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, December 26, 2017

One of “100 Ways To 100 (Expert Advice for a Longer Life)”: “Never Stop Reading- Join Your Local Library”

Like the glittering gold of El Dorado the fabled Fountain of Youth eternally beckons- And it sells magazines off the rack at you local pharmacy or convenience store.

We won’t represent this advice as the most authoritative, but we thought our fellow library defenders would find the thought entertaining, and not at all bad advice.  Want to live longer?: Keep reading and read physical books from you local library.

One of our library defenders picked up what appeared to be a sort of one-shot magazine-style publication put out by some group called Athlon Classics: 100 Ways To 100 - Expert Advice for a Longer Life (display until 717/17).  Don’t try to too hard to find anything about it from the internet unless you just want to pick up a copy on Ebay.

In “Section Three- Stay Brain Fit” one of the 100 suggestions to live longer is to “Never Stop Reading- Join Your Local Library” and read physical books.  The tip tells you that “according to a study conducted at Harvard Medical School” reading ebooks from a screen before bed “can trigger some undesirable side-effects” because the “blue light” negatively impacts “your circadian clock.”  We have heard the same thing from Bette Midler in interviews although we can’t say she is an authority either.

The “Stay Brain Fit” tip goes on to advise getting and reading physical books from your local library where, “you’ll get a chance to take advantage of an institution that has nurtured the best minds of American generations for centuries.”  (Bette Midler has said that she was one of those nurtured “best minds” speaking at a Barnes and Nobles talk with Judy Gold about how she had practically been raised is the Morgan-designed library in her native Hawaii.  More recently, Midler has been enlisted to say how spends valuable research time in libraries.)

The “Stay Brain Fit” tip then tells readers that “expert librarians are better-informed search engines than even Google” and goes on to tout the benefit of finding social interactions at the library (one reason we think that working with librarians is more fun than Google).

If the magazine has another tip about staying socially engaged other than some quick advice introducing the Happiness section (“engagement with friends, family and the community” matters), we missed it although there is definitely evidence that social connectedness prolongs life significantly, as the point is made in the research on the subject and bookThe Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest” by Dan Buettner.

Although the magazine advises that reading physical books from a library is helpful for longevity and offers quite a few more tips about how good mental stimulation is good for longevity, it misses mentioning the research that physical books are likely better for learning well than digital books.

Real Estate News: Even While Sacrificing NYC PUBLIC Libraries To Create Real Estate Transactions, Developers Use The Creation of PRIVATE Libraries To Promote Their Projects

While NYC developers are clearly eyeing New York City public libraries for how they can be turned into real estate deals like, for instance, the luxury tower that the central destination Manhattan Donnell Library was turned into and the luxury tower that the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library is being turned into, developers apparently also value private libraries as a selling point for their developments.  Which is to say that as the industry is besieging and destroying public libraries it is creating small private libraries to sell its product.

Not that many months before it was announced that the Business Career and Education Library Brooklyn Heights Library serving the central business district in Brooklyn’s downtown would be sold for a shrink-and-sink real estate transaction, the New York Times ran a front page article on Sunday Real Estate Section an article about developer incorporation of private libraries into their projects to enhance their attraction marketing their product.  See: Buildings with Libraries: A Soft-Spoken Amenity, Joanne Kaufman, April 5, 2012.
Luxury tower apartments that replaced Donnell Library created were repeated advertised in the New York Timed featuring the private library in the Penthouse. 

Conceived at essentially the same time, the shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicated shrink-and-sink sale of the Donnell Library.  Those luxury tower apartments that the shrink-and-sink disposal Donnell Library created were advertised repeatedly with a double page spread in the front of the Sunday New York Times Magazine with a visual that featured a view of the private library in the building’s penthouse.  That’s the penthouse that was on the market for $60 million in stark contrast to the less than $25 million the NYPL netted when it sold for drastic shrinkage the five-story, 97,000 square foot library. . . .

. .  The calculations are embarrassing in other respects, including that the penthouse apartment devotes a far, far higher percentage of its floor space to luxury owner’s private library as a amenity than New York City devotes in its budget to public libraries as a shared resource serving all New Yorkers.  See- What’s Wrong With These Numbers?: The Baccarat Tower’s $60M Penthouse and NYC’s Library Budget, April 29, 2014.

Until this year (2016), the Brooklyn Heights Association annually replenished its war chest through house tours capitalizing on people’s voyeuristic infatuation and longing for luxury real estate living.  The tours afforded the public tantalizing views of the select interiors of many of the magnificent homes in the neighborhood.  Proceeds for the tours funded whatever fights the BHA took on in its proclaimed mission to protect the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.  In the 1980s until 1993, when it was finally accomplished, one of those fights was for a substantial enlargement of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  That substantial enlargement of the library was accompanied by a complete and full upgrade that made it one of the most technologically advanced and computer equipped libraries in Brooklyn.

 . . . Ironically, come 2013 the Brooklyn Heights Association promoted the sale and shrinkage of that same library (which through sale of real estate development rights would benefit the private saint Ann’s School behind the scenes- Saint Ann’s School with which the BHA and its decision-making library committee was tightly linked).

 . . .  Another irony: One of the most spectacular hits on the BHA house tour the year before the BHA started promoting the sale and shrinkage of the local public library, an extravaganza to induce mouth-watering salivation, was a townhouse equipped with its own two-story private library customized with magnificently detailed yellow-green wood bookshelves . . .   

The 2012 Times Real Estate section article about the real estate sales advantage of libraries for developers is about the creation of private libraries to be shared as common areas by all the residents of a building.  It has a senior VP of the real estate brokerage Corcoran Group, Tami Shaoul, explain that while when selling apartments, no buyers have told her that they, “must have a library,” their eyes “light up if they actually see one,” and  “It makes them feel good about the building because they imagine themselves having that quiet space.”

We also learn from the article that the existence of such a library can speak “to the fact that this was more than a building. It was a community of people who still read” and that “in the highly competitive New York marketplace” a common shared library “is a low-cost frill.”  This is in a developers’ “amenities arms race” involving more expensive amenities such as “cold storage, wine cellar, gym, pool, hot tub, children’s playroom, ’tween playroom, party room,” . . . real estate developers are spending money.  And we learn that the “library at New York by Gehry” in the financial district is “a hit” (with “leather sofas and accent chairs”) and that “some of New York’s glossiest and highest profile new developments boast of having one.”

If only we as a city could also boast of a wonderful, robustly supported public library around every corner from all of these developer projects.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

ARCHIVED- FORMER Citizens Defending Libraries Resource And Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 
Citizens Defending Libraries Rally at City Hall 4/18/2013 with Comptroller John C. Liu
NOTICE: WE HAVE A NEW MAIN WEB PAGE FOR CITIZENS DEFENDING LIBRARIES.  (This page is an archive of our former main page for Citizens Defending Libraries.)

Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.   During its its as yet short existence Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding, but the libraries are still besieged by the threat of such plans.

This page (which will be periodically updated) provides resources in connection with the petition and campaign to oppose the defunding of New York City's libraries, the shrinkage of the system and the sale of library real estate in deals that prioritize benefit for developers.

Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
The 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.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 News ArticlesAvailable Reference Articles

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

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

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

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



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

•       The Nation: The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan: Why did one of the world’s greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate?, by Scott Sherman, August 28, 2013.
 For two years, the NYPL has refused to discuss the CLP in detail, and many questions remain unanswered. How and why did one of the world’s greatest libraries get into the real estate business? How did the CLP, which was formulated between 2005 and early 2007, advance into late 2011 without any significant public debate or discussion? Who first conceived the idea of demolishing book stacks that were constructed by Carrère and Hastings in the first decade of the twentieth century? What role did the Bloomberg administration play in the creation of the CLP? Finally, what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton—the gargantuan consulting firm whose tentacles reach into the defense, energy, transportation and financial service sectors—which was hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as “the strategy”?
•       The Wall Street Journal: Clueless at the Corcoran- What the museum's latest bad decision says about nonprofit governance, by Eric Gibson, February, 24, 2014.
. . .  the untold story of our time is the emerging crisis in nonprofit governance, where boards embark on policies that go against-and even imperil-the mission of the institution they are charged to oversee and protect.

. . . The New York Public Library wants to gut its magnificent Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue and change it from a research institution to, as Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in this newspaper, "a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered" circulating library, with fewer books, a good number of them moved off-site.
•       The Brooklyn Eagle (Exclusive): Brooklyn Public Library in line for audit, says Comptroller Stringer, by Mary Frost, February, 28, 2014.
Groups opposing the controversial sales of Brooklyn and Manhattan library branches to developers have long been pushing for an audit of the BPL and NPL systems. . .

“Some of the things raised with respect to the Queens library system are interesting and worth investigating but the Queens expenditures ($140K for a conference deck) are penny ante compared to the library sales at the NPL and the BPL,” commented Michael D. D. White, a founding member of Citizens Defending Library, following a Brian Lehrer interview with Comptroller Stringer. “The Queens Library system has not been selling off libraries like the other two,” White added.
•       City Limits: New Scrutiny of City's Library Trustees- The trustees of the city's library systems oversee more than 200 branches and the spending of hundreds of millions of city dollars. How representative of the city are they?, by Suzanne Travers, June 18, 2014.
Over the last year, library trustees have seen more of the spotlight than usual because of moves that put boards at odds with public opinion. . .

* * *
As repositories of information available to anyone who walks through the door, libraries have always helped foster transparency, accountability and democracy. Their boards, however, struggle on all three counts.
 
 •      The Brian Lehrer Show: Giving Libraries Their Due, David Giles, research director at the Center for an Urban Future and the author of the report, "Branches of Opportunity", argues that New York City's public libraries deserve even more support in the digital age. (Click below to listen) January 15, 2013.
More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.


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

. . . Citizens Defending Libraries is just now arriving at our first anniversary, just blowing out the single candle on our birthday cake.  We formed in response to breaking headlines at the very beginning of last year about how libraries were being sold off at the end of the Bloomberg administration in deals that would benefit real estate developers, not the public.
 
  •      New York Times: Denying New York Libraries the Fuel They Need, by Jim Dwyer, April 23, 2015.
The city's libraries - the fusty old buildings, and a few spiffier modern ones, . .  have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos - combined.

* * * *

Over the last decade, they have not gotten anywhere near the kind of capital funding enjoyed by sports teams.

From the 2006 fiscal year through 2014, the city budgeted at least $464 million to build new baseball stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets, and $156 million for the Barclays Center. That's $620 million for just those three sports arenas - a sum more than one-third greater than the $453 million that the city committed for capital improvements to the its 206 branch libraries and four research centers, which serve roughly seven times as many people a year as attend baseball games. (The budget figures were provided by the city's Independent Budget Office; the teams are getting an additional $680 million in subsidies spread over 40 years.)
For decades, the libraries have served a single function in the city budget process: hostages. Mayors say they have to cut library hours to make the financial books balance.. .
 Additional Links. For more in a running series of Noticing New York articles about the libraries click here: Libraries Series.  Also, here are pages with articles that reference respectively 1.)  The Central Library Plan affecting the Tilden Astor Central Reference Library at 42nd Street, the Mid-Manhattan, Library, SIBL and the Donnell, 2.) The Brooklyn Heights libraries, and The Pacific Branch library, and 3.) Libraries in general.  



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

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

Videos

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

Related Petitions

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

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


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

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

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

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


The 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.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-de-blasio-rescue-2?source=s.tw&r_by=5895137 

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Testimony before City Council Respecting Its Oversight of Plans To Alter the 42nd Street Central Reference Library (aka NYPL Schwarzman Building))

December 18, 2017 

City Council Committee & Subcommittee:
      -Subcommittee on Libraries
      -Committee on Cultural Affairs,
           Libraries and International Intergroup Relations
City Hall
City Hall Park
New York, NY 10007

Re: Testimony respecting oversight of plans to alter - NYPL Schwarzman Building (i.e. 42nd Street Central Reference Library).

Dear City Council Committee and Subcommittee:

The 42nd Street Central Reference Library was designed around and with exquisite thought given first and foremost to a central core of research book stacks as a book deliver system.  Why is the NYPL now inverting the process for the building’s redesign focusing first and foremost on commercialization of what for 100+ years has been library space and leaving as an (ostensible?) afterthought what will become of the stacks?

The NYPL trustees are out of control.  At their meeting reviewing these plans, not one of them questioned the idea of making Map Room and Map Room reading space, library space for over 100 years, into a café, equipped, as a rendering showed, with wait staff and a bar where patrons could sit perusing shelve of (expensive?) wines they might choose.  The only question offered by a trustee about the café was whether the café could be expanded to take over and incorporate some of the outside public Bryant Park space.

Is the goal to appeal to library patrons?  Or is it instead, as it would appear, to appeal to tourists, tourist dollars and an elite who can rent the library out for private parties in the evening?:That’s privatization!  That and the worrisome focus on “exit by the gift shop” design puts commercialization first.

We learned at the second public presentation that although a huge portion of the expense of the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be spent on the ravaging “renovation” will be spent on an expensive new elevator and staircase, seeming surplusage to the building’s already ample circulation features, the NYPL architects aver they have no idea what this major expenditure will cost either dollar-wise or as an overall percentage of the overall massive expenditures.  That’s startling.  The architects also said rather incredulously that the building’s circulation needs have nothing to do with the plans for the building’s core of central stack or how that space will be used in the future.

Accordingly, it is very far from reassuring that the NYPL and its architects say that they are still absolutely flexible about how the research stacks will be used in the future, preserving the “possibility” that those stack will be returned to their right, true and proper purpose of holding book for fleet and efficient delivery to researchers.

It is also abhorrent that these excessive expenditures are being used as an excuse to sell off SIBL (the 34the Street central destination Science, Industry and Business Library).  How can the City Council condone selling off an closing New York City’s biggest science library when science is under political attack? 

Citizens Defending Libraries has posted a film of the NYPL’s first public presentation that will give you a chance to see Senator Schumer’s wife (NYPL COO Iris Weinshall) promote the plan and cozy up to Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman about it (literally patting him on the back at the board meeting) and a chance to see that the plan was not at all well-received by the public during the ensuing public presentation Q&A. . . .  It is to be remembered that Stephen A. Schwarzman, economic advisor to Donald Trump, is leading an initiative to privatize American public assets with Trump having obtained $20 billion when visiting the Saudis for investment in Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group for that purpose.

Since this plan got presented to the public AFTER the NYPL trustees (w/ Mr. Schwarzman) approved it, along with the budget for it and the commencement of construction, it sort of reeks of a “done deal” insult to injury approach.

The evening when we recently left the NYPL’s second presentation of the 42nd Street plans we couldn’t leave most directly by the library’s front door, but had to wend our way through back corridors to exit because of a candle-lit party going on in the main halls that we were told was a hedgefunders having fun making private use of this theoretically public space. . . .

. . .  Outside on 42nd Street, just a few doors down from the library a mass of demonstrators was congregated outside of the Verizon building protesting the FCC’s impending vote to end net neutrality, another diminishment of our access to information and reduction of the public commons and democratic rights.

We must preserve the primacy of the library’s mission, the free, open and ready access to books and information.

                            Sincerely,

       
                            Michael D. D. White
                            Citizens Defending Libraries   

Monday, December 4, 2017

Michael Moore’s Anti-George Bush Book Was Saved From The Censorious 9/11 Tyranny by A Courageous Librarian Mobilizing Comrades

After we wrote here at Citizens Defending Libraries about our Citizens Defending Libraries encounter with Michael Moore (exciting!) after his one-man Broadway show “Terms of My Surrender,” and how in that show Mr. Moore surmised to the audience that defunding and closing libraries, part of the dumbing down this country, likely helped put us on the path of Trump being declared president of the United States.  See: How Did Trump Get Elected?: Michael Moore In “Terms of My Surrender” Envisions That It Was A Dumbing Down of the Country That Involved Closing Libraries.

Our writing about Mr. Moore and his expressed appreciation for the libraries when we met with him caused another of our library defenders, Judy Gorman, to head to Broadway and catch Mr. Moore’s show, which means that now we can tell you something more about Mr. Moore, book protection and librarians.  The story we can tell you adds to the reasons Mr. Moore has to view libraries and librarians as precious. It’s a story about a personal debt Mr. Moore has, in fact a personal debt we all have, to a group of librarians in the fight for democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

(Don’t go out to try to catch Mr. Moores’s show now.  It finally closed after a very respectable run.)

Michael Moore’s show each night was not exactly the same.  It varied from night to night as Mr. Moore reacted to the latest news, varied the stories he told with the constraints of available time, and welcomed different guests visit him on stage.  The night library defender Judy Gorman attended the show expecting him to speak to speak about libraries again, he included another story about librarians he hadn’t told when we were first there.

In 2001 a heroic librarian mobilized a network of librarians and saved Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men ...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!” from being suppressed from publication by Mr. Moore's own publisher, HarperCollins, who deemed the book too critical of George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.  What might have happened?: Mr. Moore had nightmares of his pulped book being recycled to come back as “Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly books.”  The rescued book, spent weeks at the top of the best seller lists.

Moore completed the book shortly before 9/11 when it was set to be released.  December 1st Moore read chapters of his book to an audience in New Brunswick, New Jersey telling them with dismay that they would probably be the only ones who would ever hear the words because of his publisher’s intention to deep-six the book.  He said he did not ask for any help.  Without his knowing anything about it Ann Sparanese, a librarian in the audience sent word to fellow librarians on various email lists and there was an immediate and enormous response.  The response reportedly angered Moore’s publishers but put them in a position where they had no choice except to publish (but they were nevertheless vengeful about not having a book tour.)

We would have loved to have revisited the Belasco theater with Judy Gorman that night to hear Moore tell this story personally, but apparently the best night for library and librarian lovers to have gone to see “Terms of My Surrender” was August 17th when Mr. Moore’s guest of honor was Ann Sparanese in person.  “I never expected to be on Broadway,” Sparanese  said according to this first hand account that described her as having “twinkling eyes and long white hair.”

Ms. Sparanse was also in the audience opening night and receiveda standing ovation.”  She certainly deserved it.   Let us applaud her here.

You may recognize the name Judy Gorman, the library defender whose visit to see Mr. Moore at the Belasco occasioned our launching into this follow-up piece.  Ms. Gorman is another heroic activist, a singer song writer who performed with and received praise from Pete Seeger who said of her:
She came, she sang, she conquered. No two programs that she gives are the same. She is always thinking how to find the right phrase, the right song to hit the nail right on the head, to shoot the arrow straight to the heart of the matter.
Judy Gorman also wrote the Don’t Sell Our Libraries Song for us.  It’s always a beautiful song to sing at demonstrations or canvassing when we are out defending libraries, books and the librarians who defend books.  Thank you Judy Gorman and thank you Ann Sparanese.
Michael Moore far left.  Carolyn McIntyre of Citizens Defending Libraries far right.