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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NYC Library Officials Partner To Promote Digital Books With Prizes From Amazon

Go digital with your library, submit a selfie and win a prize from Amazon
New Yorkers love their physical library books. . . circulation is way up at the city’s libraries and the bulk of that circulation increase is physical books. . . And NYC library officials are doing their utmost to promote digital books instead of what they derisively refer to in their board meetings as old-fashioned, archaic “analogue books.”

The library officials' effort to steer patron into digital books includes an expensive new campaign you’ll surely be seeing if you ride the subways in the next few weeks.  Library officials have been proclaiming how they want to follow a new business model of looking for partnerships with the private sector and to garner attention the new campaign offers the public prizes from Amazon.
Amazon “controls 74 percent of e-book sales” and in multiple other ways is one of the world’s hugest monopolies astoundingly unfettered by anti-trust regulation, its proposed acquisition of Whole Foods and its more than 400 stores just another accretion of its formidable market dominance.  See New York Times Op-Ed- Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power, by Lina M. Khan, June 21, 2017.

We are no down to just five men owning as much wealth as half the world’s population, and since money is power, that’s five men having as much power as half the world’s population.  One of those men is Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.

Among other things, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post which reports on the elected representatives in Washington who decide whether Amazon should be reined in and regulated, the antitrust laws applied to it.

All three of the city’s three library systems, The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library have joined together in this promotion, which offers free e-book downloads in subway stations, although reportedly the Subway Library site was developed by the NYPL. The MTA, another public entity, is also engaging in the promotion along with Transit Wireless, the entity that has a 27 year contract to provide wireless in the subways (itself partnering with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon).

The much beleaguered MTA was the entity that got to issue the press release with Governor Cuomo getting the first quote: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Transit Wireless, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library Announce "Subway Library" Promotion that will Offer Free E-books in Underground Subway Stations.

It took a long time to get cell phone and wireless service in the subways.  The delay (about five years after technology could have been implemented) was once justified by the explanation of terrorism fears: It was though that the possibility that terrorists would use communications effectively for their purposes if those communications they because available underground, ought to outweigh the advantages and safety enhancements for the public (including a public under attack).  As for being safe, the addition of security cameras were planned at the same time with who knows what else.
Subway placard advertising and ubiquitous posters on subway station walls
The campaign is being promoted by posters throughout subway system stations, advertising placards on the trains, and postings on the digital subway kiosks that now give subway information if you interrupt their other advertising.  The campaign also involves decorating a subway train to look like the "Rose Reading Room," in the NYPL's central reference library.  What makes the decoration an identifiable attempt to to look like the Rose Reading Room is the inclusion of the ceiling painted to resemble the the Rose Reading Room ceiling that keeps getting problematically injured.
There is a video available of the Rose Reading Room train.  Then there is the sweepstakes contest a competition that encourages riders to take selfie photos next to a literary-themed subway car and share it via social media. Those who use the hashtag #SubwayLibrary and tag @TWWiFi have the chance to win an Amazon Kindle Voyage or prizes from the NYPL.  Perhaps not so coincidentally the same subway kiosks advertising the selfie photos contest also advertise Pokemon Go. . .

. . . NYPL President Tony Marx said the program for straphangers was "encouraging reading, learning, and curiosity."

Earlier this week when a Tuesday night presentation by Marvel Architects about their designs for a vastly shrunken Brooklyn Heights Library was poorly received with the public attendees complaining and asking for details about the loss of books, one of the apparent shills for the plan (sitting with library-sale-and-shrinkage promoter Deborah Hallen and hobnobbing with the development types) tried to defend the loss of physical books that resulted from the shrinking of the library by brightly asking: “How many more digital books will be available” in the shrunken library? 

Each of the library heads got one quote in the press program release.  Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said "Subway Reads aligns perfectly with this objective, and will lead even more people to Queens Library's extensive collection of e-books, audio books, music and digital magazines."

Here is other coverage of the Subway Library promotion.  Although some of the pictures are nice, you'll save time if you read the press release that actually tells you more.

•   Publishers Weekly: In New York, a Library for Your Subway Ride, By John Maher, June 13, 2017

•   AM New York: MTA's Subway Library offers up free e-books to NYC commuters, By Adeja Crearer, June 8, 2017

•    The Digital Reader: New York Libraries Are Promoting Reading on the Subway, by Nate Hoffelde, June 8, 2017.

•   Curbed: NYPL's new `Subway Library' may make your commute a bit less horrible- Get excerpts of popular books, experience a less rage-filled commute, by Amy Plitt@CurbedNY June 8, 2017.

•    TimeOut: The NYPL just turned a subway train into an adorable library, By Clayton Guse, June 8 2017

•    Library Journal: NYC Libraries Open "Subway Library" in Underground Stations, Six-Week Promotion Now Underway, by Gary Price on June 8, 2017

•    New York Times: New York City's Transit Agency Models Train After Library, By The Associated Press, June 9, 2017

•    New York Post: `Subway Library' offers riders a read on their commute, By Danielle Furfaro,  June 8, 2017

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