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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sign Our Citizens Defending Libraries Petition + Contribute (We Are Now Fundraising To Litigate)

Please sign our petition:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
Please sign (click here) our petition: Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction

Please contribute (we are now fundraising to litigate):
Please sign click here to contribute on our Gofundme campaign

Citizens Defending Libraries Issues New (Updated) Petition Asking Mayor De Blasio and Other Electeds to Rescue Our Libraries

Time brings changes!. . .

. . .  Keeping up with the product of its own successes Citizens Defending Libraries has today issued a new (updated) petition asking Mayor De Blasio and our other electeds to rescue our New York City libraries from the program of sales, shrinkage and removal of books launched by the Bloomberg administration:

    •    Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction

The previous Citizens Defending Libraries petition addressed to Mayor Bloomberg (Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction- itself still available for signing) garnered over 17,000 signatures (mostly on line) and helped persuade candidate de Bill de Blasio take his position calling for a halt to New York City libraries, which, in turn, helped lead to abandonment of the NYPL Central Library Plan.

Here is the petition statement:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction

    We demand that Mayor de Blasio, all responsible elected officials, rescue our libraries from the sales, shrinkage, defunding and elimination of books and librarians undertaken by the prior administration to benefit real estate developers, not the public. Selling irreplaceable public assets at a time of increased use and city wealth is unjust, shortsighted, and harmful to our prosperity. These plans that undermine democracy, decrease opportunity, and escalate economic and political inequality, should be rejected by those we have elected to pursue better, more equitable, policies.
For more information about the new petition (including all those to whom it is addressed) and to sign it click here (or past the url below in your browser).


(In addition, if you are a member of an organization that would like to join with others that express support support for the proper and sufficient funding  for libraries, for not selling and shrinking them or getting rid of books and librarians, please contact us at Citizens Defending about providing a letter that expresses this support and affinity for the cause.)

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 first most important thing you can do is SIGN and promote our current petition to Mayor de Blasio here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also paste the following url into your browser to get to it:


This is our second petition.  Our first petition, Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction, gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement (can still be viewed signed for good measure).

The petition will be delivered to:
    •    Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor
    •    The New York City Council,
    •    Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker
    •    Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller
    •    Letitia James, Public Advocate
    •    Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
    •    Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
    •    Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President
    •    Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx Borough President
    •    James S. Oddo, Staten Island Borough President
    •    Eric Schneiderman, NYS Attorney General
    •    Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Culture Committee Chair
    •    Costa Constantinides, City Council Library Committee Chair
    •    Brad Lander, City Councilman, Steve Levin, City Councilman
    •    Corey Johnson, City Councilman
    •    Daniel R. Garodnick, City Councilman
    •    Helen Rosenthal, City Council Member
    •    Daniel Squadron, State Senator
    •    Velmanette Montgomery, State Senator
    •    Fred W. Thiele, Jr., State Assembly Library Committee Chair
    •    Joan Millman, State Assembly Member
    •    Jim Brennan, State Assembly Member
    •    Thomas P. DiNapoli, NYS Comptroller
    •    Trustees of the New York Public Library
    •    Trustees of the Brooklyn Public Library
    •    Trustees of the Queens Library
It is always worthwhile directly contacting elected representatives (and candidates for elected office about these issues), particularly those who represent you, whom you now or who are high on the list above. 

Citizens Defending Libraries has a calendar page that gives updating information about events, rallies and meetings you can participate in to coordinate, share information, discuss strategic next steps, canvass, etc.

You can also be very effective in getting organizations that you are a part of to endorse our new sign-on letter for library support whereby organizations and groups can express support and affinity for the campaign to stop the sale and shrinkage of libraries, along with stopping the removal of books and librarians.  Contact us about seeking sign-ons from, for instance, your local PTA, church, political club, community board, political party or chapter, etc. 

City-wide elections in 2013, including most importantly for mayor, were held last November.  The actions of Citizens Defending Libraries during that election were very important in electing to office new public officials like Mayor de Blasio and Public Advocate Tish James who pledged to stop the sale and shrinkage of our city's libraries.  Still, it is up to us to provide to make sure our presence continues to be felt as a reason for spines to stay stiff and appropriate actions taken.

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 stay up to to date with the issues, get the word out and educate others by:
    •    Liking and following us on Facebook
    •    Following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries)
Do the same for The Committee To Save The New York Public Library and Library Lovers League.

What To Call And Write 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 support 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 library 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 51 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.

In writing letters to politicians, you may find it easy and useful to adapt some of the points made in the latest Citizens Defending Libraries testimony found here: LIBRARY HEARINGS & FORUMS (Reports & CDL Testimony).   Among other things it is important when writing to elected officials 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 or call 718 (area code) 797.5207.

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

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

The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, 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
You can also paste the following url into your browser.


Extra Useful Links About Libraries In Brooklyn (Including The Brooklyn Height Branch And Business and Career Library, The Pacific Branch And Strategic Plan)

[Back To Main Page] In addition to the main resource page, here are some extra useful links about libraries in extra useful links about libraries in Brooklyn, including the Brooklyn Height Branch And Business and Career Library, the Pacific Branch And Strategic Plan.  (There is some minor repetitions from the main page.)  This page will be updated.

  •    New York 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.
It’s the incredible shrinking library in Brooklyn Heights, angry patrons charge.

Residents are up in arms over 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.
“It’’s sad and tragic there will be less space for the library,” said Brooklyn Heights psychotherapist Carolyn McIntyre who launched a petition opposing the plan for the Cadman Plaza West building that drew nearly 900 signatures in a week.
 •    Brooklyn Eagle: Controversial Brooklyn Heights library sale to proceed at ‘fast trot’, by Mary Frost, March 4, 2013 (emphasis supplied).
. . Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) wants to “move quickly to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights branch,” Josh Nachowitz, BPL’s VP of Government and Community Relations said at the meeting attended by elected officials and representatives from . . .

Not allowed a seat at the table, however, was Carolyn McIntyre representing the group Citizens Defending Libraries, which has so far gathered roughly 8,000 signatures on a petition protesting the sale. . . .

. . .Nachowitz said . . “Sometime this year we hope to identify development partners, and enter a contract before the end of this administration.  “It is a bit of a fast trot,” he added. . . .

Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, said . . . In a number of projects the community has very little input.”

The composition of the steering committee. . “seems heavily weighted towards elected officials and bureaucrats and a small number of people from the community. Are we overlooking anybody?”

“I represent 7,000 people from the community…” McIntyre spoke out from a row of chairs that had been set up for spectators.

“You can’t do that!” she was admonished by committee members.

* * *

When committee members spoke about visiting other library branches to investigate new branch design, Brooklyn Heights resident Justine Swartz, sitting in the spectator seats, loudly announced, “You’re already talking about a new branch like it’s a done deal. I’m leaving!” before walking out.

After the meeting library patron “Birdie” told this reporter. . . .it was a mistake to move the Business Library to Prospect Heights. “I believe that programs the Business Library provides at the Central Branch are less well-attended than here [in Brooklyn Heights]. This place is a central transportation hub. . . .

McIntyre said after the meeting via email that Nachowitz had “no interest in answering the hard basic first questions he should be answering at this time.”

“When discussing the air conditioner [Nachowitz] said it would cost $3.5 million. He did not show any bid documents or give any information about bids they received. We have asked outside experts who said that the number is ridiculous. We want more information to more fully assess.”. . .
•    Noticing New York: Mostly In Plain Sight (A Few Conscious Removals Notwithstanding) Minutes Of Brooklyn Public Library Tell Shocking Details Of Strategies To Sell Brooklyn's Public Libraries, by Michael D. D. White, August 31, 2014.
The minutes document the BPL strategy of keeping such plans of sale secret, and its intent to lock in the de Blasio administration, as a successor to the Bloomberg administration, to the sales.  Even now not fully disclosed, the plans were years in the making, mostly being implemented after a statutorily enabled restructuring of the BPL board giving Bloomberg greater control, sort of the library equivalent to the mayoral assumption of control of schools.

The plans were structured to make the case for selling libraries by hiring consultants, including as a first essential lynchpin to the scheme, a former senior Forest City Ratner official, to formulate a new evaluation of the library system's capital needs that would make what was intended to be a convincing argument for selling libraries.  Ultimately, the first two libraries publicly announced as prioritized for sale based on this capital needs analysis were right next to Forest City Ratner property.  Furthermore, as the plans were launched, the BPL consciously and intentionally deferred capital improvements thus building up these `convincing' numbers further.
 •    New York Daily News: Brooklyn Heights Library patrons are going to be fired up over cuts in hours this summer: branch expects to be open only half-time because of air-conditioning troubles, by Lore Croghan, February 26, 2013.
Shorter summer hours are a fresh source of distress for Heights residents who oppose the sale of the city-owned property to a private developer who would build an apartment tower that includes a cozy 15,000-square-foot branch.  [The shorter hours with a "redeployment"  of staff represent a more than a 50% shutdown of the library, likely permenent, starting in a few months and the blame being put on air conditioning problems is highly suspect.]

“Eight to 1 — wow!” said Charlotte Karcher, a retired librarian. “Who the hell is going to go there at 8 o’clock?”
•    Brooklyn Heights Blog:Citizens Defending Libraries’ Rallies In Manhattan To Protect Cadman Plaza Branch, by Chuck Taylor, March 8, 2013.

Brooklyn Heights-based organization Citizens Defending Libraries rallied Friday during a hearing in Manhattan addressing the New York City Council’s Fiscal Year 2014 Preliminary Budget, . . .Testimony from Citizens Defending Libraries about budget issues relating to New York City’s libraries . . .Its petition to stop public policy of defunding libraries in order to sell real estate to private developers, meanwhile, has collected more than 8,000 signatures.
•    New York Daily News: Brooklyn Public Library head Linda Johnson seeking to sell some property to raise money for repairs, by Erin Durkin, October 16, 2011.
Linda Johnson, who was named president/CEO of the BPL in August after serving as interim director for a year, is pushing for . . . "There are certain pieces of real estate we have that are very valuable," Johnson said.. .

. . . the city owns the branch buildings - and under current rules any money garnered from selling them would go to the city's general fund, and the library wouldn't see a dime.

Johnson envisions more big changes,  and concedes that not everyone in the BPL family is thrilled about it.

. . . I can see that (librarians) are crestfallen," she said. "And it makes me sad too, because I love a book as much as anybody does.
   [More analysis, including how such real estate deals were decided upon without knowing how the library could benefit from them is available at Noticing New York.]
 •    The New York Observer: Ratner-rama: A Ratner in the Stacks: Library To Sell Forest City-Adjacent Branches, by Stephen Jacob, February 5, 2013.
The Brooklyn Public Library is looking to sell off two of its branches near downtown Brooklyn to developers, the New York Daily News reports, and what do you know—both of them are right next to Forest City Ratner-owned properties.

  •    The Brooklyn Paper: Readers fight to save Pacific branch library, by Natalie Musumeci, March 7, 2013.
Neighbors are fighting to halt the Brooklyn Public Library’s controversial plan to sell off the borough’s first Carnegie branch — or at least find a way to preserve the historic building.

* *

We don’t feel that it is meeting the community’s needs,” said Brooklyn Public Library official Josh Nachowitz. “It’s a beautiful building on the outside, but the interior is dumpy, let’s be honest,”

Library users disagree.

“We don’t feel like that!” shouted some angry book lovers.

* * *

“The community has identified what we would like to see and that is a preservation of the building and the services,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill). “It fits the criteria of what we ought to be preserving, particularly in a neighborhood that is overrun by development.”

A sale requires the ultimate approval of city Council, which is a process that would not begin until late 2013 or 2014, library officials said.

The Brooklyn Public Library is also planning on selling the Brooklyn Heights branch

* * *

. . .  because the city owns the property the funds from a sale would go to the city, NOT the library system. There is no existing enforceable agreement that any money would go to the libraries. A decision was made to sell libraries BEFORE there was any basis to say that some or how much money might be given to the libraries. That’s an embarrassment to the Bloomberg/library officials flogging these deals because it means selling the real estate is their first, likely only real priority, not doing what is best for the libraries.
  •    Noticing New York: Tall Stories- Buildings Proposed To Shrink The Brooklyn Heights Library: Brooklyn Public Library Publishes Seven Luxury Building Proposals To Shrink Away Brooklyn Heights Library, by Michael D. D. White, December 16, 2013.
The Brooklyn Heights Association and the Brooklyn Public Library were once upon a time suggesting that Noticing New York was being `alarmist' when in February a Noticing New York article suggested that the building that might go up to replace the Brooklyn Heights Library could be very tall, as much as 40 stories. . . .

Alarmist?  Really?  On Thursday evening (December 12th) the BPL finally released proposals (in a summary briefing form) that were all submitted to it back in September on the 20th.  One of the seven proposals, Proposal F, says that proposal’s particular building could be as tall as a 55-story height (and at least a 45-story height).
  •    Noticing New York: Tossing Dwarfs?: It’s Time To Demand That We Change The Way We Fund Libraries . . End The False Political Theater, by Michael D. D. White, March 7, 2013.
Mr. Nachowitz . . very firmly told the cameraman he was not permitting any filming. . .

Had the meeting been filmed you could have seen some “dwarf tossing” in action.  One of the things you could have seen was Dan Wiley, representative of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, coming in, sitting down and telling Mr. Nachowitz, “Now I’m sitting here thinking, why is Josh talking for the libraries?  I’m seeing EDC.  For me you’ll always be EDC.” [a lot of laughter from all around the table ensued] (EDC is the mayor’s real estate development agency where Mr. Nachowitz was working only a little while ago.)  Mr. Nachowitz guffawed and responded jovially, “We’ll get to that.  It’s all connected.”

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 17,000 signature, 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
You can also paste the following url into your browser.


Extra Useful Links About Libraries In General

[Back To Main Page] In addition to the main resource page, here are some extra useful links about libraries in general.  This page will be updated.

In addition to covering many other subjects this page (being updated) has many links to articles about physical books vs. digital books.  It got to the point that with more and more updates, the links on the subject of the benefits of physical books vs. digital books it was time to put up a separate Citizens Defending Libraries page (Physical Books vs. Digital Books) devoted just to that subject alone.

This page covers the subject of libraries more generally.

  •    Technologizer: SXSW: The Fate of Libraries, by Harry McCracken, March 11, 2012.
When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the Church, which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
                                                               Keith Richards
Libraries, Block argued, aren’t just book-loaning facilities. They’re about also equal opportunity and community, and perhaps they should rebrand themselves as being about access, not books.

During his talk, he played sound bites of CNET reporter Brian Cooley and Bill Maher jadedly dismissing the importance of libraries. (Maher, at least, might have been joking.) . . .Block said that sheer apathy is one of the greatest threats that libraries face.
   •    Library Journal: Annual Library ‘Budget Dance’ in NYC Leads to Call for Baseline Funding, by Norman Oder, March 18, 2013.
Public libraries have struggled in New York City over the last five years, as Mayor Mike Bloomberg–in an annual ritual known wearily as the “budget dance”–has consistently proposed significant cuts, only to have the City Council restore much but hardly all of the damage.

* * * *

Brooklyn Council Member Steve Levin, noting that he’d been in office only since 2010, asked how long the situation had persisted. Galante said it’s gotten worse in the last five or six years.

“It makes me question the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to the library system, in a very fundamental way,” Levin observed (as noted in the video
[View the video embedded in this article which is from CDL’s YouTube Channel]), then posed a pointed question to the trio of directors: “Do you believe the Bloomberg administration fundamentally supports the library systems?”

The panelists laughed uneasily, perhaps recognizing the conflict between the evidence in the budget and their reliance on that administration.

“I’ll jump right in, what the hell,” proposed Galante, with a daredevilish tone.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” interjected Van Bramer. “Let me save Tom Galante from himself, right here. I used to be able to do that… Do not answer the question, Tom.”

“Step away from the mike,” cautioned Johnson, sharing in the nervous laughter. “Step away from the mike.”

“From my perspective,” Levin pronounced, “it doesn’t look like they do.”

   •    New York Times: Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On, by Joseph Berger and Al Baker, March 17, 2013.
The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building . . . sits on land that developers crave. . .  so the library system . . has embraced a . . .model that is increasingly being used around New York City [sale of libraries (also schools)] . .

* * * *

. .  the approach has provoked growing protest in the affected communities. .

. . . the city gives the entire Brooklyn system only $15 million a year for repairs and construction. .

[This article, while it confirms that the sell-off libraries is now an official city-wide policy, is very misleading in the information it leaves out and in its wholesale adoption of inaccurate Real Estate industry talking points.  The article doesn’t point of that the library sales are shrinking the system, that money from sales doesn’t actually increase funding for libraries, that library administration officials are not prioritizing public benefit or that library usage is way up.  It also didn’t report the Citizens Defending Libraries has a petition (8,500+ signatures) protesting the unjust, shortsighted policies.  See, the Noticing New York article in response below that also addresses letters to the editor the Times didn't print.]
    •    Noticing New York: Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On? - Letter To The New York Times Editor (From Citizens Defending Libraries), by Michael D. D. White, March 29, 2013.
The one good thing about the article is that it clued people into the fact that (whether or not library officials were denying it) these sales were happening across the city. . .

. .  The article took almost a month to get written and get published.  The fact that the practice was unfolding city-wide was something that reporter Joseph Berger didn’t know and that Citizens Defending Libraries informed him of when he met with me and CDL’s organizer in chief,

* * *

In virtually all other respects the article was simply a compilation of real estate industry talking points about why selling city libraries is supposedly a good thing.

Here is what the article did not include, expressed in a Citizens Defending Libraries letter to the Times editor from Carolyn McIntyre. The Times did not publish this letter. . . .

* * *

If you presume that the Times article omitted all of the above despite the fact that Citizens Defending Libraries called all of these things to the reporter’s attention at the outset, you would be absolutely correct.  Furthermore, it was not just what the Times left out; it was also what the Times wrote that was inaccurate and misleading.

* * *

Inclusion of what was significantly left out of the Times story would have turned the Times story virtually on its head since the story’s essential points were that the sell-offs of the libraries a.) could not be helped, and b.) were for the public’s benefit.  Neither is the case.

Getting word out about the Times omissions presented a daunting proposition.

* * *

. . . the Times with its editing out of facts from its articles, and even the editing of the Letters to the Editor opposing that edited article’s point of view, has tightly controlled the framing of the public’s dialogue about the disposal of these vastly valuable, precious public assets.
   •    The Observer: Is the Public Getting Swindled By the City’s Short-Sighted School and Library Sell-Offs?, by Kim Velsey, March 18, 2013. 
Is the city is making bad—or at least short-sighted—deals in exchange for a little cash right now? As The New York Times, which examined the sudden spate of sales argues: the decision to sell certain properties and keep others is being driven by the logic of developers, not the virtues and the problems of the library branches and schools themselves.

And when private, rather than public interest dictates the city’s real estate decisions, that’s a real cause for concern, even if . . .

* * * *

(The Brooklyn Public Library, via a spokesman, has contacted The Observer to say that . . . it does not dispute that the value of the real estate is a huge factor in the decision to sell the branches. . . )

* * * *

At no cost to the library system, perhaps, but quite possibly at a cost to the community, which gets two newer, in one case smaller library in private developments in exchange for two older libraries on public land. Which sounds more like a trade-off than a win-win.

The middle class are being priced out of much of Manhattan and Brooklyn and so, it seems, are the public institutions that they frequent. Or rather, those institutions are being downsized and relocated to private developments . . .

* * * *

Moreover, there is the pressing question of what putting a civic institution in a private luxury development means for the institution. . .  Perhaps most importantly, will residents be dissuaded from visiting the library by the unwelcoming, closed-off feeling of many private developments—the phalanx of doormen and other security precautions that discourage loitering and the lower classes?

* * * *

The public has been generous to private developers—particularly in the case of Barclays, with city and state subsidies granted on the basis that their developments would be enriching the entire community, rather than just the developer. If that’s the case, why is it that the local public library by Barclay’s can’t afford to stay in its long-time home?. . .

   •    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.”
    •    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.
      •    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.”
     •    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 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," . .
     •    The Guardian: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, speech by Neil Gaiman, October 15, 2013.
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. . . .  – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be. .  . they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read.

* * *

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. . . . Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

* * *

Another way to destroy a child's love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up.

* * *

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read.

* * *

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

* * *

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.

* * *

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
   •    The Guardian: 'The price of libraries is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation': Lincolnshire's library cuts do not make economic sense because growth relies on a literate public, by Abigail Tarttelin, September 12, 2013.
Journalist Walter Cronkite:
"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."
   •    DC37 Public Employee Press: Communities and DC 37 mobilize to stop library sell-offs, by Gregory Heires, November, 2013.
Stiff community and labor opposition has hit two of the city's library systems over their plans to cope with budget shortfalls and fund capital projects by selling off valuable properties.

* * *

"Selling libraries and the land they occupy is just bad public policy," said state Assembly member Joan L. Millman, who holds a master's in library science, at a Sept. 30 City Council hearing. "Selling a library building is a one-time fix for a recurring capital need."

* * *

They point to the 2007 botched sale of the Donnell branch in Manhattan as an example of what can go awry when public services are needlessly subjected to market forces.. . .

. . .  "The experience with Donnell is a warning that the library systems are venturing into potentially turbulent waters," said Valentin Colon, president of New York Public Library Guild Local 1930.

Colon told the Public Employee Press that the New York Public Library system, which serves Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, would be better off renovating the Mid-Manhattan Library than selling the building.

* * *

In written testimony submitted to the City Council, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu said the library fire sales reflect Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's policy of selling off public assets, including schools and New York City Housing Authority property, to wealthy

"This trend of parceling out what rightfully belongs to all New Yorkers must come to an end," Liu said.

Thousands have signed an online petition to "Save New York City Libraries from Bloomberg Developer Destruction" sponsored by the political action group MoveOn.. . .

. . .  To sign the petition, go to:

Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction
    •    The New Yorker: Letter from San Francisco: The Author vs. The Library, by Nicholson Baker, October 14, 1996.
. . .   looking up names like Walter Benjamin and John Milton . .  noticing that there were substantially fewer books . . .  by these and other writers . .  I knew the real story. . .  a case study of what can happen—  what . . . is happening in a number of cities around the country—  when telecommunications enthusiasts takeover big old research libraries and attempt to remake them, with corporate help, as high-traffic show places for information technology.  Such transformations consume unforecastably large sums of money,  which is why, right now the S.F.P.L [San Francisco Public Library]. . .  is essentially broke. .

* * * *

Not all observers like the privatizing tendencies in the public-library world . . . pointing out the present shortcomings in this "library of the future,". . . under [Kenneth E.] Dowlin . .  the S.F.P.L. has, by a conservative estimate, sent more than two hundred thousand books to landfills----  many of them old, hard-to-find, out-of-print, and valuable.

* * * *

. . . . most of the staff members I talked to [didn’t want me to quote them] by name, since the administration has a way . . of punishing dissidents by exiling them to branch duty . . .  What these employees wanted me to know, though, was that the library was undergoing a kind of brain surgery. In the words of one woman I interviewed, “it's EEG is going flat.”

The worst period of book-dumping happened last year, in the months before the library's move to New Main, as it is called. . .

* * * *

. . .  stare upward through a "glittering void" (as its principal architect, James Ingo Freed, describes it) . . . . But space, from the point of view of a collection of books, means something quite different from floor space, atrium space, or even bandwidth in a telecommunications cable, all of which the New Main has an relative abundance.  Space, to a book, means shelves: the departments of the library were supposed to get enough shelves to hold their collections, with plenty of room to grow. And yet most of the departments still do not have enough shelf space to hold what they have.

* * * *

. . .  the Main Library's collection was simply not going to fit in the New Main Library. ... The collection itself was hastily reduced in volume. It was "weeded."
* * * *

Things got especially bad this winter, however, when Kathy Page put out the call to all stations: weed. . . ..

. .   what two librarians who are part of the weeding team before the move told me one Sunday at a coffee shop:. . .  "Get rid of as much as possible" .. . .  Actually, we don't know what happened. . . We don't know what she did.  

* * * *

. . . they represent the old-fashioned public library of knowledge, with its space-intensive storage needs.

* * * *

In the sixties, William Holman, then the City Librarian, began an ambitious program of book-buying (out-of-print as well as new books), with the intention of turning S.F.P.L. into a high-level research library. . . Dowlin arrived with an alternative version. “First and foremost,” Dowlin wrote the letter to the Chronicle not long ago, “S.F.P.L. is a public library, not a research facility.” It's both, of course . . .

* * * *

. . . Dowlin’s plan would involve downsizing what had already been achieved, at considerable expense, by his predecessors.

 . . .  William Ramirez, then Chief of the Main Library, wrote a memo describing staff concerns over the events that followed the earthquake. Staff members, he wrote, “believe that current and planned actions will: decimate the collection [through] weeding, discarding materials from the collections—  both circulating and reference—  which makes this library unique.” . . those actions would “move us in the direction of changing this library from a strong reference, research resource and service center to an undistinguished ‘popular library.’”
    * * * *

. . .  Kathy Page to [wrote a] memo to all employees . .  “the unhappy fact remains that we have less storage capacity in the new building that we had planned for and less than we need.”
    •    San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. Library Tossing Thousands of Books / Shelf-clearing at main branch assailed, by Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, January 29, 1996.
In the fever to move into the new $134 million Main Library, San Francisco officials have quietly ordered thousands of old books and records to be trashed.

"You name the subjects -- they're throwing them out," says one fed-up worker. "It's completely and obviously so mad. . . . It's a betrayal to the people of San Francisco."

* * *

. . . library officials confirmed the mass dumping, saying they  . . . simply do not have the time, space, or staff to allow charity groups to review every book before it is tossed.

* * * *

. . . the spread also included everything from a rare- looking 92-year-old art modeling book, complete with plates and illustrations. There was a history of the Arab world, an assortment of children's books and numerous vinyl record albums.

* * * *

. . . once these materials are gone, there will be no proof that they ever existed. The library isn't keeping an inventory of what's being tossed . . .

Says one staff member: "Nobody will ever remember they had these books."
   •      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?

We are very concerned about notions proposed that libraries should have to pay their own way or start bowing to corporate or other private interests.  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.
   •      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. . .
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.
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The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, 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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