards.

Our Position on the capital budget

We support base-line budgeting. We support increased funding for NYPL and the other library systems. We support budget reform that allows for long term planning. These measures are needed to strengthen New York’s libraries.

But reform must accompany these increases and improvements in funding.

When we met with Peter Hatch from the Deputy Mayor’s office he indicated relations between the city and NYPL had entered a new era. But we cannot rely on better inter-personal relationships alone. With increased funding for operations and capital projects we must have greater openness, accountability, and transparency at NYPL. Citizens must be able to participate in decisions about both long and short term plans and we need mechanisms within the government to oversee library expenditures of both public and private funds. These libraries are our buildings. In return for more a more consistent stream of public funds, we must demand a more public planning process.

We urge the following reforms:

• Make increased and long-term capital funding contingent on greater openness and better oversight of NYPL.

• Require advance notice and periods of public comment on NYPL capital expenditures whether funded by the NYC or “privately” by NYPL.

• Reform pass-through contracts to provide better oversight and transparency.

• Use the government’s three appointed representatives as a conduit of information between the NYPL trustees and the public.

• Require a quarterly public report from the Speaker’s representative providing an independent account of NYPL plans.

• Require the disclosure of all information presented at NYPL trustee’s meetings.

• Require disclosure of past cost estimates relating to the Central Library Plan

Contact:
The Committee to Save the New York Public Library
232 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
[email protected]

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Join Us As We Testify at City Hall on Wednesday

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At 1:00 pm on December 10th, the NYC Council Committee on Cultural Affairs and the Sub-Committee on Libraries will hold a hearing on capital needs in the Council Chambers in City Hall (see attached). Charles Warren has been invited to testify on behalf of the Committee to Save NYPL. New York Public Library President Anthony Marx will also be testifying and is expected to request an unprecedented increase in capital funding for projects that will have profound effects for our branches and research libraries.

The hearing will be open to the public in the City Council Chamber, and we would like to encourage anyone interested in attending to join us as we demand a halt to the sale of the Science, Industry, and Business Library, the return of the three million books exiled from the 42nd Street library’s stacks, and greater accountability from NYPL leaders to the taxpayers who provide a large part of their funding.

For directions to City Hall, click here. In order to allow time to go through security, we recommend arriving at least 20 minutes in advanced of the hearing.

In addition to attending the public hearing this Wednesday, now is an excellent time to contact your local city council member and borough president. Let them know that the battle to save our libraries isn’t over, that the NYPL must be transparent and accountable to the public when it spends taxpayers’ money, and that this critical public hearing will shape the future of our libraries.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (212) 669-8300

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr:
Email: [email protected]
General Office: (718) 590-3500

Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo:
Phone: (718) 816-2000
Email web form

And if you haven’t already participated in the NYPL’s user survey which will guide the Library’s plans for renovation of the 42nd St. and Mid-Manhattan Libraries, please do so here:
http://www.savenypl.org/nypl-survey-seeks-public-feedback/

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NYPL Survey Seeks Public Feedback

nyplbookshop

Appearing to engage library users, the New York Public Library has circulated an online survey to measure how the public uses their libraries. The results will inform their decisions about renovations to the Mid-Manhattan and 42nd Street libraries. Although the multiple choice format constrains complex answers, we recommend responding in ways that encourage the NYPL to return to 42nd Street the 3 million books that have been exiled.

Most of the questions fail to address the diverse needs of library patrons and ask participants to gauge library services according to rigid categories. We urge you to add your own comments wherever possible.

In spite of these shortcomings, we encourage everyone to take a few minutes to participate in the survey. Midway through the survey, you will be asked if you are willing to answer a few more questions. Make sure to answer “yes” since the questions that follow pertain to the Mid-Manhattan Library and the 42nd Street library.

At the end, a prompt will allow you to leave your comments. This is an excellent opportunity to tell NYPL to respect the integrity of Carrère and Hastings’s architecture, return the books to the stacks, and keep reading materials on-site so that both Mid-Manhattan Library and the 42nd Street library continue as the thought provoking center of New York.

Click here to participate in NYPL’s survey.

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What Will NYPL Trustees Do Now?

Pigeon

Jorge Luis Borges famously described paradise as a kind of library, but recently the New York Public Library has seemed more purgatory than paradise for its many users. Over the last few months, the Rose Reading Room has remained shuttered after a portion of the ceiling crashed to the ground. Can there be any more fitting symbol for the moral decay eating away at New York’s great public research library? Last Wednesday afternoon, the New York Public Library’s Board of Trustees convened a meeting at the Mid-Manhattan Library, and we were there to observe every detail.

Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito have not yet appointed representatives to the NYPL Board of Trustees. We urge them to appoint independent representatives so that New Yorkers, whose tax dollars provide more than half the funds for NYPL, will be properly represented on the board. This is a crucial step needed to provide the accountability and transparency that has been absent from NYPL planning.

President and CEO Anthony Marx confirmed that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have approved $151 million in capital funds that were previously allocated for the now defunct Central Library Plan. We note that these funds were approved without public hearings or public comment. At a time when our city’s branch libraries need millions in basic repairs, it is expected NYPL will use the funds to revamp the 42nd Street library and the Mid-Manhattan Library.

NYPL revealed few details about what they are now calling the “Midtown Campus Renovation.” The current phase of the project, which is focused on defining spatial needs for anticipated library programs in the project, is expected to take at least six months. Specific designs for the renovation of the buildings in this plan would not be made until the programming phase and a physical condition assessment is completed.

Marx said that NYPL had been working with the NYC government for almost a year to redesign many aspects of their relationship. He put special emphasis on the need to change the way city funds are allocated to the library. Now that the city has promised to base-line library budgets, NYPL is seeking a dependable capital budget that will allow it to address the needs for capital improvements in what Marx claimed was its two million square feet of space across three boroughs.

Marx explained that construction projects handled by NYPL on a “pass-through” basis – that is, projects where the construction process is managed by NYPL rather than NYC Department of Design and Construction – allowed them to complete projects at half the cost and in half the time. Because projects handled in this way are less transparent, it is difficult to verify this assertion. CSNYPL believes that public funds need to be approved and accounted for publicly. Any scheme that keeps these expenditures from open public scrutiny should be avoided.

During the meeting, Trustee Robert Liberman reported on capital planning projects. Liberman stated the $18 million renovation of Schomburg Center would be done on a pass-through basis and that the new library at the former Donnell site on 53rd Street would start in the fall and be completed at the end of 2015. He mentioned a renovation project at the Woodstock Branch for $9.7 million and another in Rossville, Staten Island for $10.7 million.

Jonathan Bowes presented a summary of the Center for Urban Future’s report on re-imagining branch libraries. CSNYPL will release a detailed response to this report soon.

The board welcomed four new executive officers: Iris Weinshall was named Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Platt as Vice President of Public Services, Carrie Welch as Chief External Relations Officer, and Ryan Cairns as Vice President of Development.

The sale of SIBL was never raised during the meeting. Also unmentioned was the fate of the seven-floors of stacks below the 42nd Street library, which are currently empty following the removal of books in anticipation of the stacks demolition (thankfully thwarted by the efforts of New Yorkers, CSNYPL, and its allies).

CSNYPL believes that a portion of the $151 million in New York City taxpayer funds should be spent to update the climate controls in the stacks of the 42nd Street library. The long promised second-floor Bryant Park Stack Extension (BPSE) has not been started and there was no word of progress towards its realization. Relying on BPSE alone to store the library’s collections does not adequately meet the future needs of New York City’s largest research library, and leaving the stacks empty for want of new air-conditioning and fire suppression systems cannot be a long-term solution.

Disconcertingly, the NYPL has been slow to address the urgent condition of the Rose Reading Room’s ceiling after a plaster rosette fell in May, forcing the closure of library’s largest reading room. According to Liberman, the library is close to signing a contract for scaffolding that will enable experts to examine the condition of the ceiling, but they are not yet ready to begin repairs that will return this crucial facility to public use.

Meanwhile, visitors to the library must use rooms in the second-floor corridor for accessing materials. Many of these rooms suffer from poor lighting, making reading difficult, and many readers report longer than normal retrieval times. NYPL has devised a system to deliver books to readers scattered around the library while the Rose Reading room and its elegant retrieval system are closed. They claimed books are delivered within 45 minutes and said they might make this a permanent feature of the library. When the stacks were being used books were often delivered in 15 minutes.

Stay tuned as we continue to monitor the actions of the NYPL administration and board of trustees. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

(Photograph by Ben Asen, NYPL Digital Collections.)

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NYPL Unveils Brand New Reading Room!

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NYPL has just created this bizarre simulacrum of the Main Reading Room on the plaza outside the 5th Avenue  entrance to the 42nd Street Library.  According to NYPL,

 The project, called “The Library Inside Out” encompasses many elements of the beloved Rose Reading Room with some new features.

Well, yes, if the you think the key elements of the beloved Reading Room are fake lamps (they lack both sockets and electrical connections) and a fake backdrop. Those elements most certainly don’t include any  research books - research materials of course are not allowed to leave the 42nd building and obviously can’t be used in this space.  But don’t worry, one of the “new features” is the opportunity to take staged selfies:

Selfie

Meanwhile, the real Reading Room remains closed due to plaster collapsing from the ceiling.  Library patrons are forced to work in inadequate and depressing makeshift spaces:

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ReadingRoom

Rumor (and that’s all there is - NYPL hasn’t seen fit to communicate any updates to the public) has it that a full ceiling inspection won’t be undertaken until October and the extent of the damage and necessary repair work won’t be known until then.  No repair work is apparently being done at present.  The Reading Room will remain closed until at least the beginning of next year, longer if the inspection reveals extensive problems.

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No Trust for Trustees: New Law Reforms Queens Library Board

June26_Protest

This hasn’t been a good week for library trustees.

Yesterday, as outraged protestors led by Citizens Defending Libraries rallied outside Brooklyn Public Library shortly before a trustees meeting, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill (S.6893-B) that will significantly reform operations of the Queens Public Library Board of Trustees. Introduced by Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry and State Senator Michael Gianaris, the bill passed by a vote of 59-1 last Thursday and was supported by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor de Blasio.

Among its provisions, the law establishes an audit committee to monitor the Queens Public Library’s expenditures, grants the mayor and borough president the authority to remove trustees, and requires the library to disclose additional revenue.

The bill was prompted by the questionable use of public funds for construction projects overseen by Queens Library President Thomas Galante, currently under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and city Department of Investigation.

Earlier this year, the Daily News revealed Galante had spent $27,000 in taxpayer dollars to build a private smoking deck adjacent to his office at a time when librarians were losing their jobs. In a move that illustrates the corruption which necessitated the bill’s passage, QPL trustees attempted to grant the soon-to-be-departing Galante an $822,000 bonus. The vote was postponed only after Public Advocate Letitia James threatened to obtain a court order preventing Galante from receiving a golden parachute.

The unconscionable actions of the QPL trustees highlight the grave lack of transparency in library boards across the city, where the public is not allowed to comment at meetings and crucial planning is held in executive session away from public scrutiny. A direct result of this secrecy has been a series of disastrous actions that have harmed our libraries, including the sale of the popular Donnell library (for a meager $39 million in profit), the removal of three million books from the stacks in the 42nd Street library, and the proposed sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library.

The city provides 85% of the Queens library’s funding. When trustees no longer consider themselves accountable to the public, our elected officials have an obligation to review their operations and expenditures. The new bill represents a significant improvement in public oversight of our libraries and should be viewed as a model for reforming trustee governance across the city’s other library systems.

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New Petition Urges Mayor to Fund Our Libraries

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Our allies at Citizens Defending Libraries have a new petition demanding full funding for New York City libraries. The petition has already earned over 500 signatures in just two days.

We endorse increased funding and advocate that it be accompanied by greater transparency and accountability. We’d like to encourage everyone who cherishes our libraries to sign the petition.

It’s time to show our elected officials how much we care about our libraries and want them adequately funded—not sold off to private developers.

Read and sign the petition here:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137

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True Cost of Defeated Central Library Plan Revealed

Mid-Manhattan_Library

As reported recently in the New York Times, NYPL reveals that the Central Library Plan would have cost over $500 million, a far cry from their earlier $300 million estimate:

But officials, for the first time, revealed that the original plan, mostly scrapped last month in large part because of questions about the price tag, would actually have cost more than $500 million, according to independent estimates they commissioned last June.

Critics of the original plan had suggested that the price tag would most likely escalate well beyond the original estimates and, as a mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio was among several officials who called for a more thorough review of the project’s cost.

Library officials are hopeful that Mr. de Blasio, as mayor, will agree that $150 million, already in the city’s executive budget to finance the old plan, can be spent on the new one.

“The administration will remain in close discussions with the library on this project as well as on its other initiatives in support of the mayor’s agenda,” said Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “We are pleased that the library ultimately shared the mayor’s goals in developing its revised plan.”

Anthony W. Marx, the library’s president, said the historic stacks in the main building, whose removal was a disputed element in the original plan designed by the architect Norman Foster, would be kept, but not returned to service as a storage area for books.

NYPL plans to spend $22 million to expand the Bryant Park Stack Extension, without acknowledging the fact that doing so will displace the 1.2 million books currently under Bryant Park to New Jersey.

President Anthony Marx claims that bringing the seven floors of stacks below the Rose Reading Room up to code would require spending an additional $46 million. It’s unclear how the NYPL obtained this estimate since they have never disclosed their cost analysis report.

In the 1980s, “advanced temperature and humidity controls”  had been integrated into the stacks, and a new sprinkler system was installed in 1991.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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New Yorker Magazine: Bring Back the Books!

NewYorker

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.

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Statement from the Committee to Save the New York Public Library: Thank You to All Who Helped Make this Victory Possible!

New_York_Public_Library_Lion_May_2011

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.

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