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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Floor Plans of the Brooklyn Heights Library Considered In Light of the Library’s Proposed Sale and Shrinkage

This is NOT a graph- Just a visual to catch you attention with the information that we have some interesting calculations for you below!
59%, approximately 37,703 square feet, of the Brooklyn Heights Library is above ground, and,. . . .   according to the BPL’s own calculations, 21,571 square feet (at least) of the above-ground space should be allocated to the existing “branch” functions. . .. . . PLUS added to that there should also a lot of additional underground space!- . .

. . . But shouldn’t ALL, or MOST of, the tax-payer-owned-and-paid-for space including the space the BPL deems "Business and Career Library" function space, be kept for public use, not sold off and shrunk way down to benefit the private developer of a luxury condominium tower and Saint Ann’s a private school which now may be getting 18,000 to 20,000 square feet for a new school theater, pretty much the same amount of space as proposed for a shrunken replacement library (proposed to have only 15,000 square feet above ground)?

How big is the current Brooklyn Heights Library?
The current library is 63,000 square feet.  We are going with this particular stated size, because this is the stated size that has been used the longest and was used by the architects that the Brooklyn Heights Library hired to calculate an inflated estimate of repairing the library’s air conditioning.  The BPL’s previous statements of the libraries size have usually stated the size of the library to be very close to this number and over 62,000 square feet.  On Monday, March 9, 2015, the library announced for the first time that it was hiring Marvel, the real estate developer’s architect, and simultaneously released for the first time floor plans in response to one Citizens Defending Libraries long-standing requests.  At that time the developer’s architect presented for the first time a somewhat  reduced statement of the library’s current size stating it to be 59,146 square feet.  In order to avoid any aggregation of rounding errors and what is know in the trade as “net to gross” calculation shifts and in order to facilitate a continuity of dialogue we will continue to use the 63,000 square feet that has been used for the last couple of years.  That is 1.06516x the smaller revised statement of size recently adopted by the developer's architect.
How big is it proposed that a smaller library to replace the existing library would be?
The developer was appointed as developer, awarded the RFP (Request For Proposals), based on its representation that it would build:
    •    a 21,000 square foot library,
    •    of which just 15,000 square feet would be above ground.
On Monday, March 9, 2015, the developer’s architect for the first time referred to the developer’s still incomplete plans (no current design existing) as providing a library with a few additional square feet, “21,500 square feet."  We think that statement of a slightly increased size is a reaction to the fact that the new Sunset Park Library is currently proposed to be 20,600 square feet, almost the same size as the it is proposed to shrink the Brooklyn Heights Library down to.  Also, on that March 9, 2015 evening the developer disclosed that Saint Ann’s, a neighboring private school is likely to get an 18,000 to 20,000 square foot auditorium because of the redevelopment.   There is friction in the neighborhood because it is understood that the benefits that Saint Ann’s school is getting is helping drive the deal to sell and shrink the taxpayer-paid-for library.  We are not now restating the size of the proposed replacement library to include an extra 500 square feet because there is no known obligation on the part of the developer to provide it and we do not see evidence that the BPL is trying to negotiate any improvement of this very bad deal for the public. 
How much of the Existing Brooklyn Heights Library is above ground?

Above, showing in bar graph form the amount of space in the existing Brooklyn Heights Library (left) both above and underground and (right) in the proposed replacement library that would go at the bottom of  tower built for luxury condominiums
Based on the figures and floor plans (below- click to enlarge) the BPL just released the current library has approximately 37,703 square feet of above ground space.  The library consists of four floors and 59% of its space is in the two most important floors that are above ground.  There is more space in another two stories below ground, where currently 17,527 square feet or (28% of the total 63,000 square feet) is used for books and materials (similar to the research stacks of the NYPL's 42nd Street Central Reference Library that make books readily accessible upon request).

Is anything else being given up in addition to the space inside the library? 

Yes, a great deal.  There is all the space outside the library, including a park and landscaped areasThere is all the light and air that the neighborhood will sacrifice.  There is an extra burden of infrastructure like public schools. . . even as this move diminishes that supporting infrastructure.  There is an enormous amount of cost and disruption that needs to be taken into account and hasn't been yet.  There is the fact that for years yet to be determined, the neighborhood will only have a very small temporary library, a mere 7,000 square feet.  That's not only a poor, make-shift substitute while children are growing up, one also needs to remember that as BPL president Linda Johnson told her trustees at the last BPL trustees meeting, when you take library resources away there is an extended period after you bring those resources back before patrons return to their habits of using them again returning to previous levels of patronage. 

The Existing Brooklyn Heights Library integrates both "branch" and the "Business and Career Library" functions serving Downtown Brooklyn: What amount of space is proportionally devoted to each?

Between the Branch Library and the Business and Career Library functions, the library assigned 57% of the space to the Branch Library functions (blue) and 43% to the Business and Career Library functions (green).

Allocating the entire library’s space proportionately that would mean that approximately 21,571 square feet of the above-ground space should be allocated to the Branch Library.  Allocating the below ground space the same way would assign another 14,419 to the Branch Library for a total of 35,990 square feet.  In that case, 27,010 square feet of the Brooklyn Heights Library’s functions would wind up being moved to the Grand Army Plaza Library deemed by the BPL to be Business and Career Library functions that don’t need to stay in Downtown Brooklyn.  There will be no additional space for those functions in the Grand Army Plaza Library, but Linda Johnson and the BPL administration officials have acknowledged that there will be costs they are not disclosing to reconfigure the Grand Army Plaza Library and shrink other function there to cram in the functions transferred of of Brooklyn Heights Library and away from the Downtown area.

The BPL is arguing that the amount of space devoted to Brooklyn Heights Library functions that should be shifted, reconfigured and crammed into Grand Army Plaza for reconfiguration and replacement/shrinkage of other function there should be should be greater than the 27,010 square feet allocation above.
How much space should be retained for an adequately-sized replacement Brooklyn Heights Library if the Business and Career Library functions are moved to Grand Army Plaza?
The answer to this question must flow from the functions the public would like to see retained at the Brooklyn Heights Library. . . . and also what the public would not want to see crowded out of the Grand Army Plaza Library.  The answer should also defer to, and take appropriately into account, the fact that the Brooklyn Heights Branch and the Business and Career Library functions in the library have always operating on an integrated, synergistic basis with economies of scale flowing out of their joint operations.

Accordingly, even if the Business And Career functions are shifted out of the library, one must think twice or more about whether the Branch Library would want to give up the following:
    •    The full scale auditorium that is used for events, films, functions and gatherings, and as a place to do things like vote.  Such space that can be made readily available to the public in the Downtown area is very rare and becoming increasingly in more demand as density rapidly increases.
    •    The public conference room, for the same reason as above.  (There is also a possibility for more of these conference rooms to be created if you read on.)
    •    The electrically equipped computer room that is now technically designated by the BPL as a Business and Career Library space, but which is definitely used by many, many of the Branch Library patrons.
    •    The restrooms.  There is currently a men’s restroom, a women’s restroom (so frequently in many facilities complained about as not being large enough), a separate children’s bathroom and a ground floor bathroom next to the front entry.  The ground floor bathroom is designed to serve the handicapped, and because of the way that Downtown Brooklyn figures as a major transit hub, it regularly serves the bus drivers of a number of Boroughs’ key bus lines.
If you want the library to keep all of these spaces, which is probably a good idea, then the calculation of the percentage of what should be retained for the branch of the above-ground space becomes a 74% for the branch vs. 26% for the Business and Career library functions proposition.  In that case, one would want the library that remains to have about 27,900 square feet of space above ground (vs. the current 37,703 square feet) plus a certain amount of additional support space below ground.  If the percentage for the underground space were the same percentage (which the library would probably argue against) the additional underground space would be 18,719 square feet.

The BPL’s mantra is that all space in libraries should be the same space flexibly used for everything, an excuse to shrink libraries that creates logistic and noise problems while communicating to the public that it isn’t valued enough to deserve gracious public spaces devoted to its needs. 
Should the Brooklyn Heights Library retain all the Business and Career Library functions?
Yes.  We think the simple answer is obviously yes.  The decision to "move" it dates back to plans initiated in 2007 to sell and shrink libraries around the city and the plan to "move" it is, in our opinion, just a pretext to shrink library space in something of a shell game maneuver.

We think the Business and Career library should be kept in Downtown Brooklyn where they are most centrally and conveniently located to the residents of the borough and to other New Yorkers.
What about enlarging some of Brooklyn Heights Library’s Library functions irrespective of whether Business and Career Library functions are formally being viewed as retained at the library?
This could be a very good idea.  At other libraries like the NYPL’s 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library and The Grand Army Plaza Library the concept has been introduced to have libraries provide more spaces  for people to meet and convene and work on projects, sometimes providing patrons with such things as digital editing and production equipment.  With the reuse of the former Jehovah's Witness Buildings the neighborhood is becoming even more a tech center that the library could work hard to support.  What could be done to serve the public with facilities centrally located in the borough’s downtown gets into the realm of imagination. .  but  you don't need to challenge your imagination much to realize the building's potential extra uses.

Thoughts include:
    •    A second and/or a larger auditorium
    •    Use of any unused or perhaps less well used staff space, as conference and meeting rooms.
    •    Configuration of library uses to better align with and support educational service support school students, especially those in the overburdened public school system.  This could include rooms for use by visiting classes on study trips. 
Do the floor plans released on Monday March 9, 2015 disclose anything else of interest?
Yes.  They indicate that restoring the air conditioning system in the building to working order could easily be be a much simpler and less expensive proposition than the BPL has acknowledged.   
When one considers the possibilities, it is probably foolish not to think in terms of more wisely using this asset to benefit the public as always intended, not figuring schemes to benefit a private developer or the private Saint Ann’s School instead.

There is also the question of the importance of books (yes physical books) and having them readily accessible, more than one copy in the system, particularly in central libraries when it comes to the harder to find volumes. . .you know, the reason we created libraries to store and share our books to begin with.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Report on March 9th “Community Advisory Meeting” About Plans To Sell and Shrink Brooklyn Heights Library, Putting Up A Luxury Condominium Tower

"Community Advisory Committee" meeting about to get underway
This page will be updated and we expect to be putting up video (with links here) on our Citizens Defending Libraries Youtube Channel.

Proposed plans discussed by the Brooklyn Heights Library “Community Advisory Meeting” to sell and shrink the Brooklyn Heights Library were note very well received to the extent that the community had a chance to express itself Monday night.
BPL president Linda Johnson reacted with a strange expression when told by Toba Potosky, president of the board of directors of nearby Cadman Towers on Clinton Street, that "The library is packed with people all the time."

A significant piece of news from Monday night is that URLUP certification has been pushed back, yet again, now until June.  This clearly indicates that we have forced the library administration officials and their developer partner to grapple more realistically with the community’s rejection of this project.  They are now working as best they can to try to make the community rejection appear less obvious.  In September, when the developer was selected, ULURP certification was going to be this month.  Then it was pushed back to April, now it’s two months later.  Originally, the Bloomberg administration initiating these real estate schemes, and pursuing them on multiple fronts, wanted everything to happen many months early with a developer contract for the Brooklyn Heights Library being executed before December 31, 2013, Bloomberg’s last day in office.

But listen to how the new date has been picked to just barely accommodate the timing of a manipulated community “charrette” process.  The charrette will occur two weeks from announcement with small tables of 6 to 8 people that will each include, there to steer things, one representative of the developer’s architect, now anointed as the library’s architect as well, and one representative of the Brooklyn Public Library that, with its transformation into a real estate development company, is also the developer’s representative.   If you listen to the system for input that was described Monday night, it is rife with opportunity for the BPL (with the developer) to provoke and cherry pick input to support its vision which starts out inflexibly with a decision to shrink the library from 63,000 square feet to 21,000, square feet.  (WEEDY DETAILS FOR THE GEEKS KEEPING TRACK: Monday night the architects came up with slightly revised figures a reduced existing library size of 59,149 square feet rather than the 63,000 square feet used to produce inflated air conditioning repair estimates, and a proposed shrinkage to 21,500 square feet, not reflecting what was stated to be the result of the RFP.)

April 20th the Library, working with the developer’s architect, will restate and reformulate what they consider to be the public input for reaction.  Then that will be presented to a stacked CAC (not representative of the public) in May. . . .  just in time for commencing the ULURP process right afterward in June!

A real open and transparent process to determine what the community wants should have preceded any decision to sell and shrink the library or to move the library’s Business and Career Library functions way from Downtown Brooklyn.

On another front, there are developer-serving arguments being promulgated that the “design” of the project can’t be considered in the URLUP process, only whether the disposition of this publicly owned property makes sense.  That argument, if bought into, opens the door to allowing the developer to make radical changes to the project even after ULURP.  It also ignores what one must absolutely consider to make a determination of whether the disposition of this substantial public assets makes any possible sense: You must consider how poorly the design of a drastically shrunken library will serve the public versus what the public has now and could have with some sensible upgrading and perhaps adaptive reuse of portions of the premises.

We asked questions Monday night that Linda Johnson mostly didn’t answer.  The library has overstated what it believes it will net financially by selling the library.  Johnson said that the small amount of net funds will go to certain other libraries, not mentioning the Grand Army Plaza Library where alterations will be necessitated by the transfer and accommodation there of the Business and Career Library functions. .  That’s to the extent that the Business and Career Library continues to exist at all.  It is important to remember that although the Business and Career Library functions are supposedly being moved to Grand Army Plaza there will be no new space created to accommodate those function, so the reconfiguring of Grand Army Plaza, which Ms. Johnson acknowledges will have a cost she will not state, will just be about cramming it in and reducing space for other activities and functions there.

Ms. Johnson says that she will not state, or net out this cost of GAP reconfiguration because she says that it was always the intention to move the Business and Career library way from Brooklyn’s Downtown.  Actually, as you can tell from the BPL’s own minutes that is NOT the case.  The plan to move the Business and Career Library out of Brooklyn Heights in order to sell and shrink the Brooklyn Heights Library goes back to 2007 with the BPL’s “Strategic Real Estate Plan” put together by ex-Forest City Ratner Vice President Karen Backus.  We think the “Strategic Real Estate Plan” should be made public and  have asked for it via FOIL, but Ms. Johnson and the BPL have refused to provide it.  Ms. Johnson said Monday night it was because she doesn’t understand our request.

With the figures released Monday night, between the branch library and the Business and Career Library functions,  the BPL assigned 57% of the space to the branch Library and 43% to the Business and Career Library, and that’s ignoring how the  Business and Career Library has always functioned in supportive synergy and on an integrative basis with the entire library making it one library.  For example: Consider the computer room that is supposed to be part of the Business and Career Library, and not technically, the branch.

While the library is proposed to be reduced from 63,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet, we heard the developer speak of how Saint Ann’s was going to get perhaps 18,000 square feet, and perhaps 20,000 square feet in the building just for an auditorium.- We cannot overlook how the benefits to Saint Ann’s, a private school, are helping to drive this sell-off and shrinkage of public tax-payer-paid-for assets.

Yes, there were a few individuals and entities like the developer-oriented Chamber of Commerce who read prepared statements in support of the sale and shrinkage of the library.  There was also the Downtown Partnership- Check out the relationship between the Downtown Partnership and Forest City Ratner before putting stock in what they say.

Thoughts about the proposed charrettes going forward

Interestingly the Brooklyn Heights Library design charrette isn’t the only one being proposed these days . .  There are a number of others, the 23rd for the Brooklyn Heights Library, the 26th for the NYPL's Central Reference Library, Mid-Manhattan and the sale of SIBL, possibly the 28th for the shrinkage of the Red Hook Library via Spaceworks, and possibly one for Sunset Park in this time frame. 

Probably most people who have the opportunity should decide to, and be supported in, participating in these multiple charrettes (and there will be more).  The question is how to do so while bringing along an appropriate level of refusal to being channeled into a narrow set of parameters and a buy-in to their stilted terms and preconceptions about where they want to steer the public- The question is how do you attend, maintain that, and communicate out to other participants so they can become similarly conscious and operate with that conscientiousness?

Brooklyn Public Library finally produces floor plans for the existing library.

Citizens Defending Libraries has been after the Brooklyn Public Library to make a great deal of information public for a long time, including producing floor plans.  Monday night the library finally produced floor plans (although not a full explanation of why it is considering so much of its space inside and outside of the building as having essentially no value.)

In the floor plans, which the public will now need to study and consider, between the branch library and the Business and Career Library functions, the library assigned 57% of the space to the branch Library (blue) and 43% to the Business and Career Library (green).  The 63,000 square foot library is four stories in all, with the great majority for its space being in the two floors above ground and more space in another two stories below ground, currently used (17,527 square feet or 28% of the total 63,000 square feet) for books and materials (similar to the research stacks of the NYPL's 42nd Street Central Reference Library).  Asked about the library's responsibilities in keeping materials Linda Johnson responded only vaguely although she seemed to acknowledge some possible responsibilities. She also said, when asked by Carolyn McIntyre, she could not give information about the number of book previously at the library vs, how many were still remaining.  Ms. McIntyre suggested that this was because library administration officials were focused on real estate deals, not on the management of the public's tax-payer paid for assets.  The library, in Downtown Brooklyn, is a central destination library. In these drawing the architects have, through rounding or by switching between net and gross calculations or whatever, reduced the previously stated size of the library down to "59,146" square feet.

There's more review of what the floor plans show in terms of relative measurements here: Floor Plans of the Brooklyn Heights Library Considered In Light of the Library's Proposed Sale and Shrinkage.

The Charrette begins with the premise that the public will input will be about how to shrink the Library down to the size already predetermined by the BPL’s RFP agreement handing the library site off to the developer.  That agreement calls for reducing the library from 63,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet with no more than 15,000 feet of the new library above ground.  Based on the figures and floor plans the BPL only just released in response to our agitation, the current library has approximately 37,703 square feet of above ground space. 

Press coverage

Here is coverage of Monday night in the press (comments possible at those sites).

•        Brooklyn Heights Blog: Brooklyn Heights Library Meeting Reveals Schedule; Much Still to be Resolved, by Claude Scales, March 10, 2015.
Last evening's meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library had few surprises. The final design of the proposed structure is far from complete, although it has been decided that it will be "taller and skinnier" than earlier renderings showed. The footprint of the library space within the building has at least tentatively been fixed, but the specifics of what goes into it and where remain . . .

* * *

. . . Committee member Robert Perris, Administrator of Community Board 2, noting that the new Sunset Park Branch will have 20,000 square feet, said, "If Sunset Park gets 20,000, I want 30,000."

* * *

Several attendees expressed concerns about the interim facility that will serve the community during the demolition of the old library and the construction of the new one. This will be in the Social Hall of Our Lady of Lebanon Church, at Henry and Remsen streets and with entrance-which according to Ms. Johnson will be accessible under ADA requirements-on Remsen. This is a 7,000 square foot space; much smaller than the corresponding space in the present library. Special concerns were raised about programs for children during the interim period.
•        Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Library officials met with blunt questions, cautious support at Brooklyn Heights meeting, by Mary Frost, March 11, 2015.
. . .  A number of local residents expressed scathing criticism of the plan, however, and urged the library and its Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to consider the impact of yet another residential tower on Brooklyn Heights' already-overcrowded elementary school, P.S. 8.

* * *

BPL's Johnson said, "All of us are committed to delivering a building to the community that improves the skyline," raising some titters from audience members opposed to the development.

She added, "When we're ready to show the building, we'll show the building. If it's ready by the next meeting [in May] that would be great. And if all of us are not happy with what the building is looking like at that point, then we're going to keep working on it until we are satisfied with it."

* * *

The first of several open workshops will be held on March 23 at 6:30 p.m., "allowing the community to be heard" in the design process, he said. "It's a listening moment."

After each workshop, "We'll be collecting and analyzing the information, putting it into matrices, giving it back to the community as pie charts and percentages so you can see where the general tone is," Marvel said. "This is almost a foolproof way of coming up with . . .  a 21st-century library that really does represent the larger vision of this community."

* * *

Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, pointed out that the new Sunset Park branch is being redeveloped, and "they're getting 20,000 sq. ft."

"I know that I shouldn't covet my neighbor's library . but I do covet my neighbor's library and if Sunset Park can get 20,000, then I want 30,000," he said.

Doreen Gallo of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance was one of the few CAC members to express outright skepticism. "I don't know if a 30-story building is really improving the skyline," she said to applause.

* * *

Larry Gulotta, president of Independent Neighborhood Democrats, scoffed at BPL's cost estimates for library repairs. "The numbers that are thrown around are not transparent. We're skeptical, and the club is skeptical. The executive board of the IND passed a resolution, and it says we don't believe this is a viable plan."

* * *

Ansley Samson, co-president of the P.S. 8 PTA, was one of several attendees calling for more attention to the neighborhood's need for more school space. Residential units at the site are expected to add about 70 children to overcrowded P.S. 8, already at 142 percent capacity, and the broader area is also at or above capacity.  "That's a big impact."

* * *

"SCA did not want a school at this site because the feeling was that school buses would clog the whole area all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge," Halen said.
•        Brooklyn Downtown Star: Residents discuss controversial Brooklyn Heights library, by Holly Bieler, March 11, 2015
Locals voiced oft-repeated reservations about the decision to raze the current site only to be left with a smaller library, instead of renovating the current building.

"There's something great about this place," said Doreen Gallo, who sits on the Community Advisory Committee, a group that meets with the developers and local library officials every six months. "I'm not saying it couldn't use a couple more floors, but luxury housing doesn't have to pay for it."

* * *

"This is a difficult one," said Councilman Stephen Levin at the meeting's end. "On one hand you have a library that doesn't have a functional air conditioning system, on the other hand what they're proposing is smaller. But there is a need for funds. I'm trying to hear every side of the argument, but this is a hard one."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Physical Books vs. Digital Books

[Back To Main Page] In addition to the main resource page, here are some extra useful links about physical vs.digital books.  This page will be updated.

This page is just about physical, printed books vs. digital books.  The links on this page were (and most still are) part of another Citizens Defending Libraries page about libraries in general (Extra Useful Links About Libraries In General), but it finally got to the point that, with more and more updates, the links on the subject of the benefits of physical books vs. digital books got to be so numerous it was time to put up a page just for the purposes of linking to articles on this subject alone.

Let us say at the outset, that Citizens Defending Libraries is not against digital books.  It is just that we think that physical books (for many of the reasons you see in the articles linked to below) still need to be found in, and a primary focus of our libraries. . . . Instead, in New York City library and city administration officials have been denigrating the value of physical books as they have moved forward to remove them from the city's libraries . . . Why?  We think it is clear that the answer is because physical books take up real estate and developers are clamoring to have that real estate transferred to them notwithstanding that library usage is way up.

Here are the links to those articles.

      •    Scientific American: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens (Why the Brain Prefers Paper), by Ferris Jabr, November 2013.
IN BRIEF: Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts.

* * *

Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper’s greatest strength may be its simplicity.

* * *

. . reading a then popular electric console book . . . prevented the three-year-olds from understanding even the gist of the stories, but all the children followed the stories in paper books just fine. 
       •    New York Times: Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?, by Douglas Quenqua, October 11, 2014.
 . . .  new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” Dr. High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”
       •    New York Times: Parenting-Traditional Toys May Beat Gadgets in Language Development, By Pam Belluck, December 23, 2015.
. . .  in the midst of the holiday season, a new study raises questions about whether . . .electronic playthings [Baby laptops, baby cellphones, talking farms - “whirring, whiz-bang toys of the moment, many of them marketed as tools to encourage babies' language skills”] make it less likely that babies will engage in the verbal give-and-take with their parents that is so crucial to cognitive development.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Pediatrics. . .  builds on a growing body of research suggesting that electronic toys and e-books can make parents less likely to have the most meaningful kinds of verbal exchanges with their children.

“When you put the gadgets and gizmos in, the parents stop talking,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University who was not involved in the new study, but who has found similar effects with e-books and electronic shape-sorters
   •    The Gothamist: Park Slope Parents Say Library Has Too Much Technology, by Lauren Evans, March 26, 2013.
Josh Skaller, father to a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old, told DNAinfo that while he appreciates the resources offered by the library's Park Slope branch, he worries that his children may not be able to locate books under the heaps and heaps of gleaming technology. (Which, for the record, no longer includes iPads, which were taken off the floor after one of the library's four was stolen promptly after the branch reopened in September.)
“It’s not so easy to peruse the stacks because the tables with the computers are right there," Skaller said. “There's not a lot space away from those screens... For the 3-year-old, there's an immense opportunity to discover new things to read, and anything that's pulling her away from that gets in the way of the purpose of the trip to the library.”
      •    The Huffington Post: Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print Is Better, by Maddie Crum, February 27, 2015. 
. . A slew of recent studies shows that print books are still popular, even among millennials. What's more: further research suggests that this trend may save demonstrably successful learning habits from certain death. Take comfort in these 9 studies that show that print books have a promising future:

* * *

Students are more likely to buy physical textbooks.
A study conducted by Student Monitor and featured in The Washington Post shows that 87 percent of textbook spending for the fall 2014 semester was on print books. Of course, this could be due to professors assigning less ebooks. Which is why it's fascinating that...

Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when digital versions are available for free. . . .
     •    The Washington Post: Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right, by Michael S. Rosenwald, February 22, 2015.
Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group's proclivity to consume most other content digitally.

* * * 

Earlier this month, Baron published "Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World," a book (hardcover and electronic) that examines university students' preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital. Readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers.

. . . Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

* * *

most important . .  is "building a physical map in my mind of where things are." Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout - that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension.

* * *

. . . there has been "pedagogical reboot" where faculty and textbook makers are increasingly pushing their students to digital to help defray costs "with little thought for educational consequences.". . .

"We need to think more carefully about students' mounting rejection of long-form reading," . .
      •    Wall Street Journal: The Reader on the Prowl- Even the smartphone-toting, text-messaging generation prefers to study using real books. It makes things easier to remember, by Steven Poole, February 19, 2015. 
. . .   it turns out that the smartphone-toting, instant-messaging young generation still prefers to study at university using printed material if it can. What is driving the adoption of electronic textbooks is not any preference of students or teachers but simply the fact that they are cheaper. . .

Students forced to study using e-texts complain about eyestrain, distractibility and poorer recall of material.

* * *

. . . Amazon's latest Kindle, the Voyage, has a high-resolution e-paper screen but still a tiny collection of ugly typefaces, while paragraphs are forcibly "justified" by a brute algorithm (so that the right-hand edge of a paragraph is straight). Compare this with a beautifully typeset physical book: I'd wager that the typographical difference is more impoverishing to the reading experience than the difference between screen and paper itself.
    •    School Library Journal: Pew Study: Teens Still Love Print Media, ‘Traditional’ Library Services, by Karyn M. Peterson, June 25, 2013.
Tech-savvy American young adults are more likely than older adults to have read printed books in the past year, are more likely to appreciate reading in libraries, and are just as strong supporters of traditional library services as older adults, a new national report from the Pew Research Center shows.  According to the survey of Americans ages 16–29, a majority of young adults believe it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, while relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online.

* * *
“Younger Americans’ reading habits and library use are still anchored by the printed page,” says Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at Pew’s nonprofit Internet & American Life Project and a co-author of the report.

* * *

85 percent of 16–17 year-olds read at least one print book in the past year, making them significantly more likely to have read a book in this format than any other age group.
     •    Toronto Star: Kids, teens still prefer books to digital readers, by Michael Oliveira, November 22, 2013.
Based on the results of online surveys conducted for Booknet Canada, a non-profit industry organization that tracks sales and trends, it appears parents and children aren’t eager to give up on the time-honoured tradition of flipping through paper books in favour of clicking around in digital content.

* * *

. . . few indicated they actually prefer digital books or could see themselves eschewing paperbacks for good.

Only one per cent of the parents polled said their kids aged 13 and under were at the point of reading more ebooks than print books.

* * *

Only about one in four parents said they read ebooks with their kids. And only four per cent of parents said they preferred that their children read ebooks, while 63 per cent favoured old-fashioned books.

Among teenagers, 29 per cent said they preferred reading ebooks, 37 per cent chose print . . . The surveys suggest teens aren’t rushing to embrace ebooks.
     •    Economist: The future of the book, October 11, 2014.
Books are not just "tree flakes encased in dead cow", as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.

    * * *

What is the future of the book? It is much brighter than people think.

Even the most gloomy predictors of the book's demise have softened their forecasts.
 . . . The much ballyhooed decline of the physical book has been far from fatal.. ..  The growth rate of e-books has recently slowed in many markets, including America and Britain. Publishers now expect most of their sales to remain in print books for decades to come-some say for ever.

There are a number of reasons. One is that, as Russell Grandinetti, who oversees Amazon's Kindle business, puts it, the print book is "a really competitive technology": it is portable, hard to break, has high-resolution pages and a "long battery life". . . Sales of e-readers, the most popular of which is the Kindle, are in decline. "In a few years' time," a recent report by Enders Analysis, a research firm, predicts, "we will look back at e-readers and remember them as one of the shortest-lived of all consumer media devices."
Cynthia Pyle’s erudite letter to the editor in amplifying response: Letters to the editor- Scholars like books.

     •    NPR: Pew Study: Many Technophiles Also Love Libraries, by Lynn Neary, March 13, 2014. 
You might think that in a world of Google and Wikipedia, people who love technology wouldn't care much about the musty old local public library. But, according to , you'd be wrong.

* * *

In its latest study, Pew set out to determine what types of people use and value public libraries. It compared highly engaged, "library lovers" and "information omnivores" to those who have never used a library . .

Not surprisingly, library lovers . . tend to be better educated, have higher incomes and are more involved in social and cultural activities than people with little or no engagement with libraries.

. . the Pew study finds that the most highly engaged library users are also big technology users.


. . . . 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community..
.  Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student, and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a decision. .
. . Members of these high engagement groups also tend to be active in other parts of their communities. They tend to know their neighbors, they are more likely to visit museums and attend sporting events, and they are more likely to socialize with families and friends.. . .
. .those who have used a library in the past year, adults living in lower-income households are more likely to say various library services are very important to them and their families than those living in higher-income households..
. . Many of those who are less engaged with public libraries tend to have lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy, and less engagement with other cultural activities. 
     •    The Guardian: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, speech by Neil Gaiman, October 15, 2013.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
     •    Noticing New York: The Library of the Future Envisioned- "The 21st Century Library". . . And Beyond- Questions Floating In Science Fiction's Crystal Ball, by Michael D. D. White, January 26, 2015. 
In 1989 Isaac Asimov, speaking to the American Booksellers Association:
    made a passionate defense of the survival of the book when he asked his audience to imagine a device that "can go anywhere, is totally portable. . . . Something that can be started and stopped at will [and] requires no electric energy to operate." This dream device is, of course, the book. "It will never be surpassed because it represents the minimum technology with the maximum interaction you can have."
   •      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.
Are you concerned that libraries are moving towards privatization and that there is a move to replace physical books with digital resources?

. . . Libraries are an essential public commons, and should continue as such.

The issue of ownership is a good segue into the second part of your question. There is much evolving right now with respect to digital rights that hasn't been resolved:  Copyrights are being extended and made stricter; so-called "orphan works" are in serious jeopardy; content providers are consolidating into monopolies that raise prices while much of what is available digitally is made available through time-limited subscriptions that have a potential ephemerality that never applied to books on the shelves.  Technology busily shifts too: The New York Times had a sentence in a tech section article recently, "If you own a Nook, the fate of your books may now be up in the air."

We favor, and we are not against, adding digital resources, but right now we think that the benefits of digitization, partly fad, and partly, to an extent, legitimate future, are being seized upon and exaggerated to excuse a rush to get rid of physical books because books take up real estate and the focus of too many people running the libraries is selling real estate.  The public, all of its generations, like physical books.  For the most part the public hasn't switched away from physical books.  Scientific American just did an interesting review of the science literature indicating that the human brain may be hard-wired to learn and retain information better with physical books.  Many books aren't available digitally.  Making them available would be a massive undertaking at which it is easy to fail.  Nicholson Baker's "Doublefold" and his tales of the unutterable destruction that occurred at San Francisco's library provide serious cautionary tales.  It doesn't serve to banish books in a precipitous experiment undertaken by people with questionable motives who lack library credentials.  Working for a hedge fund doesn't qualify you to curate mankind's store of knowledge.

NYPL President Tony Marx reads a physical copy of the New York Times, so do I, and that`s the way I read many books.  Physical media shouldn't be the exclusive preserve of a lucky privileged few.
    •    The Washington Post: Where are the books? Libraries under fire as they shift from print to digital,  By Michael S. Rosenwald, July 7, 2015.
"Some of the clashes have been heated. In New York, protesters outside the city's main branch have shouted: "Save the stacks! Save the stacks!"

* * * *

librarians are steering tight acquisition budgets to e-books, which are more expensive than print. . E-book spending has grown from 1 percent of library budgets to 7 percent, according to a Library Journal survey.

* * * *

library purists. . say the futurists are pushing budget-busting e-books when large swaths of society still want print, particularly as research emerges showing print provides a more immersive, less distracting reading experience.

They also cite sales data showing that e-reader and e-book sales have leveled off and argue that the next generation of library patrons still strongly prefers print."
    •    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.

* * * *

. . . . 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.” . . . .

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.. .
   •      New York Times: The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead, by  Alexandra Alter, September 22, 2015
"It's a very simple thing; only books that are on the shelves can be sold," Mr. Dohle [Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House] said.

[Citizens Defending Libraries comment: We would add that only books on the shelves of a library can be borrowed by visiting patrons.  That is obviously becoming more of a challenge.]
    •      Noticing New York: Internet Guru Clay Shirky Speaking At Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting Says We Need Libraries Because Of Holes In The Internet, by Michael D. D. White, March 5, 2014. 
. . .Tim Wu and Lewis Hyde, two names . .  that Mr. Shirky would have to know, who both write about the impoverishment of the public sphere, Wu writing about how it occurs when media industries inevitably trend toward monopoly and Hyde talking about the disappearance of the public commons through increasingly privatizated ownership of the ideas and information we consume. . .
    •      Citizens Defending Libraries: Testimony By Citizens Defending Libraries At June 27, 2013 State Assembly Committee Hearing On Selling New York City Libraries, June 27, 2013, (see also similar testimony before the New York City Council September 30, 2013 and March 11, 2014
Dear Committee:
While many of us are well aware that these proposed library sell-offs represent real estate deals that privatize publicly-owned assets there is another associated concern about privatization that should not be overlooked.  Library officials talking about getting rid of books are at the same time discussing digitizing and relying on digital content sometime in the future even if their plans are not yet ready for prime time).

But we must be wary that there are many who see the digitized future in terms of an increasingly privatized future where corporations pushing for various plans expect to make a lot of money
by controlling digitized information, in many cases, by charging the public for what's already owned by the public in public collections that are being put out of reach.

Many consider that this was the principal motivation behind the sickening 1995 hollowing-out of the San Francisco Public Library collections, which was underwritten with big-ticket contributions from telecoms and Silicon Valley.

Digital activist Aaron Swartz warned about this disturbing trend:

    The world’s entire scientific ... heritage ... is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations....The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it.
In the future we may expect that after the libraries have contracted out to privatize content we will be charged exorbitantly high fees for what was once publicly owned.  The further irony in all of this is that much of the transcription and other work to create digitally available content may have been crowd sourced so that the public will be charged for what it once freely owned and for the result of its own freely contributed work product and intensive labor creating privatized content.


Citizens Defending Libraries
   •      Library Journal: ALA vs NSA: Reflecting on Libraries and Social Media, by Woody Evans, June 14, 2013
. . . Edward Snowden is drawing lots of attention at the moment. . . .  but here I'd like to consider something that happened way back in the last decade. Forget Snowden for a minute.

Remember with me a time when librarians were freshly militant and radical. Remember January 2002, when, just a few months after the attacks we suffered, the ALA proposed this response to the USA PATRIOT Act.
[Includes "RESOLVED, That the American Library Association urges librarians everywhere to defend and support user privacy and free and open access to knowledge and information."] A year later, the proposed resolution would be adopted by the ALA Council, and library staff have been since emboldened to take such "radical" steps as to fail to keep patron book checkout records.

Edward Snowden remembered, like the militant librarians defending privacy and the 4th Amendment that came before him, that the government is for the people. But PRISM represents the kind of program that reminds us: government is not by the people any longer.  . . .

 . . . we could start by finding something to praise in Edward Snowden's decision. . . .  he, like us librarians, took a stand for patron privacy-for citizen privacy. Snowden's action give us a moment to ask some overdue questions.

If a citizen's data really is hers, shouldn't she get to say who sees it?  . . 

No matter how "radical" a librarian you may or may not have become over the last 12 years, you know the answer by now.

A comment posted on the article:

A few weeks ago, I attempted to use my county library's online book reservation system to reserve the latest Percy Jackson book for my daughter, and was more than a little horrified to see this:

"The feature you have selected is associated with personal data in your patron account. Such data may be accessed by law enforcement personnel without your consent. Do you wish to continue?" 
   •      BuzzFeedNews: Publishers Know You Didn't Finish "The Goldfinch" - Here's What That Means For The Future Of Books- The publishing industry's uneasy embrace of Netflix-style analytics, by Joseph Bernstein, January. 21, 2015.
How did [Book publisher] Kobo know this? Like every e-reader and reading-app maker today, the company, a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce titan Rakuten, has access to a comprehensive suite of data about the reading behavior of its users. In a white paper titled "Publishing in the Era of Big Data" and released this fall, the company announced that "with the onset of digital reading . it is now possible to know how a customer engages with the book itself - what books were left unopened, which were read to the very last word and how quickly." In other words, if you read books digitally, the people who serve you those books more than likely know just what kind of reader you are, and just how little effort you made with Infinite Jest.

* * *

Amazon and Apple - that know the most about how you read are ferociously silent about that knowledge. Both Apple and Amazon declined to comment for this piece.
    •      The Guardian: Big e-reader is watching you, by Alison Flood, July 4, 2012. 
. . . Would Orwell have been amused or disturbed by the development that Big Brother now knows exactly how long it takes readers to finish his novel, which parts they might have highlighted, and what they went on to pick up next?

Because your ebook, as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal put it, is now reading you right back.
* * * *
Back to Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four, says Amazon, is the 608th most-highlighted book it sells. "'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past'" has been marked by 349 Kindle users, while "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever" has been highlighted by 195. What would George have said?
        •      Center For An Urban Future: Report -Branches of Opportunity, January 2013 (emphasis supplied).
. . .  libraries could learn a lot from the Apple Store or, indeed, from many other private sector retailers and service providers. . . .Library websites attract millions of visitors a month. If they could perfect an online browsing environment with recommendations and interactive capabilities, libraries could sell advertisements and user data like any other digital media company. Knowing how a user landed on a particular book, for example, could be extremely valuable to publishers.
   •      New York Times: Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle, by Brad StoneJuly 17, 2009
In George Orwell's "1984," government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the "memory hole."

On Friday, it was "1984" and another Orwell book, "Animal Farm," that were dropped down the memory hole - by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

* * * *

Of all the books to recall," said Charles Slater, an executive with a sheet-music retailer in Philadelphia . . . "I never imagined that Amazon actually had the right, the authority or even the ability to delete something that I had already purchased."

* * * *

Amazon appears to have deleted other purchased e-books from Kindles recently. Customers commenting on Web forums reported the disappearance of digital editions of the Harry Potter books and the novels of Ayn Rand . .
     •      New York Times: How to Survive the Next Wave of Technology Extinction, by Farhad Manjoo, February 12, 2014
If you own a Nook, the fate of your books may now be up in the air. Sorry, you bet on the wrong horse.

The Nook's fate isn't unusual these days. Technologies have always gone belly up, but tech extinctions may become even more common over the next few years.
     •      On The Media: A Wish List for Obama, December 23, 2016
BOB GARFIELD:  What are you most worried is going to disappear in a Trump administration?

Frankly, we have no idea
[what “is going to disappear in a Trump administration”] This upcoming administration is very aware of the power of the Internet and how it can be manipulated, how you can go and push things out in the middle of the night and use the journalist system in ways that are really pretty blatant. So let's at least keep a record of it.

* * *
The history of libraries is a history of loss. Libraries are burned. That's what happened in the Library of Alexandria. It will be what happens to us. I just don't know when. So let's design for it. Let's go and make copies in other places. Let's make sure people want universal access to all knowledge, that they want education based on facts. Let's go and make sure that there is an environment that supports libraries. That's the only way that, in the long term, we're going to survive, and the copies that are maybe now unique at the Internet Archive will survive 
[Audio used in our CDL YouTube video]
     •      National Notice: Snowden Revelations Considered: Is Your Library, Once Intended To Be A Protected Haven of Privacy, Spying on You?, By Michael D. D. White, March 8, 2015
During the McCarthy era there was also concern about what books were available in the libraries, how readily available certain books were and concern about the political leanings of librarians working in the libraries.

* * *

. . .  the surveillance state is interested in something else: The surveillance state wants to know what you think and for that reason the surveillance state believes that libraries should tell the government what you read.

Librarians in Connecticut were the first to successfully challenge the PATRIOT Act when the FBI, along with an accompanying perpetual gag order to keep its actions secret, demanded broadly that the Connecticut librarians turn over to the bureau library records concerning what their patrons were reading and their computer use.

* * *

Now consider this: Changes are being implemented at libraries, and the changes are particularly apparent in New York City, that would make the heroism of these librarians wanting to protect their patrons' privacy virtually meaningless except for its symbolism.
     •      Noticing New York: Snowden, Booz and the Dismantling of Libraries As We Know Them: Why Was A Private Government Spy Agency Hired to Take Apart New York's Most Important Libraries And Turn Them Into Something Else?, By Michael D. D. White, October 30, 2016.
“Booz Allen Hamilton is really an arm of the intelligence community.”. . . . with as Bloomberg Businessweek said, the "federal government as practically its sole client."  The government's surveillance work is now carried out predominantly through `private' spy organizations like Booz . .

. . .  the New York Public Library hired Booz Allen Hamilton to advise and help oversee a "radical overhaul at the NYPL . . “
 * * * *
If librarians were the first to successfully stand up and oppose the intelligence overreaching and if Booz Allen Hamilton "is really an arm of the intelligence community" involved with the federal government's "most controversial federal surveillance programs in recent years" then why was Booz Allen Hamilton hired to help reorganize the New York Public Library's most important libraries?

* * * *

Why was a top U.S. intelligence spy agency engaged for radical overhaul of libraries as we have traditionally known them?
For more about the related issue of surveillance infringing on libraries as zones of privacy and freedom of thought see our other Citizens Defending Libraries page:

     •      Citizens Defending Libraries: Articles About Library Privacy and Surveillance In Libraries

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 first petition (gathered over 20,000 signatures, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
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