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.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

How To Defend Libraries

Where Does It Go From Here?  What Can You do?

One thing you can do is consider this a worthy cause and inform yourself and others about it.  Protection and preservation of our libraries is something that most people instantly and automatically understand.  As one member of our group observed early on: "If you can't stop them at libraries, where can you stop them?"  That's why we must stop them.. .

 . .  But also, because people do understand what it means to protect libraries, because they understand it in their very bones, the protection of libraries is an issue and a cause that can be used as a fulcrum to push back on the many other issues that relate to it, the impoverishing privatizations of public assets in general, abuses of the real estate industry, the corrupting influence of money in politics, inequality of power and wealth and the abuses of power by the wealthy. 

What Can We Do Next?

We can alter the laws.  The library boards need to be made more accountable to the people the libraries are supposed to serve and there need to be more checks and balances to ensure the public is represented and prevent abuses.  With a change in law a wider range of elected public officials, including the New York Public Advocate, can be involved in appointing the NYC library board members.  Conflict of interest laws should be stronger and more vigorously and effectively enforced.

The New York State Attorney General, New York City and New York State Comptrollers, and the city's Public Advocate probably have sufficient powers to prevent current abuses at the libraries.  The should act to do so, but if they say they don't have that power, the law can made clear that they have and are required to use those powers.
Laws should be passed that make it illegal as a matter of public policy to silence librarians to prevent them from speaking out against the abuses they witness and voiding, as a matter of public policy, all of the contractual provisions previously entered.

Insist on transparency.  One of the ways that officials involved in selling libraries, shrinking and underfunding them, have been able to do so is through a lack of transparency that assists them in peddling claims that the actual facts ought to eventually contradict when discovered.  We, as the public, are entitled to transparency even as they avoid it.  We are entitled to demand it through our elected representatives, or, for most things, we can take matters into our own hands, via the Freedom of Information Laws that allow us to make Freedom of Information Law requests.  We can also encourage the press to inquisitively investigate and publish what ought to be published. 

Wear a Citizens Defending Libraries Button.  Wearing a "Don't Sell Our Libraries" Citizens Defending Libraries Button (or perhaps several of them) helps get the word out about what is going on and that the public broadly opposes it.  And if you wear one when talking face to face with public officials at events public forums, rallies, or community board meetings they will always know where you are coming from.

Get Signatures For Our Citizens Defending Libraries Letter of support.  Our Citizens Defending Libraries Letter of support, as intended, has been signed by many community groups, public interest groups, elected officials and candidates for office.

Sign our Citizens Defending Libraries petition.  Signing our Citizens Defending Libraries petition, and encouraging your friends to as well, communicates immediately our ever-increasing numbers to the elected officials.  It also means you will get emails about information that becomes important to communicate and that you can, in turn, pass along. . .

 . . . You can contact us about how best to canvass libraries and events to get the word out and collect more signatures for the petition.  We may send a team out to work with you.

Get on Our Mailing List.  You can get emails about what is happening if you sign our petition, but that goes through a MoveOn process that is cumbersome and slow.  You can get urgent emails quickly and participate in saving the libraries directly if you contact us and ask to be put on our mailing list.  Email us at: Cem62 [at] aol.com (subject line "library email list."

Testify at public hearings.   There are frequent opportunities to testify at public hearing either in person or by sending in written or emailed testimony.  Feel free to crib from our web pages and past testimony to make the points you want to make.  Keep track of these opportunities by getting our mailings, referring to our public Citizens Defending Libraries calendar or incorporating it into your own.

Birddog our elected officials.  Wherever you go (and we suggest that you get out and go places, because doing so can be meaningful) make it a point to bird-dog our public officials about this issue wherever they are.  Don't let them off the hook.

Birddog and get the press to do its job (that includes passing along our press releases and calling local outlets about them, plus commenting on local blogs).   The press that Citizens Defending Libraries and the broader community has been able to get about the flimflam of selling off libraries has been very important to saving them.  Unfortunately, the press has not been particularly robust in doing its job.  Sometimes, engaging in press release journalism the press has simply reported the sale and shrinkage of libraries along with their underfunding as a good thing while leaving out and obscuring the public's opposition to these shenanigans. . . .

. . .  WNYC, which takes a lot of money from the Revson Foundation, has, for instance, often been virtually complicit in the promotion of the library sales.  By contrast, coverage by WBAI of our fight against the library sales has been good.  Or you can listen to this coverage on the public radio station, WFUV, broadcasting from Fordham University.

All members of the public, especially those who can contact people they know on the communications industry are capable of assisting us in ensuring that the issues get the coverage they deserve.

Write Letters to the Editor and Comment on Articles Published on the Web.  One good way to hold the press accountable while piggybacking on library and real estate development coverage that is out there is to respond with letters to the editor and comments to articles published on the web.  In some cases, newspapers like "The Observer" and "The Brooklyn Paper" will publish well written web comments in their print editions as letters to the editor.

Use social media to stay informed and pass the word around.  Citizens Defending Libraries is doing its best to generate Tweets on Twitter (@DefendLibraries), Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flyers, and emails that you can easily pass around to get the word out.  This can be a way of passing around good news articles and important press when they do get generated.  We hope you take advantage.

Speak or invite us to speak about libraries at your community organization.  Perhaps you belong to a church or religious congregation.  Let them and/or your local community board know about the situation.  

Stay on top of what is happening with your own library and keep us informed.  The city has many libraries.  The advance warning signs that a library will soon be one of the next to be sacrificed may be subtle.  Often, the users, members of the community and local librarians will be able to be the first to spot what is going on.  We need everyone to be alert and it helps if information is passed along to us that we can then pass along more broadly.

Help with research.  Much of what we have been able to do in terms of sounding the alarm has been because of research that allowed us to find out about and inform the public concerning things that are not publicly known.   Library lovers are often excellent researchers.  Pitch in to add to our knowledge store.

Help with FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests.  Requesting information from government and library administration doesn't have to be done by lawyers (although sometimes it helps to be a lawyer to sue when FOIL requests are ignored as they have been).  Anybody can do it and journalists frequently make such requests.  It does require being organized and some follow-up.  All three library systems are subject to the New York State Open Meetings Law and must produce minutes and information concerning their meetings.  The Brooklyn and Queens Library system are also both subject to the NYS Freedom of Information Law (and the NYPL should be and can still be asked for information,)

Sing the Judy Gorman Library Song.   Activist singer song writer Judy Gorman who has played with Pete Seeger in the past is a supporter of our cause and wrote a marvelous song about the library sales excellent for singing at demonstrations or as you walk the streets collecting petition signatures.
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.

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
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email MDDWhite (at) aol.com.
For complete information go back to our Citizens Defending Libraries Main Page (or to read through all the content of our Main Page in LONG FORM CLICK)

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