Lydia Davis: Central Library Plan “Would Take the Very Heart Out of One of NYC’s Finest Institutions”
Strong words of support from prize-winning author and MacArthur Fellow Lydia Davis:
I couldn’t feel more strongly about the importance of keeping the 42nd Street research library intact, restoring the books to its stacks, and protecting the ongoing separate existence of the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL branches. Instead of misguidedly “consolidating” libraries, closing branches, exiling books from the city, we should be doing just the opposite: investing in our wonderful local branches, adding to their shelves, their staff, and their hours, and making our central research library at 42nd street the best-stocked, most accessible repository it can be.
Libraries remain uniquely democratic institutions, offering a way into learning and thinking for anyone who walks in. And books are the heart of a library. The Central Library Plan, so obviously an irresponsible real estate deal that places pure greed for profit over the advancement of learning and enlightenment, would take the very heart out of one of New York City’s finest institutions. I have, up to now, been deeply proud of our magnificent 42nd street library–I don’t want to see it ravaged. I fervently hope that Mayor de Blasio has the foresight and integrity to recognize the importance of preventing this devastation.
Thank you to all the people who braved the rain to send a message to the NYPL trustees at yesterday’s rally!
And of course we had to include Mayor de Blasio, as a reminder of the commitment he made on these same steps last July to halt the Central Library Plan!
And some love for the Mid-Manhattan Library as well:
It’s been a busy twelve days, and the fight against the NYPL’s plan to gut the 42nd Street Library and sell the Mid-Manhattan has gotten lots of attention!
First, a post featuring one of our supporters on the popular “Humans of New York” facebook page went viral and was shared 53,100 times (and ‘liked’ 232,400 times). It spurred so many people to send an email to Mayor de Blasio asking him to stop the Central Library Plan that they crashed our website!
A flood of media coverage followed as the week went on. Here are some highlights:
This Human of New York Takes His Libraries Seriously (The Atlantic)
All about the person behind the “Humans of New York” facebook post.
Library Renovation Plan Awaits Word From de Blasio (New York Times)
Disemboweling the 42nd St. Library shouldn’t be called a “renovation,” and selling SIBL and Mid-Manhattan should be called out as a real estate deal – but this is a clear piece about where things stand with the NYPL and the city. The article also highlights the NYPL’s obsession with secrecy: Last summer, NYPL promised to undertake an independent financial review of their Central Library Plan. To date, NYPL has not only failed to release the review – they won’t even reveal whom they hired to conduct the review!
On the Central Library Plan, Humans of New York Interviewee Matthew Zadrozny Kills It (Melville House)
“[Zadrozny] had combined passion, information, and condemnation… The man eating chicken out of a saucepan still seems like he’s had the last word.”
Clueless at the Corcoran (Wall St. Journal)
Has NYPL lost the Wall Street Journal? Their arts editor cites NYPL’s Central Library Plan as an example of trustees supporting “policies that go against—and even imperil—the mission of the institution they are charged to oversee and protect.”
This Library Lion Roars (Huffington Post)
“It is an outrage for the city to spend money on anything but repairs to this classic library. There is a proper place to spend that money: our branch libraries throughout the boroughs.”
NYPL: The Dark Ages (Manhattan Users Guide)
“The New York Public Library is on the verge of doing grave, irreparable damage to itself and to the city. Somebody hide the sharps.”
NYPL Renovation Stuck In Limbo, Awaits A Go From De Blasio (Curbed) “‘Please do not call this a “renovation,” as [the library has] rebranded it,’ a NYPL preservation crusader told Atlantic Cities, ‘It is not. They intend to close two branch libraries in the process, and squeeze the public into a space 1/3 of these.'”
The humans of New York seem to be rousing themselves to a collective understanding: that the great public institutions they boast of and rely upon can’t be entrusted to the stewardship of real-estate developers, corporate synergists, media barons, and other ostensibly well-intentioned, deal-drunk one-percenters. Instead we need to tend our own commons, large and small — individual libraries, and the city itself. The election of De Blasio and the current outcry against the disastrous NYPL ‘renovation’ (scare quotes essential) represent two expressions of the same urgencies. Now it waits for De Blasio himself to close the circuit.
Also via Library Lovers League, Artist Gary Panter offered a great drawing to protest NYPL’s plans:
and stated in part:
The proximity of books to scholars is essential. Moving the books away or digitizing and pitching them and building a coffee shop, hang out, park viewing area on the backside of this gem seems a little strange to me. Keeping this institution humming and in repair will be a better goal than a postmodern uglification of it.
And Ben Katchor created this wonderful drawing with the comment: “Don’t allow real-estate racketeers to dismantle our free, world-class research library! (below: A page in the NYPL stacks c. 1965)”
NY Times: NYPL Refuses to Disclose any Information About “Independent” Review of Central Library Plan
An important point that’s been overlooked in the recent New York Times story about Mayor de Blasio’s needing to make a decision about the Central Library Plan. Last summer, NYPL promised to undertake an independent financial review of their Central Library Plan. To date, NYPL has not only failed to release the review – they won’t even reveal whom they hired to conduct the review! Why the secrecy??
The library also commissioned an independent cost review last summer that was to have been concluded in the fall, and said at the time that Mr. Foster would revise the design. But the library has since postponed two hearings at which it was to reveal the results of these efforts and has refused to say who is conducting the economic study.
The NYPL won’t even tell the New York Times whom they’ve hired to conduct the study??
Rally at the 42nd Street Library Wednesday, March 12 Rain or Shine! (and City Council Hearing March 11)
THE TRUSTEES ARE MEETING! Join us this Wednesday, March 12, for a rally on the steps of the 42nd Street Library during the NYPL’s Board of Trustees meeting. The rally will be from 5-6 PM, rain or shine – just one hour, after work. We’ll have signs, or make your own. We can stop the plan to gut the 42nd Street Library and sell the Mid-Manhattan!
Last July, Bill de Blasio stood on the steps of the Library and called for a halt to the Central Library Plan. On Wednesday, we will return to those steps and ask Mayor de Blasio to follow through on his commitment. Instead of spending $150 million in taxpayer funds on this wasteful and destructive project, he should reallocate that money to support branch libraries across the city!
WHEN: Wednesday, March 12, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Rain or Shine
WHERE: Fifth Avenue and 41st Street in front of the main entrance to the 42nd Street building.
And if you haven’t already, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL RIGHT NOW TO MAYOR DE BLASIO asking him to stop the NYPL’s plan.
This event is cosponsored by Citizens Defending Libraries and Library Lovers League.
CITY COUNCIL LIBRARY BUDGET HEARING ON TUESDAY, MARCH 11
The City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup relations and the Select Committee on Libraries will take place on Tuesday, March 11 in the City Hall Council Chambers (entrance through City Hall Park gate on the east side of Broadway across from Murray Street).
The libraries part of the hearing will start at 1:00 pm followed at 2:30 by the Cultural Affairs part. Public comments are scheduled for 4:00 pm.
It would be very helpful to have supporters attend the 1:00 PM hearing, and if you can stay to testify at 4pm to testify, even better. Make a sticker to wear, or hold a piece of paper or card stock no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches with a message such as “Don’t spend $150 million to gut the 42nd Street Library” or “Don’t sell the Mid-Manhattan Library.” (Signs larger than 8.5 x 11 will NOT be permitted in the hearing room.)
This is a great opportunity to demonstrate our opposition to NYPL’s destructive plans to the Council Members charged with oversight of the library budget.
Please spread the word about both the rally and the hearing at your church, union, school, Facebook page, blog or any other outlet you see fit. This is fight we can win.
Please join us for our third work-in at the 42nd Street Library this Saturday, March 8th. All you need to do is come do your work in the Rose Main Reading Room with a www.SaveNYPL.org sticker affixed to your laptop. Protest while you work!
If possible, meet us and get a sticker at 9:45 AM or at 1:00 PM outside the 5th Avenue entrance to the Library between the two lions (5th Avenue at 41st Street). If you are unable to arrive at either of these times, go to the Rose Main Reading Room and look for a group of people with SaveNYPL stickers on their laptops.
These work-ins are being organized by Matthew Zadrożny, the person in the Humans of New York post which went viral last week ago. Please join Matthew and a group of like-minded library lovers to get some work done and help save the 42nd Street Library!
More info can be found at: www.meetup.com/saveNYPL
The Wall Street Journal is not happy. Their Arts Editor blasts NYPL’s Central Library Plan as one of five cases where boards have disastrously undermined the institutions they are supposed to protect:
Indeed the untold story of our time is the emerging crisis in nonprofit governance, where boards embark on policies that go against—and even imperil—the mission of the institution they are charged to oversee and protect…
The New York Public Library wants to gut its magnificent Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue and change it from a research institution to, as Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in this newspaper, ‘a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered’ circulating library, with fewer books, a good number of them moved off-site.
Read the entire article here.
The New York Times reports today on the decision facing Mayor de Blasio on whether to spend $150 million of NYC taxpayer’s money on the NYPL’s proposal to gut the 42nd Street Library and sell the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL libraries.
Incidentally, don’t buy into NYPL’s framing – this isn’t a “renovation”; this is the disemboweling of a great library and the sale/shrinkage of two others!
As a candidate last summer, Bill de Blasio told Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that New York City should stop financing the ambitious renovation of the Fifth Avenue flagship of the New York Public Library until someone figured out how much it was all going to cost.
Now that Mr. de Blasio is mayor, he holds that very power, and people on both sides of the question are weighing in on how he should wield it as the city budgeting process begins.
For the time being, Mr. de Blasio has let stand the $150 million in capital funds that the Bloomberg administration pledged to the renovation project. But the cost analysis that he called for last summer has yet to be completed, and his office has said its final funding decisions on the library and other capital projects will not be made until the spring.
Now is the perfect time to send an email to the mayor asking him to do the right thing and save the 42nd Street Library, along with the Mid-Manhattan library and $150 million of desperately needed city funds!
Read the full New York Times article here.
Tell Mayor de Blasio to stop the Central Library Plan and save branch libraries across the city! Send an email to the mayor by clicking on this link:
The NYPL administration has hired a professional lobbying firm to pressure Mayor de Blasio to change his mind and support their plan to gut the 42nd Street Library and sell the Mid-Manhattan, a plan that will cost over $150 million to NYC taxpayers.
We don’t have costly professional lobbyists, but we have you! Speak up load and clear – act now to send your email to Mayor de Blasio asking that he follow through on his commitment to halt the Central Library Plan and reconsider the sale of Brooklyn libraries.
Copies of your message will be automatically sent to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
After you have sent your email to Mayor de Blasio, it’s essential that you help us spread the word. Please share the link to our “Email the Mayor” web page with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you so much for your help!