Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Citizens Defending Libraries Resource And Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 
Citizens Defending Libraries Rally at City Hall 4/18/2013 with Comptroller John C. Liu
This page (which will be periodically updated) provides resources in connection with the petition and campaign to oppose the defunding of New York City's libraries, the shrinkage of the system and the sale of library real estate in deals that prioritize benefit for developers.

Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
The petition (now over 12,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement) can be signed by clicking on the following link (the link is repeated at the end of this page):
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 
 (The following url link can also be used to send the petition to friends:  http://signon.org/sign/save-new-york-city-libraries?source=c.em.mt&r_by=6817161)

This José Marti quote which can be found in this plaque on 41st Street's Library Walk is included in the petition to save New York City's libraries

All libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Here are additional action steps you can take that go beyond promoting the petition in order to help this campaign succeed: Action Steps You Can Take Including Contacting Elected and Other Public Officials.

Note about Citizens Defending Libraries (and allied groups) on Facebook and Twitter:   This, or any other of the individual pages at this Citizens Defending Libraries web location can be "liked" on Facebook if you go to the bottom of this page.  In addition, there is a Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page that can also be "liked" on Facebook at:  Facebook- Citizens Defending Libraries (which will help you get notice of articles and new information pertaining to the cause when there are updates).  You can also follow Citizens Defending @DefendLibraries on twitter.

Our Facebook and Twitter will keep you up to date with the latest news and articles as they come out and allow you to easily share Tweets and posts.

In addition, the Committee to Save the New York Public Library has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@saveNYPL).  Library Lovers League also has a Facebook page, and can be followed on Twitter (@LibraryLoversNY).

 News ArticlesAvailable Reference Articles

 •    Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
“There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world's greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 . . . . it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.”
 •    New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
“this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible. . . a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.”
•    Noticing New York: 
    •    New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, (January 31, 2013).
 “Do we want a shrinking library system for a growing, wealthier city? . .  
     . . .  It’s what we are going to get as the principal purpose of the library system becomes the generation of real estate opportunities for developers.  This new city-wide policy has, in a very harmful way, turned into a perverse incentive for the city to defund libraries and drive them into the ground.”
    •    City Strategy Of Withholding Basic City Services To Blackmail Public Into Accepting Bigger Development, (Friday, February 1, 2013)
    •    What Could We Expect Forest City Ratner Would Do With Two Library Sites On Sale For The Sake Of Creating Real Estate Deals? (Sunday, February 3, 2013)
Two of the sites identified for sale in the forefront of this march towards divestiture of assets with a concomitant shrinkage of the system are in Brooklyn.   . . .  Whether by coincidence or not, both of these sites . .  are immediately adjacent to property the government has previously put in the hands of Forest City Ratner pursuant to no-bid deals . . .
    •    Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park? (Saturday, February 9, 2013)
    •    If Our Besieged Libraries Could Speak For Themselves: Maybe They Do! A Petition And Efforts To Save New York’s Libraries From Developer Deals, (Wednesday, February 20, 2013)
The greatest shame of such a plan is that it, even if it shakes loose a few real estate deals, maybe a few every year, it is a travesty to continually drives all libraries and the entire system into the ground financially.
•    Center For An Urban Future:  Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013
[Libraries] “have experienced a 40 percent spike in the number of people attending programs and a 59 percent increase in circulation over the past decade”
 •    New York City Independent Budget Office:  Funding Cuts Could Shelve Many Library Branches, by Kate Maher and Doug Turetsky, April 13, 2011 
“The funding fall-off is already taking a toll on the city’s three library systems, particularly the systems in Brooklyn and Queens.” . . .“more than three dozen branch libraries may be closed.”  [Bloomberg on a course to bring waning city funding for New York’s three library systems to its] “lowest level since the 1990s.”   [The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services their] “third highest budget concern” . . [and] “Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”
.•    The Albert Shanker Institute:  The High Cost Of Closing Public Libraries, by Matthew Di Carlo, April 18, 2011
In fiscal year 2008 (again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), there were roughly 9,300 public libraries in the U.S., with a total cost of around 10.7 billion dollars. That figure represents roughly 0.4 percent – four tenths of one percent – of all state and local government expenditures. On a per capita basis, this is about 35 dollars per person.  [local-level analyses] “have found that for every dollar we spent on public libraries, the public realizes about 3-5 dollars in benefits.”
•    The Daily News:  Coming to Brooklyn Heights: the incredible shrinking library, patrons and residents charge -- Controversial plan to sell library building to private developer who will build apartment tower over it, by Lore Croghan, February 17, 2013.
. . . a controversial plan to sell the city-owned Brooklyn Heights Library building to a private developer who will erect an apartment tower with a new, 15,000 square foot branch - smaller than the book hall that’s there now.. . . many patrons use the business library like it’s part of their neighborhood branch — and are upset the space will be eliminated.
•     Library Journal: Donnell sale highlights need for transparency in decision-making, by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief, February 1, 2008
. . . the building that housed Donnell has been sold to make way for a hotel and a much smaller public library. .  (w)ith the proposed library having less than half the space for public services as the old Donnell . . . questions remain about the location of some of the collections. . . More importantly, the breakup of the collections diminishes the role of Donnell as a central library . . .  The decisions . . .  [were] communicated to staff (and in the case of Donnell, to the public) largely after the big decisions have been made.

Should a public/private entity like NYPL. .  so blithely sidestep public and staff input?
[The] Libraries Subcommittee chair of the New York City Council . . . “. . didn't know about the Donnell sale ahead of time.”  “It's troubling . . . in terms of . .  the whole mission of the library.”

. . .  It's way past time for NYPL leaders to come out from behind their cloak of secrecy. .  get staff and public feedback before making any other sweeping changes.
•      Walkers In The City:  Patience and Fortitude, by Romy Ashby. February 22, 2013.
The meeting was crowded with mostly older people hearing the same kind of talk about their library and smelling a rat. “The 42nd Street library isn’t the only library in trouble,” a man said. “It’s the whole library system.” A lady in her seventies told of standing up to Robert Moses and winning. “We’re not gonna watch our libraries be demolished!” she said. “We want the library we have, nothing less! The minute you give in to their conditions you’re finished! You get bupkis!” I sat and listened, and some of what I heard was this:

The city is deliberately underfunding the libraries despite library use being way up. Perfectly good libraries are being labeled ‘Dilapidated’ to justify their destruction. Librarians have been warned to sound enthusiastic if asked about any such plans. The money from the sale of libraries will not go back into the library system, despite what library brass may say. . .
•        The Leonard Lopate Show: Controversy at the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman, a contributing writer for The Nation and Caleb Crain, a former Fellow at the NYPL and author of American Sympathy, talk about the proposed changes, staffing cuts and construction plans, March 12, 2012.



•       The Nation: Upheaval at the New York Public Library, by Scott Sherman, November 30, 2011.

•       The Nation: The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan: Why did one of the world’s greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate?, by Scott Sherman, August 28, 2013.
 For two years, the NYPL has refused to discuss the CLP in detail, and many questions remain unanswered. How and why did one of the world’s greatest libraries get into the real estate business? How did the CLP, which was formulated between 2005 and early 2007, advance into late 2011 without any significant public debate or discussion? Who first conceived the idea of demolishing book stacks that were constructed by Carrère and Hastings in the first decade of the twentieth century? What role did the Bloomberg administration play in the creation of the CLP? Finally, what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton—the gargantuan consulting firm whose tentacles reach into the defense, energy, transportation and financial service sectors—which was hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as “the strategy”?
•       The Wall Street Journal: Clueless at the Corcoran- What the museum's latest bad decision says about nonprofit governance, by Eric Gibson, February, 24, 2014.
. . .  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.
•       The Brooklyn Eagle (Exclusive): Brooklyn Public Library in line for audit, says Comptroller Stringer, by Mary Frost, February, 28, 2014.
Groups opposing the controversial sales of Brooklyn and Manhattan library branches to developers have long been pushing for an audit of the BPL and NPL systems. . .

“Some of the things raised with respect to the Queens library system are interesting and worth investigating but the Queens expenditures ($140K for a conference deck) are penny ante compared to the library sales at the NPL and the BPL,” commented Michael D. D. White, a founding member of Citizens Defending Library, following a Brian Lehrer interview with Comptroller Stringer. “The Queens Library system has not been selling off libraries like the other two,” White added.
 •      The Brian Lehrer Show: Giving Libraries Their Due, David Giles, research director at the Center for an Urban Future and the author of the report, "Branches of Opportunity", argues that New York City's public libraries deserve even more support in the digital age. (Click below to listen) January 15, 2013.
More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.


Chart from the Independent Budget Office- Adjustments for inflation (per the Urban Future report) shows downturn in starkest relief.
Meville House article on Citizens Defending Libraries event used picture from July rally where Bill de Blasio joined CDL to call for a halt to these library sales.  Video of event on CDL's Youtube channel.
  •      Melville House: Citizens Defending Libraries calls the Central Library Plan “a real estate grab” and “contrary to the public interest”, by Claire Kelley, February 19, 2014.
Citizens Defending Libraries, which was co-founded by Michael D. D. White and Carolyn McIntyre, has been organizing protests and actions against the Central Library Plan. They have told us that they are continuing to solicit "petition signatures to ensure the de Blasio administration scraps all of the Bloomberg library sell-off plans.". .

. . . Citizens Defending Libraries is just now arriving at our first anniversary, just blowing out the single candle on our birthday cake.  We formed in response to breaking headlines at the very beginning of last year about how libraries were being sold off at the end of the Bloomberg administration in deals that would benefit real estate developers, not the public.
 
 Additional Links. For more in a running series of Noticing New York articles about the libraries click here: Libraries Series.  Also, here are pages with articles that reference respectively 1.)  The Central Library Plan affecting the Tilden Astor Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, the Mid-Manhattan, Library, SIBL and the Donnell, 2.) The Brooklyn Heights libraries, and The Pacific Branch library, and 3.) Libraries in general.  



Foreground: The lion Patience , of Patience and Fortitude fame, in front of 42nd Street Research Library, whose research stacks will be sacrificed.  Background:  Mid-Manhattan Library that will be sold in system shrinkage plans
Flyers and Handouts Images, Cartoons, Flyers, Handouts Posters 

For images and cartoons for posters, rallies and handouts CLICK HERE.  For flyers and handouts for canvassing and getting the word out about the petition CLICK HERE.

Videos

Citizens Defending Libraries is making videos available on the Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.  Selected videos from that channel can also be found here in the Video Page.

Related Petitions

(It is expected more will be added to this list with accompanying explanations)

**** Citizens Defending Libraries is right now is working with the Committee to Save the New York Public Library and Library Lovers League to make sure every signs and (electronically) sends this email to the mayor (CCs are going to other elected officials): Email the Mayor!  ****


There is another separate petition (currently over 1300 signatures) by the Committee to Save the New York Public Library that has been up for some time and specifically opposes the Central Library Plan in Manhattan:

    Anthony W. Marx: Reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library

The following petition to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH) is relevant to the save the libraries petition, particularly for the residents of Brooklyn Heights and Northwest Brooklyn, because of commonality of related issues that were explained at the annual Brooklyn Heights Association meeting and in the following article:  Wednesday, February 13, 2013, One-Stop Petition Shopping: Report On The Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting, LICH and Libraries.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Health Department Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah : Keep University Hospital Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital open, by  Assemblywoman Joan Millman

The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries

 The petition against the overall defunding and shrinkage of the system for the creation of real estate deals (now with over 16,000 signatures) is stated as follows:
We demand that Mayor Bloomberg stop defunding New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth.  Shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for the wealthy at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity is not only unjust, it is a shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.
You can click on the link below to sign it:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

Upcoming and Recent Events

[Back To Main Page]  (This page will be updated as information about new events becomes available.)

IMPORTANT UPCOMING EVENT: Mayoral forum on Libraries hosted by Citizens Defending Libsaries and the Committee to Save the Public Library from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM, Friday August 30, 2013 at the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill Brooklyn.  Click on calendar even below for further details.

Below is Citizens Defending Libraries publicly available Google Calendar (set up 03/22/2013) where event may appear first before being transcribed into the bullet calendar items that appear before it

Upcoming Events
•   Please refer to the calendar above for upcoming events.  We have switched over to this (together with periodic emails to signers of the petition) as the primary means of updating people although we may occasionally list put certain future events down below here to get them extra attention.
•   Important Note Respecting One Of The Events In The Calendar Above-  The Jun 8 – 9, 2013 24-Hour Library Read-In by New Yorkers Standing Up for Libraries- Hosted by Urban Librarians Unite.  This is one of the events on the calendar not organized by Citizens Defending Libraries (most are not).   Urban Librarians Unite (created circa 2008) contacted Citizens Defending Libraries to express their wish that Citizens Defending Libraries communicate Urban Liberians Unite's wish that people not come to attend their 24-Hour Library Read-In event if they believe:
    •    We shouldn’t be selling off our NYC libraries the way we are.
    •    We shouldn’t be shrinking our library system assets
    •    It is a matter of public concern that we are getting less than appropriate value when these assets are sold, and/or
    •    Public representatives should assert themselves to protect these public assets.
Urban Librarians Unite also informed CDL that they considered inclusion of this publicly advertised (previously come-one-come-all event) public event in the calender “unacceptable.”  In other words they wanted to Shush us about their "We Will Not Be Shushed Read In June 8 & 9th! Sign Up Now!" event.  Urban Librarians Unite objected to the testimony CCL delivered at the City Council budget hearing on June 5, 2013 and apparently, there was concern on their part that people with negative feelings about library sales and shrinkage might participate in the event to express their opposition to underfunding of libraries, or that such people might communicate with attendees of the event about this related subject. CDL doe not allow those holding public events to dictate exclusion (or inclusions) of information in the calendar about relevant library related events (mayoral forums, library trustee events, etc.), but agreed, in this instance to express the above about ULU's conscientious efforts to exclude public opposition to the library sales and shrinkage from their message. 
 Recent and past Events
•    Sunday, February 17th, 5:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights, Montague & Hicks Streets
 •    Sunday, February 24th, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Monroe)
 •     Thursday, February 28, 5:00 PM:  People should show up early for a meeting at the Brooklyn Heights Library (280 Cadman Plaza) about the proposed sell-off and shrinkage of that library, possibly to Forest City Ratner. It will include attendance by elected representatives, City Councilman Steve Levin and State Senator Daniel Squadron and representatives of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

•     Sunday, March 3, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Monroe)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.

•     Friday, March 8, 10:00 AM: (testimony opportunity at 1:00 PM):   (Click the sign-up LINK to let us know us know you are coming - Council green sheet notice in image at right, click to enlarge) There will be a City Council hearing about the city budget for libraries meaning that it will provide a forum for addressing the defunding of libraries and the “demolition by neglect” of the library system preparatory to its shrinkage through the proposed sell-offs to developers.  We are planning a demonstration for 10:30 AM when we expect press to be there.  The public will have to wait to testify last, starting at 1:00 PM.  Citizens Defending Libraries has issued a press release.  Pictures and testimony are available here: Testimony By Citizens Defending Libraries At March 8, 2013 City Council Committee Hearing On Library Budget Issues
 •     Saturday, March 9, 4:30 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Monroe)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
•     Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 5:30 PM: The City Services and Budget Committee of Community Board 5 will meet 5:30 p.m. at the Board Office, 450 Seventh Ave, Suite 2109, to discuss and respond to the Mayor's Preliminary budget.  The Community Board should be asked to oppose the Central Library Plan and the shrinkage of the City’s libraries, particularly the main libraries within their district for the sake of all New Yorkers in the city, to oppose the defunding of libraries being used as an excuse for these real estate deals and should be asked to stand up and demand that Donnell Library (also being consolidated in the shrinkage of the CLP) be restored to it original size or bigger, rather than being shrunk to ½ or 1/3 of its previous size.
•     Wednesday, March 13, 10:00 AM: Join the District Council 37 Local 1930 New York Public Library Guild Rally on the steps of City Hall for an immediate change to a permanent baseline funding for New York City's libraries.
•     Saturday, March 16, 2:00 - 4:00 PM: Canvassing outside Brooklyn Heights Branch and Business and Career Library (weather reasonably permitting).

 •     Sunday, March 17, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Monroe)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
•     Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 6:30 PM: Meeting of trustees of the "Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Library" (not really friends) at Brooklyn Heights Library (280 Cadman Plaza).  Public not invited.
•     Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 10:00 AM: City Planning Commission review and public hearing for the Walentas Two Tree Development BAM South project in connection with which BPL is proposing the closing and sell-off of the Pacific Branch library.  22 Reade Street.
•     Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 6:30 PM: Committee of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 meeting for the BPL's first presentation of its intentions to representatives of the community board (after the City Planning hearing) with respect to its proposed closing and sell-off of the Pacific Branch library and the proposed opening of a library in in the Walentas Two Tree Development BAM South project. 78th Police Precinct, 65 6th Avenue, Court Room (between Bergen/Dean Streets).
•     Thursday, March 21, 5:00 PM:  Meeting (open to the public) chaired by "Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Library" (not really friends) on behalf of Brooklyn Public Library at the request of Brooklyn Heights Association to further the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights library.  Elected's and their representatives may attend to participate. At Brooklyn Heights Library (280 Cadman Plaza).
•     Saturday, March 23, 2:00 - 4:00 PM: Canvassing outside Brooklyn Heights Branch and Business and Career Library (weather reasonably permitting).
 •     Sunday, March 24, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Monroe)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
 •     Saturday, March 30, 2:00 - 4:00 PM: Canvassing outside Brooklyn Heights Branch and Business and Career Library (weather reasonably permitting).
  •     Wednesday, April 3, 6:00 PM: Mayoral Forum.  St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn New York 11201.
 •     Sunday, April 7, 4:00 PM: (We are skipped a week because of Easter) Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Clinton)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed. 
  •     Thursday, April 11, 8:00 PM: Mayoral Forum.  Jewish Center of Jackson Heights.  See calendar above.
  •    Citizens Defending Libraries Libary Protection Week Events- A Series of Events from Saturday, April 13th to Thursday April 18th[This week of events is documented in pictures, video and vido links here: PHOTO GALLERY- CDL's Library Protection Week and there is also a press release for the culminating City Hall CDL Press Conference with Comptroller John C. Liu.] Come to our rallies to protect and defend our public Libraries from being underfunded and sold off to private developers. Let our public officials know they need to put a halt to any more sales and restore proper funding to the system!  See events below culminating at City Hall with the New York City Comptroller. 
NYS Assemblywoman Joan Millman
City Council Member Stephen Levin speaking 
Brooklyn Heights Library
280 Cadman Plaza by Tillary
•    Pacific Library
Park Slope/Boerum Hill Brooklyn 
For more info (and you can let us know you are coming)
 •     (Sunday, April 14, 4:00 PM: Also listed below- Citizens Defending Libraries regular weekly planning meeting, - not officially part of Library Protection Week events- Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Clinton)  NOTE: Comptroller John Liu will visit and speak with use from 4:00 PM to 4:30 PM.)

  •    Monday, April 15, Noon to 1:00
Central Library Plan Sit Out and Rally
In front of 42st Central Reference Library and Mid-Manhattan  Branch
For more info (and you can let us know you are coming)
20 West 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, (meet on 40 West 53rd)
Home of Winnie The Pooh, rare music CDs, and documentaries
Sold off to a developer in 2008 and still no promised replacement
Come say We Remember and Never Again!
For more info (and you can let us know you are coming)
Steps of City Hall
Comptroller John Liu to speak 
Come early to go through security
Sign up, get info here (and you can let us know you are coming)
•     Sunday, April 14, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Clinton)  NOTE: Comptroller John Liu will visit and speak with use from 4:00 PM to 4:30 PM. Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
   •     Saturday, April 20, 9:30 AM (doors open): Mayoral Forum on Public Housing at Salvation Army Auditorium (starts at 10:30 AM) .  See calendar above.
 •     Sunday, April 21, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Clinton)  Petition signers are invited to click on the link to sign up for this event (on Moveon.org) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
    •     Monday, April 22, 6:00 PM: Mayoral Forum on Sustainability.  See calendar above.

    •     Tuesday, April 23, 8:30 AM: Mayoral Forum on Small Business and Workforce issues.  See calendar above.

    •     Wednesday, April 24, 6:00 PM: Community Board 2 Cultural Committee meeting, presentation from BPL on sale and shrinkage of Brooklyn Heights Library, also report on Clinton Hill and Walt Whitman libraries.  See calendar above.
•     Sunday, April 28, 4:00 PM: Progressive Community Building Event, Community Room in 101 Clark Street, Brooklyn Heights (Clark & Clinton) where next steps in our campaign will be discussed.
 •     Create Your Own Event!!!: It might be canvassing outside your own library or library of your choice.  Or maybe an information event at your school or church.  Contact us if you would like our help or suggestions.  We can post information about your event here.  We will also be happy to coordinate to send a representative to your event.
 CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 The link below takes you to where you may sign the petition:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 

What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

[Back To Main Page]  The information posted here at Citizens Defending Libraries, including this page, will be updated, evolved and developed further.

What libraries are affecting by city strategy of defunding, shrinking, selling off libraries?  All the libraries in the system are affected but here are highlights (which will be updated), focusing on the most immediate:
(We invite you to contact Citizens Defending Libraries with more information about what is going on with libraries you know about to add more information to this list.  See contact information and comments sections at bottom of page.)

    •    Four Main Libraries in Manhattan (plus?):
    •        The Donnell Library (53rd between 5th and 6th Avenues) was closed for shrinkage in 2008, its collection disbursed.  Its former location now a construction site, “plans” having not worked out.  Perhaps a half-size library will be provided by 2014.
    •        The main research library at 42nd Street will have its recently-renovated research stacks destroyed, decommissioning it as the premier world class research resource it was meant to be.
    •        Mid-Manhattan (Across Fifth Avenue) will be sold as part of the consolidating shrinkage plan.
    •        The relatively new Science Library at 34th Street will also be sold as part of the consolidating shrinkage plan.
    •        Further down the list are. . . ?
     •       When the NYPL unveiled its system-wide real estate plans to staff in March of 2008 it identified a plan to put a new hub library in Northern Manhattan (Harlem?).  This is the only new hub library that seems to have been proposed anywhere.  What this plans means cannot be said with certainty, but going back to the Donnell Library closing in 2008, following through with consolidating shrinkage of the proposed Central Library Plan and now the sell-off of the Brooklyn Heights library, all central or hub libraries of any kind have been associated with the sale and shrinkage of other previously existing libraries in the vicinity.  Therefore, there shoud be concern about the upcoming sale and closing of libraries in northern Manhattan and Harlem.    
    •    Libraries in Brooklyn:
    •        The Brooklyn Branch library at 280 Cadman Plaza will be closed and shrunk to become a much smaller library in what has been spoken of (internally by library officials) as likely being a forty-story building likely owned, library officials say, in a “Partnership” with Forest City Ratner.  Library officials have indicated they can justify keeping the smaller library open shorter hours.  The current library space, which also hosts the Business and Career library, is 62,000 square feet.  This would be reduced to 16,000 square feet.  Library officials are arguing that the space used by the public would effectively be cut only in half.
    •        The Business and Career library would be booted out of its current and traditional location at the edge of Brooklyn’s Central Business District (at a transportation hub and adjacent to universities).  (This would help the library to keep shorter hours in Brooklyn Heights)  To the extent that Business and Career library continued to exist at all afterwards it would be by virtue of jamming it into (and effectively shrinking) the Main Branch Library in Prospect Heights at Grand Army Plaza.
    •        The Main Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza will be shrunk to the extent that other libraries elsewhere are closed and shrunk and shunted off services get jammed into this library.
    •        The Pacific branch library, (recently renovated), the first Carnegie Building opened in Brooklyn and a proposed landmark that the City Landmark’s commissioner has refused to act on since 2004, would be closed.
    •        There is information coming together from several sources that the Clinton Hill Library, 380 Washington Avenue (at Lafayette Ave, tow blocks from Clinton), Brooklyn, NY 11238 is being looked at for sale to a developer.  It is one of the libraries that has been the subject of recent sporadic closures claiming air conditioning or (March 2013) lack of heat.
    •        There is a list of other Brooklyn libraries on the list for development.  Although the Brooklyn Public Library system denies it, libraries on the list were handed out to developers at least as far back as 2007.  (People visiting the Brooklyn Heights library building are being told that the Brooklyn Heights library is the only library affected by the current sell-off and shrinkage plans, information that is obviously incorrect.)
    •        The strategic plan for the Brooklyn Public Library states that the plan is to “leverage” (i.e. “sell”) all of the real estate.  The BPL: “will leverage its over one million square feet of real estate by launching partnerships . . .”
    •        The (Rupert Murdoch-owned) Brooklyn Paper that promotes the interests of the real estate developers ran two articles March 27, 2013.  One was run in lieu of covering of covering a Community Board 5 hearing where the community was out in force strenuously objecting as BPL spokespeople presented their plans to sell the Pacific Branch library.  That article, labeled a "News Analysis" in the print edition of the paper, was comprised of quotes and talking points of the BPL spokesman stating why the library should be sold and why Andrew Carnegie who donated this and other libraries on the condition that they be kept open and maintained would want to see such libraries sold off.  Along with that article the paper ran another article where, according to Curbed, a real estate blog, the “Brooklyn Paper helpfully outlined every at-risk Carnegie branch in the borough.”  Accordingly, that article gives clues to other libraies likely to be put on the block for sale. Another clue to which libraries are likely to be sold are which libraries get reported to have air conditioning problems.  So far no library (going back to Donnell in 2008) has been proposed for sale without citing air conditioning problems, whether that library was recently renovated or not.  A list of libraries with air conditioning problems appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle at the end of the Summer 2012.  Libraries overlapping on these two lists as being in poor condition and having air conditioning problems, in addition to the Brooklyn Heights library and the Pacific Branch Library include also the Clinton Hill Library, 380 Washington Avenue and the Brownsville branch, 61 Glenmore Ave. at Watkins St. Brooklyn, NY 11212.  Other still open Carnegie libraries Brooklyn that the Brooklyn Paper listed as being in "poor condition" were:  Brownsville branch, 61 Glenmore Ave. at Watkins St. Brooklyn, NY 11212, Carroll Gardens branch, 396 Clinton St. @ Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11231, Flatbush branch, 22 Linden Blvd. at Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11226, Arlington branch, 203 Arlington Ave. at Warwick St., Brooklyn, NY 11207, Walt Whitman branch, 93 Saint Edwards St. (between Myrtle and Park Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11205, Saratoga branch, 8 Thomas S. Boyland St. at "Macon St.", Brooklyn, NY 11233, Leonard branch, 81 Devoe St. at Leonard St., Brooklyn, NY 11215, Eastern Parkway branch, 1044 Eastern Pkwy. at Schenectady Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213, Washington Irving branch, 360 Irving Ave. (at Woodbine St.), Brooklyn, NY 11237.
      

    •    All of the libraries in all of the boroughs affected:
    •        Because the current strategy involves underfunding all of the libraries in the New York City system in order to shake loose and prioritize these real estate deals wherever they be, every library is suffering negative consequences as a result.

    •    Libraries in Queens:
    •        The Queens Library sub-system has so far been the most protective of its libraries.  Some libraries in Queens lease space rather than being in publicly-owned properties so there is little real estate value to trying to sell off those particular libraries (unless there is s a very long-term, low-rent lease).  Still, because the strategy is to underfund all the libraries in the city to shake real estate properties loose from the system, the Queens libraries are also deleteriously affected; the Borough President must divert more discretionary funds in the direction of libraries (making those funds unavailable to the borough for other uses) and those funds are less effective in bringing library services up to an suitable level.
    •        The Elmhurst public library in Queens, which the Historic Districts Council fought with the community to save, was bulldozed.  That property was not sold off to a developer for another use; it only turned into a construction project the appropriateness of which can be investigated.  Alternatives would have included added library space to the existing library off or on site.
    •        According to the New York City Independent Budget Office’s critique of the mayor’s push to drive down funding of the libraries, “The funding fall-off is already taking a toll on the city’s three library systems, particularly the systems in Brooklyn and Queens.” . . .“more than three dozen branch libraries may be closed.”
    •        Here is a link to the HDC campaign to save libraries, which includes libraries in Queens.
    •     Libraries in The Bronx and Staten Island:
    •        The Bronx and Staten Island libraries are part of NYPL subsystem whose board of trustees have focused themselves on a prioritized creation of the real estate deals in Manhattan.  What we are seeing is that the juiciest real estate deals are getting priority, but what we know from the Brooklyn situation is that they are working their way down a list.
    •        Read the section on the Queens libraries about how the entire system is affected.
    •        The Historic Districts council is working to save libraries in the Bronx and Staten Island as well as the other boroughs.  
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 The link below takes you to where you may sign the petition:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 

Action Steps You Can Take Including Contacting Elected and Other Public Officials

[Back To Main Page]  The information posted here at Citizens Defending Libraries, including this page, will be updated, evolved and developed further.

The petition will be delivered to the following public officials in public events which you may participate in* and which we will invite the press can cover:
•    Mayor Michael R Bloomberg,
•    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,
•    NYC Comptroller John C. Liu,
•    Public Advocate Bill de Blasio,
•    Trustees of New York Public Library
•    Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library
•    Trustees of Queens Public Library
•    Stephen Levin, City Council Member (Mr. Levin is the City Councilman for the 33rd City Council District in whose district are two the libraries two of the libraries highest on the BPL’s priority list to sell to developers.  Both are next to Forest City Ratner properties and the BPL is saying that it may enter into- developer-driven-  private-public “partnerships” with Ratner despite that firm's notorious history and expertise in abusing such relationships to maximize costs to the public.  Mr. Levin was one of the first elected officials who stressed to us how important it is for us to organize.)
(* The following page will have updating information about events and meetings you can participate in to coordinate, share information, discuss strategic next steps, canvass, etc: )

There will be city-wide elections, including most importantly for mayor, this November so we believe that with everyone's support our campaign will be very effective.

In addition to supporting this petition by encouraging additional signers (by sending the petition to your friends and passing it along through social media like Facebook and Twitter) you can do even more to support this cause by contacting the public officials directly.

What To Call Public Officials About

You can call and e-mail them to tell them that you want them to endorse and support the goals of this campaign.  You can be even more effective if you ask them when you contact them to inform you what they are committing to, now in the short term and for the long term.  You can then be even more effective by reporting back to us the positions they are taking (or failing to take) by contacting us or by posting that information as a comment on this page.  (See below.)

We can offer questions to ask, like the following (you may have your own to suggest):
    •    Do you support a moratorium on the creation of real estate deals through the selling off of library property until the New York City libraries are all properly funded, which would mean rehiring all-laid off staff, restoration of full library hours, restoration of libraries being open Sunday.

    •    Do you oppose a moratorium on the sell-offs of any library real estate (including the sales currently proposed in Brooklyn and the Central Library plan in Manhattan) at very least until such time as those involved in formulation of such deals display a different mind-set, which means community decision-making about what is desired, no shrinkage of the library system and now prioritizing timing (rushing deals through) and benefits for the sake of the real estate industry.

    •    Do you oppose shrinkage of the New York City’s library systems as is currently being done?

    •    Will you commit to use the city ULURP process under the city charter (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to oppose and prevent any sale of city-owned library sites as part of schemes that shrink the library system (including the sales currently proposed in Brooklyn and the Central Library plan in Manhattan)?

    •    Do you oppose the libraries' use of private-public partnerships (that become developer-driven and can be readily abused by companies expert in doing so, like Forest City Ratner) when library property is redeveloped?

    •    Do you oppose destruction and sale of irreplaceable assets, crown jewels of the library system like the research stacks that make the 42 Street library the research library it should be?

    •    Do you oppose wholesale sell-offs of libraries going on simultaneously?

    •    Do you oppose rushed and premature closing of libraries as occurred when Donnell was closed in 2008?

    •    Do you oppose the withholding of vital and core city services like libraries (and schools) as hostages in order to get developments approved?

    •    Do you support a thorough public review process, including a long lead time and sufficient advance warning when existing libraries are proposed to be decommissioned and replaced?
     •   Are you calling for investigation and audit of these library system deals?
When contacting public officials, do not let anyone tell you that the selling of libraries creates money for the library system.  That’s one of the problems: It doesn’t and it can’t- That money typically goes to the city, which has already established the policy of withholding it.  That’s what we are determined to change.  (Even in the case of certain libraries the NYPL actually owns, sale proceeds can't be counted upon for operations and the city can cut by comparable amounts.  Federal and state funds also went toward the original purchase of certain of those libraries.)

In relative terms, the amount of money such sales can bring into the city is a pittance.

The amount required to begin properly funding libraries again is also a pittance relative to other amounts spent in the city.  From the Center For An Urban Future report on libaray usage we know: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”  Yet, we spend far more as a city to subsidize those other things.

Libraries are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as buffer against economic downturn.  Even if it is decided that some libraries, sometimes should occasionally be selected to be sold and replaced to create increased density, enlarging the city to add to the tax base, we then need a larger not smaller library system as a result.

Public Officials To Contact

In addition to contacting those public officials on the following list it is important to contact your City Council member.  There are 31 City Council members.  You can find out who your City Council Member is and how to contact them by going here: Find Your City Council Member.

We suggest also contacting the following public officials. Some contact information is provided for public officials.  For others (like Mayor Bloomberg, who make contacting them difficult) click on the links to go to the appropriate contact sites.
   •     Officials for all of New York City
   •    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

   •    Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov
(212) 669-7250

   •    NYC Comptroller John C. Liu
cmartin@comptroller.nyc.gov
Community Action Center
(212) 669-3916

   •    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
(212) 788-7210

   •    City Council Member Stephen Levin
slevin@council.nyc.gov
District Office Phone
718-875-5200

   •    City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer
Committees For Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations
District 26
District Office Phone 718-383-9566
   •    Brooklyn Library System:
   •    Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
(718) 802-3700
     askmarty@brooklynbp.nyc.gov

    •    Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO,  Board of Trustees Brooklyn Library System
questionpoint@oclc.org
   •    Queens System:
   •    Board Secretary, Queens Public Libary Board of Trustees
Gabriel Taussig (212) 356-2010
gtaussig@law.nyc.gov

   •    Queens Borough President Helen Marshall
info@queensbp.org
   •    Manhattan Bronx and Staten Island System:
   •    New York Public Library System President
Anthony W. Marx, President
president@nypl.org

   •    Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer
bp@manhattanbp.org 

   •    Office of the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
webmail@bronxbp.nyc.gov

   •    Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro
718-816-2000
siquikstart@statenislandusa.com
In writing letters to politicians, you may find it easy and useful to adapt some of the points made in the March 8, 2013 letters of Citizens Defending Libraries testimony found here: Testimony By Citizens Defending Libraries At March 8, 2013 City Council Committee Hearing On Library Budget Issues.   At this time it is important when writing to politicians to call for investigation and audit of the library systems in regard to these proposed real estate deals.

CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.

You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 The link below takes you to where you may sign the petition:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction 

Extra Useful Links About Libraries In Manhattan And The Central Library Plan (Including The 42nd Street Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL and Donnell Library)

[Back To Main Page] In addition to the main resource page, here are some extra useful links about libraries in Manhattan and The Central Library Plan (including the 42nd Street Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL and Donnell Library).  (There is some minor repetitions for the main page.  This page will be updated. 

 •    Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
“There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world's greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 . . . . it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.”
 •    New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
“this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible. . . a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.”
   •    The Committee to Save The New York Public Library: Press Release, March 7, 2012.   
This detailed analysis questions many of the Library's assumptions and calls for public debate about the CLP's impact on the Research Library and its users, on branch libraries throughout the city, and on the financial well-being of the library itself.
  •    The Committee to Save The New York Public Library: The Truth About the Central Library Plan, March 7, 2012.          
    The plan is highly controversial:

    • It will be hugely expensive, costing a minimum of $300 million (probably much more), of which $150 million will come from New York City taxpayers. There is great concern that the Library's focus on a highly-complex construction project will absorb desperately-needed funds which might otherwise pay for renovations of branch libraries, and replenish slashed curatorial and acquisitions budgets.
    • It will radically reduce the space available for the Mid-Manhattan and SIBL.
    • It will threaten the 42nd Street Library's status as one of the world's great research libraries.
    • It will threaten the architectural integrity of the landmarked 42nd Street building.
    • It does not take into consideration more efficient and less destructive alternatives, such as combining SIBL and the Mid-Manhattan into a rehabilitated and expanded building on the Mid-Manhattan site.
There is a whole section about how in facilitating these real estate deals for developers, “The Library Has Chosen the Most Expensive Option.” 
  •    New York Post: Opinion- Real-estate fiction, by Nicole Gelinas, July 8, 2013.
The library — apparently convinced it combines the deal-making savvy of Donald Trump and engineering expertise of the MTA — is embarking on a Big Dig beneath Midtown.

* * * *

Yet the library didn’t negotiate risk-sharing with the city on cost overruns, which means the city is at least vaguely worried that the price may spiral. Indeed, Marx has acknowledged that the project has no firm cost ceiling yet.

Another unsettling sign: Faced with criticism of construction drawings the library released last year, Marx said, “The rendering was never intended to be a design, it is not a design.”
  •    City Journal: The New York Public Library’s Uncertain Future- A proposed renovation threatens one of the world’s great research institutions, by Stephen Eide, Autumn 2013.
“This is about improving services for our users—the public,” says David Offensend, the library’s chief operating officer. That claim seems dubious, at least for researchers. Even under the brightest scenario, the likely result would be an institution marginally more cost-effective but significantly downgraded from the research standard it has set during its illustrious history.

The structure took 12 years and $9 million to build, and it incorporated 14 varieties of marble—including some from the same Greek quarry that supplied the Parthenon. The building’s unique features include . . .  the seven stories and 88 miles of cast-iron and steel bookshelves, closed to the public, which occupy most of the building’s west side and hold up the Rose Main Reading Room.

* * *

The research library, meanwhile, quickly became one of the best in the world, in the same class as France’s Bibliothèque Nationale and the British Museum.

* * *

. . . combining research and branch services in the same facility amounts to administrative folly.

In times of austerity, it’s generally a good idea for organizations to combine operations in the name of cost savings and enhanced efficiency. That’s not the case here. Some functions are simply at odds. As a petition signed by Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard, and hundreds of other scholars and writers puts it: “NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution . . . 
    •    Noticing New York: Drastically Reducing Manhattan’s Main Library Space (At City Expense), The NYPL Was Only Just Recently Increasing Its Space (At City Expense), by Michael D. D. White, November 21, 2013.
The last expansion of the NYPL’s Manhattan space was in 2002 with the completion of a city-paid-for expansion of the Central Reference Library that boosted the size of the Main Building by about 8%, 42,222 square feet, because, as the then President of the NYPL said, additional space was needed.

* * *

Building up library space at taxpayer expense until 2002 and then selling it starting with Donnell in 2007?: There's a startling lesson in how fast ambitions can pivot.

* * *

The consolidating shrinkage of the Central Library Plan would shrink current space down to just 569,222 square feet, significantly less than the 763,000 figure for the late 80s and early 90s and certainly less than the recently envisioned 1,082,222 square feet.
From 1987 to an envisioned 2015 (with an implemented Central Library Plan), total actual midtown Manhattan Library destination space actual and planned, first going up and then going lower than ever before
      •    Noticing New York: Are NYPL Trustees Flying Blind on The Basics? Numbers To Inform Them About The Drastic Dwindling of Books In Manhattan’s Principal Libraries Are Missing From Their Minutes, by Michael D. D. White, November 27, 2013.
What do the New York Public Library Trustees know about what is going on their watch?  . . . .Do they have any idea of the number of books they are making available to the public, and that the number of books in Manhattan’s most important libraries is significantly shrinking?  The indications are they’re in the dark.. .

. . . minutes for the last ten years of NYPL trustee meetings contain nothing about the number of books in the principal and most important libraries in Manhattan even as deals are being finagled to sell and precipitously shrink those libraries.*
From 1987 to an envisioned 2015 (with an implemented Central Library Plan), how total number of books in Manhattan's principal libraries is declining drastically.  Over 12 million books in 1996 and 2003 to perhaps 4.2 million books (or even far fewer?) when CLP is implemented.  Starting figures in the graph for 1987 and 1992 are graphed lower than than they actually should be because they don't include unknown numbers for Mid-Manhattan and Donnell
(* FOOTNOTE- added April 13, 2014: On March 26, 2014, the NYPL contacted Noticing New York and Citizens Defending Libraries with respect to the November 27, 2013 Noticing New York article, calling into question whether one of the book count figures published in the New York Times from which these numbers derive was exactly accurate.  The NYPL suggested substituting another number that appeared to be misleading and less accurate for that purpose.  Since that time the NYPL has not been forthcoming with requested numbers to inform the public about the number of books that were in it's libraries, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library, including the Bryant Park Service Extension, the 42nd Street Annex, Mid-Manhattan, the Science, Industry and Business Library, the Donnell Library and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, and how those numbers are changing.  Notwithstanding, the NYPL provided a book count figure for some of the materials in the Central Reference Library, that was startlingly more than what it is estimated might be kept, whether or not the NYPL low-balled that provided number.  An additional update- On March 11th, NYPL president Tony Marx testified at the City Council budget hearing that his goal was to have "capacity" for 4.2 million books under the consolidating shrinkage of the Central Library Plan, but that the NYPL didn't yet know if they would achieve even that.  He was also very careful to be clear that he was only stating the "capacity" they were hoping for, not the actual number of books that would be kept. Is it fair to guess that the actual number of books ultimately kept could be as low as only 3.5 to 4 million?  This footnote will be updated with a link providing more information.)

    •    N+1 (N Plus One Magazine: Lions in Winter, (Parts One and Two), by Charles Petersen, March 7, 2012.
Until Congress acts, if it ever does, the best that Google will legally be able to provide when users request orphan books is “snippet view,”* the annoying feature that lets you search through a book and see a line or two whenever a particular word occurs, but nothing else . .  “Snippet view” is . . . . of little use to researchers without access to the book itself.   (*Even “Snippet View” is currently being challenged by the Authors Guild in court.. . . )

* * * *

But even if Congress were to act tomorrow. . . the availability of digitized books to the point where one could be confident of finding what one needed, in the way one can still be confident upon arriving at the New York Public Library, is still some years away. . . .probably closer to twenty.

* * * *

Norman Foster’s preliminary plans have not yet been made public, but looking at some of Foster’s other projects you can begin to imagine what the new library will look like. The constraints of the space greatly limit what will be possible:

* * * *

Foster’s design may well call for the demolition of not just the stacks but of much of the marble facade that currently stands on the Bryant Park side of the building, and whose windows and marble pillars are exactly aligned with the rows of steel stacks inside. If the stacks go, the facade is likely to go as well. In the facade’s place, we will likely see some kind of ambitious new glass entrance. .
[Because of Landmarks this is not now an immediate threat but it will be a threat after conversion.]

* * * *

In response to the question “What will replace the stacks?” the library’s website says, “Books!” That’s just not true, and it’s certainly not true in the long term.

* * * *

The library’s plan is unprecedented for a reason: no other research library has eliminated the vast majority of its on-site collection because no library can predict what books the next person through the door will request—and no researcher can know what books she will need until she begins to read, and sees where the footnotes, and her curiosity, take her.

* * * *

Many of the librarians with whom I spoke had been forced out following the reorganization of 2007–08, and some had signed . . .agreements . . .not to “disparage or encourage or induce others to disparage” the library. . . . Nonetheless, almost every single former librarian with whom I spoke opposed the plan to renovate the main branch. . . . they said, “The administration doesn’t care about research.”

* * * *

. . . former librarians attributed the changes to the increasing presence of a new kind of board member—hedge fund managers, private equity kingpins (Stephen Schwarzman of the $100 million gift), and media tycoons like ex officio trustee Michael Bloomberg, whose mayoral administration has contributed mightily to the war chest that will make the renovation possible. . . .

* * * *

Many conversations returned to the figure of David Offensend, co-founder of Evercore Partners, a private equity firm with a market capitalization of a billion dollars. Offensend joined the library in 2004, . . . he now serves as chief operating officer. . . . It was under Offensend that Booz Allen was brought in; it was under Offensend, and in the wake of the Schwarzman gift, that the ambitious plan to fundamentally reconfigure the library took shape. . . . We can see here the familiar arithmetic of corporate downsizing.

* * * *

The public has been consulted only very minimally on the library’s decisions. There was no open architectural competition for the design of the renovation; there have been no public forums for a discussion of the plan in general.

* * * *

Of all the justifications for the renovation, none is more disingenuous and misleading than the claim that the library is simply trying to make the main building more “democratic.” This is a facility that has stood for over a century and provided unparalleled service to a public that no other institution gives a damn about. It is the most democratic research library in the world, far more welcoming to the average user than the Bibliothèque Nationale, the British Museum, or the Library of Congress, let alone the libraries at Harvard and Yale. . . .

. . . . While the administration at the New York Public Library likes to pretend the renovation will not affect researchers, when pressed they insist the main building must be “democratized.” The result is a bad dialectic between the casual readers, who like to check out books, and the fussy, over-educated “elite” readers, who want obscure volumes. . . .

More than anything, this rhetoric reveals the fundamentally anti-democratic worldview that has taken hold at the library. It is of a piece with what the new Masters of the Universe have accomplished in the public schools, where hedge funders have provided the lion’s share of the backing for privatization, and in the so-called reforms to our financial system, where technocrats meet behind closed doors to decide what will be best for the rest of us. Oligarchs acting in the people’s name (with the people’s money) is not democratic; selling off New York’s cultural patrimony to out-of-town heiresses, closing down treasured divisions and branches, pushing out expert staff, and shipping books to a warehouse in the suburbs, all without consulting the public, is not democratic. If the reconstruction goes through, scholarly research will be more, not less, concentrated in the handful of inordinately wealthy and exclusive colleges and universities. The renovation is elitism garbed in populist rhetoric, ultimately condescending to the very people the library’s board thinks they’re serving. . . .
  •    Historic Districts Council: HDC’s Statement on the NYPL’s Central Library Plan, March 26, 2013.
The New York Public Library is an institution that embodies the altruistic principle that education is the great societal elevator. It was founded in the belief that everyone should have access to the resources necessary for self-improvement. Unfortunately, with the NYPL’s pursuit of the Central Library Plan, it appears that mission may have become a thing of the past.

* * * *

At its core, the NYPL’s Central Library Plan eviscerates the heart of the 42nd Street Library building while disenfranchising the millions of New Yorkers who use the Library’s services. In essence a real estate deal conceived to maximize profits through decreasing services, the over $300 million dollar plan proposes to remove the interior stacks of the New York Public Library building. . .

* * * *

Furthermore, contrary to NYPL’s public statements, the stacks were upgraded with modern fire-suppression systems within the last 15 years and while their climate control systems could certainly be further improved, the expense of modernization is nothing compared to the cost of removal.

* * * *

. . . .This is a downsizing of the NYPL, squeezing a heavily-used circulating library and another heavily-used research library into the central library, which already has around two million visitors a year. This is not about providing access to patrons denied it, nor about providing new services. . . .

* * * *

. . . .The New York Public Library is arguably a nearly perfect design for uniting New Yorkers with knowledge in much the same way that Grand Central Terminal is a nearly perfect design for uniting New Yorkers with transportation. Great public buildings both serve and inspire their users and the Library, a truly democratic and free institution, does just that in its current form.
  •    New York Times: Employees Feel Silenced on Library Project, by Robin Pogrebin, May 23, 2012.
The New York Public Library’s plan . . . has unleashed a torrent of commentary . . . But one highly informed contingent has been notably silent: former curators, department heads and librarians.

. . .  former employees . . .eager to participate in the debate over the $300 million proposal, known as the Central Library Plan . . . can’t because they signed a nondisparagement agreement when they left, promising not to criticize the library in exchange for . . . severance.

* * * *

“I’d like to comment, but I can’t,” said John Milton Lundquist, a longtime curator at the library who retired in 2009.

* * * *

“It does raise the question, what are they afraid people are going to say?” said Joan E. Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. . . .

* * * *
. . . employees
[are prohibited] from commenting to the news media or other entities with which the library does business in a way that could “adversely affect in any manner the conduct of the business of any of the library entities (including, without limitation, any business plans or prospects)” or “the business reputation of the library entities” . .

* * * *

Annette Marotta, a research librarian at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center . . . passed up several thousand dollars in severance when she left in 2010, . . .
. . “It was hush money,” she said.

* * * *

. . . “If decisions aren’t being made behind closed doors,” . . .why had the library “gagged everyone?”
 •       The Wall Street Journal: Clueless at the Corcoran- What the museum's latest bad decision says about nonprofit governance, by Eric Gibson, February, 24, 2014.
. . .  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.
•       The Brooklyn Eagle (Exclusive): Brooklyn Public Library in line for audit, says Comptroller Stringer, by Mary Frost, February, 28, 2014.
Groups opposing the controversial sales of Brooklyn and Manhattan library branches to developers have long been pushing for an audit of the BPL and NPL systems. . .

“Some of the things raised with respect to the Queens library system are interesting and worth investigating but the Queens expenditures ($140K for a conference deck) are penny ante compared to the library sales at the NPL and the BPL,” commented Michael D. D. White, a founding member of Citizens Defending Library, following a Brian Lehrer interview with Comptroller Stringer. “The Queens Library system has not been selling off libraries like the other two,” White added.
•       Translationista: A Tour of the NYPL Stacks, by Susan Bernofsky, February 1, 2014.
Yesterday I was invited to tour the stacks at the 42nd Street Library as part of a delegation from the PEN American Center, which the NYPL is hoping to win over to its cause. The purpose of the tour was to convince us that the demolition of the stacks is necessary and a contribution to service and scholarship. What I saw convinced me of the opposite.

* * *

There was also a striking discrepancy between what we were seeing and the talking points that our hosts, Chief Library Officer Mary Lee Kennedy and Vice President of Communications and Marketing Ken Weine, kept repeating as we walked.


* * *

When I asked Mary Lee Kennedy if she knew what could be causing delivery problems [a two-day lag between requesting a book and getting an email saying that it was "in the process of being delivered"-which meant even more days for books to be delivered and available on site] she said that the closing of traffic around Times Square in preparation for this weekend's Super Bowl had interfered with the ability of the trucks bringing books from NJ. .

 CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.
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Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction