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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Latest Non-reporting of National News?– Deaths in Puerto Rico

What does the number 4,645 on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruzhat mean? You'd be unlikely to guess the magnitude of its importance given the lack of reporting in the media and misinformation in these New York Times headlines.
This seems like the latest non-reporting of the news: an update on the (intentional?) mishandling of the crisis in Puerto Rico that has gone largely unreported.  On Wednesday, May 30th the national media should have covering a new report from researchers at Harvard, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, calculating that the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is probably at least 4,645, and perhaps as many as 5,740, at least 70 times higher than official governmental count of just 64. . . .  A death toll of 4,645 would make Hurricane Maria the second-deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind only the Galveston Texas Hurricane in 1900.
                               
. . . What was the media devoting huge time to covering while leaving this national disaster news essentially unreported?: The firing of Roseanne Barr!
Low-balling in the headline in the Times print edition when lower in the web edition- see below.
Meanwhile you have to wonder about some of the reporting on the number of deaths that actually did get published, for instance, The New York Times: While Democracy Now reported that the calculation was that there were at least 4,645 deaths, and perhaps as many as 5,740, the Times print edition headline inaccurately characterized the study with a low-balling “Hurricane’s Death Toll In Puerto Rico May Top 4,600, New Study Says.”  The Times web version of the story low-balled it still further: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Could Exceed 4,000, New Study Estimates.” . . .

. . . Obviously, “4,600" is 1,140 less than the 5,740 estimate number that the Times didn’t even mention in its article, and “4,000" is 1,740 less.

The Times reporting also removes context from the photo that San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted of herself wearing a hat with the number 4,645.

This is an example why we are holding "Where Do You get Your News" forums, the next, our second, this Friday Evening June 1st.  Come join in the discussion.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Destroying The English Commons- Isn’t This Exactly The Wrong Response To An Economic Squeezing?

New York Times front page: To `Tighten' your `belt' in England you sell 17 Liverpool parks to developers and your sold off library is refashioned into a “glass-fronted luxury home.”
Today the New York Times leads off with story on its front page about “belt-tightening” in England telling us about a sorry state of affairs where the English Commons has to be plundered and sold off to . . . . We are told that 17 parks are being sold to developers by the Liverpool local government, that a walk though Prescott in Northwest England shows that the local swimming pool has been eliminated with the razing of the community center, that the local museum is history, and that old library building “has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home.”  (See: Britain’s Big Squeeze– In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything– After eight years of budget cutting, Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty.  By Peter S. Goodman, May 28, 2018.)

Yes, we often think of England when we think of the concept of a shared public commons, and this is what reportedly is happening to libraries there.

Destroying the commons with a privatized sell-off to the wealthy is exactly the wrong response to economic squeezing and austerity.  Aren’t such times exactly when people ought to pool and share their resources to stretch them farther?  In fact, in England and the United States, a collective approach to mobilizing for the common good was precisely what helped our countries recover and get moving after the great depression of the 1930s.

A go-it-alone division of resources can accentuate the waste.  The Times article briefly notes that the wealthy in England are still quite wealthy and exceedingly well-off.  The Times does not note that, in these times of the country’s supposed austerity, about $45 million dollars or more was just spent on a royal wedding, almost all of that amount footed by the English tax-paying public, not the wealthy royal family.

While you can read the Times article, we’ll not recommend it as necessarily fair and accurate reporting about whether all this sell off of English public assets is really, as some suggest in the article, the way to pave the road for future “prosperity for all,” instead of just further increasing wealth inequality and further impoverishing the public now and going forward. . . .  

. . . The reason that we can’t recommend the Times article is that the Times has been biased and inaccurate in the past reporting about English politics, exhibiting a strange eagerness to discredit England’s political left: See FAIR’s– NYT: Corbyn Has Marginalized Labour With His Popular Positions, by Jim Naureckas, September 6, 2016.

BTW: Do you find the Times article about the woes in England and the response thereby `necessitated' the sort of narrative prologue whereby we might be more readily conditioned to accept when the similar sacrifices are demanded here in the U.S.?



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The 2018 Race For NYS Attorney General Could Be Absolutely Critical To Saving NYC’s Libraries From Sale And Plunder

Two rallies, at one Zephyr Teachout and at the other Tish James, each speaking against selling our libraries and each now a name on people's tongues as candidates for NYS Attorney General
With the extraordinarily abrupt resignation of Eric T. Schneiderman as New York State Attorney General, there are already three very well known names already on people's tongues as the likely candidates to replace him: Zephyr Teachout (who ran a surprisingly strong race for governor against Andre Cuomo), Tish James (current NYC Public Advocate), and Preet Bharara (fired by Trump from the position of U.S. Attorney and current WNYC podcast host).

Who holds the office of NYS Attorney General is important to libraries for two important reasons:
1.)  The NYS Attorney General  regulates charities, thus the libraries, and is charged with preventing the kinds of abuse that are now ongoing.

2.)  The NYS Attorney General has the power and duty to investigate fraud and abuse generally.
The issue of the sale of NYC libraries and the need to investigate is already charged as the names of several potential candidates involve prior history.  It is also charged because Eric Schneiderman, the NYS Attorney General did not step up to meet these obligations when Citizens Defending Libraries requested that he do so and informed him about what he needed to take action on.  See:
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of  Brooklyn Heights Library
All the possibilities are going to require greater reflection in the days going forward.  Among other things, candidates cannot always be counted upon to keep their campaign promises when elected.  An example in point: When first running for NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made strong statements with respecting his intention to investigate the Atlantic Yards mega-project and abuses of eminent domain.  When elected, he didn't. . . .

Similarly, when Bill de Blasio was first running for mayor he stood with Citizens Defending Libraries in July on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference opposing the sale of libraries, but by October was taking money coming from the development team to whom he would soon give the second biggest library in Brooklyn. 

As for the libraries and the candidates in this race, we should note that Zephyr Teachout did a campaign event with us (Citizens Defending Libraries) when she was running for governor.  See:
Saturday, September 6, 2014, PHOTO & VIDEO GALLERY: September 6, 2014 Halt Library Sales Rally (42nd Central Reference Library) With Zephyr Teachout/Tim Wu Campaign- Barry C. Lynn Speaks on Amazon

Citizens Defending Libraries put huge effort into helping Tish James get elected as Public Advocate when she campaigned that she would use that office to oppose NYC library sales.  We even forced Senator Daniel Squadron, her main opposing candidate in the election to change his position to keep up with her.  We are, however, still waiting for Public Advocate James to take the truly significant action she could use the office of Public Advocate for in fulfilling her promises.  As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District it was understood that Preet Bharara was understood to be investigating Mayor Bill de Blasio's sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library (Once Brooklyn's second biggest) amongst other pay-to-play deals.  We still don't know what it means that de Blasio got off the hook days after Trump fired Mr. Bharara.  See:
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of Brooklyn Heights Library
Stay tuned. . . And when you run into the candidates, think about donating to them, ask them about what they intend to do to save our libraries from plunder and be ready to document what they say.

UPDATE:  Here is one more possible candidate for NYSAG: Tim Wu, who candidate for Lieutenant Governor was  Zephyr Teachout's running mate when she ran for governor of New York, tweeted that he is considering running for the office too.  Tim Wu actually got more votes than his running mate in that election and the New York Times endorsed him while not endorsing Teachout in that race.  Tim Wu, considered the father of Net Neutrality as a principle to defend, has written a couple of very important books about the monopolization and control of media and its ability to influence culture and commandeer our attention, plus a number of New York Times op-eds, including one (that we definitely noticed)  excoriating the privatizing take-over of the public sphere, libraries included!  And Tim Wu took a position working in the Attorney General's office so he has that extra experience.      


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Where Will You get Your News When There Is A Mass-Dismantling of Outlets Like The Denver Post By Wall Street Vulture Capital Funds?

May 8th there was a demonstration outside the “Lipstick Building” in Manhattan, people flying 3,000 miles to participate, protesting the New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital for dismantling local newspapers such as: the Oakland Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Denver Post.  The editorial board of that last paper, the Denver Post is now in open revolt against its hedge fund ownership engaged in such dismantling including with an op-ed titled “When a hedge fund tries to kill the newspapers it owns, journalists must fight back.”

The morning of the demonstration Democracy Now covered what’s in issue here:
Journalists Rise Up Against Wall Street Hedge Fund Decimating Newsrooms Across the CountryStory, May 08, 2018

Previously covered here:

Denver Post Revolts Against Its “Vulture” Hedge-Fund Owner & Demands 126-Year-Old Newspaper Be Saved, April 10, 2018
Democracy Now May 9th headlines
The next morning Democracy Now included footage (10 minutes in) and coverage of the demonstration in its opening headlines.

Investigative reporter Julie Reynolds explained on Democracy Now that when she investigated the hedge-fund owners she `shockingly’ found they:
no real experience in the media. They had invested for a little while, oddly enough, in Sinclair media, about maybe five, six years ago.
Sinclair media is a mega-conglomerate that, buying up local media outlets around the country is commanding them to adopt and sell, in a virtually absurdist fashion, an ultra-conservative, Trump supporting national narrative.

Reynolds explained that these hedge-fund owners, operating what is known on Wall Street as “vulture hedge fund” have gone on to do something a bit different; they:
basically extract all the resources and money they can from it, all the profit, sell off the real estate, get what they can and leave the bones out in the desert to dry, if anything remains at all.
Question is: Isn’t that really just about the same thing; two ways of getting to the same ultimate destination of an uninformed public, the proper, necessary and essential foundations for democracy removed?  Could that even be what is intended?  There is no window into the actual intent, no SEC filings that would provide any transparency.

(UPDATE: FAIR’s May 25, 2018 Counterspin program included a good, succinct segment covering Alden Global Capital dismantling of ,local news outlets around the country, and in it we learn about the instruction of management to reporters in acquired newspapers to, essentially, start republishing unedited corporate press releases as `news' affixing their bylines to them.)

We bring up these concerns at the same time that our libraries are being destroyed with the books we need for democracy disappearing.

So, “Where will you get your news?”  It’s a critical matter for discussion.  Come to our June 1st forum to participate in that discussion.  See:
Coming June 1st - Forum (The second) Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?





Monday, May 7, 2018

Coming June 1st - Forum (The second) Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

The first forum was great so we are having the second Friday June 1st.  Citizens Defending Libraries is all about people getting the information they need and should have.  (Use the links below to listen to a high quality recording of the first forum.)
Forum (The Second): Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

Friday, June 1, 2018, 7:00 PM to 8:45 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation Chapel
119-121 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Join a discussion to exchange information and ideas about how you get your information about important events in the world.  Where do you go to seek reliable news and complete information?  Should the country’s main stream media have reported the recent succession of unprecedentedly calamitous weather events without mentioning climate change?  Does a media drumbeat for war seem off-base? Do we hear about its cost?  Picking up newspapers, do you feel like you are reading compiled corporate press releases? As much of media ownership is consolidated in fewer corporations and when a wealthy few with disinformation agendas like the Kochs buy up ownership of outlets like Time magazine, where does truth take refuge to be found?  If your media literacy tells you that the most important part of narratives you are being served is what has been edited out how do you find what fills in the blanks?  Let’s identify what kinds of critical stories go unreported and how can we find out about them.

Conversely, when things need to become news, need to be known by the general public, what channels are there to transmit that information?  When structural reforms need to be made in our society they cannot be made unless we are able to exchange information about the changes that are needed: Serviceable channels for circulating information may be our threshold basic need.  How reliable is social media as an avenue for transmitting information and in what ways is it deceptively not?
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Facebook Event Pages To Share and Say You Are Coming

There is Facebook Event page posted for this event that you can share:
•        One Facebook Event Page is posted by Citizens Defending Libraries (if you click on "see all posts" on the event page there are postings of relevant articles for discussion).
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A Grist For Thought Sheet For the Forum

See if the sheet below helps you think about and prepare for the forum.

Grist for thought.  (Click to enlarge- You can also print it.  Or you can save the image to zoom in on it.)
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Here are links you can use to listen to a high quality recording of the first forum held March 4th.*
(* The discussion was moderated by Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michal D. D. White.)

You can listen to a recording of the forum (one hour twenty minutes): Where Do You Get Your News? (audio via Dropbox) or Where Do You Get Your News (audio via Soundcloud) or
Where Do You Get Your News (audio via Chirbit).

Audio on Soundcloud below.


Audio on Chirbit below


Check this out on Chirbit  

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Here is a link to listen to a very relevant recent speech by Mickey Huff of Project Censored about the present state of the mainstream news media in the United States:
Fake News and the Truth Emergency - A Speech by Mickey Huff
Another recent spellbinding speech listen to that is also quite relevant to potential discussions is by Peter Phillips, who has also been involved in Project Censored, discussing the central topic of his soon to be published new book, the concentration of power and increasing unequal distribution of resources that is affecting messages that are being disseminated to the world’s public.  (Do you know how much total wealth in the world and who has most of it and in what proportions?)
Giants - The Global Power Elite
What do you know about the six conglomerate companies that own almost all the media?  Here is a link to read about them (National Amusements, Disney, TimeWarner, Comcast, Newscorp, SONY): The 6 Companies That Own (almost) All Media.


Do you know which of these which of these conglomerates have what ties to military, industrial surveillance complex investments?

Here from the above article are the media holdings just of Comcast:

Do you know what the alternative media is if you want to turn to sources other than the mainstream media conglomerates.  Are they the sources of news that Google has not been censoring?

Here is a list of outlets that recently suffered, became more obscure and harder to find when Google implemented new algorithms (its "Project Owl") to direct people away from them and to more mainstream outlets typically owned by the conglomerates:

Sites that Google is suppressing (Project Owl):
   •    DemocracyNow!
   •    Alternet
   •    Naked Capitalism
   •    Counterpunch
   •    TruthOut!
   •    Truthdig
   •    Consortium News
   •    World Socialist Web Site
   •    The Socialist Worker
   •    Common Dreams
   •    Wikileaks
   •    The Intercept
   •    Media Matters (Media watchdog site)
   •    Black Agenda Report
   •    Russia Today (and particularly its 9/11 and Operation Gladio coverage)
   •    International Viewpoint
   •    Global Research
Project Censored has another longer list of alternative media sites: Project Censored List of Independent News Outlets.

Here are sites that have been outlets to publish work that has won Winners of the Izzy Award (The Izzy Award from- Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College is named after maverick journalist I. F. Stone. Presented annually for "special achievement in independent media," the Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.)-
    •    2017- Mother Jones &The Nation
    •    2016-  INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS, and the Invisible Institute, Democracy Now!
    •    2015- The Nation and The Guardian
    •    2014- Independent journalists JOHN CARLOS FREY (for reporting on U.S./ Mexico border deaths) and NICK TURSE (for reporting on civilian casualties of U.S. wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan). And the first members of the newly-established I.F. Stone Hall of Fame were inducted: GLENN GREENWALD and JEREMY SCAHILL.
    •    2013- Mother Jones
    •    2012- Democracy Now,  Center for Media and Democracy
    •    2011- Truthdig.com and City Limits
    •    2010- The Intercept, The Nation and Democracy Now!.”       
    •    2009- Democracy Now!
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An advertisement run in New York Magazine by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO) honoring World Press Freedom Day, a day to remind a reminder people of the countries around the world where the press and the news are censored: “Don’t just read New York, Read. .” and the list it gives is The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, USA Today, National Review, BBC News, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, because “It all starts with a free press.”  But how representative of a truly free uncensored free press is this list of corporately owned, mostly mainstream, mostly legacy publications?
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A Banned Segment from Saturday Night Live (click through for best viewing)

The 1998 Robert Smigel animated short film "Conspiracy Theory Rock," part of a March 1998 "TV Funhouse" segment, has been removed from all subsequent airings of the Saturday Night Live episode where it originally appeared. SNL producer Lorne Michaels claimed the edit was done because it "wasn't funny". The film is a scathing critique of corporate media ownership, including NBC's ownership by General Electric/Westinghouse.

SNL Banned Episode ~ Media Controlled Conspiracy Theory Rock ~ from DianeDi on Vimeo.

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List of journalists fired or self-exiled from mainstream media outlets because they expressed or wanted to express views unacceptable to the outlets they were working for:

•        Phil Donahue- Legendary television host fired from his top-rated program by the “supposedly liberal” MSNC in 2003 during the run up to the Iraq War because he was expressing anti-war views.

    •    Bill Maher- Fired by ABC from his “Politically Incorrect” program for not saying exactly the right things about 9/11 in its aftermath.  He said that terrorists “staying in the airplane” that was to hit a building could not described as “cowardly.”  Since that time Maher has been has been doing Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO where he has always been careful not to be anti-corporate and has, as well, been careful about what he says about 9/11.

    •    James Risen- Risen was a reporter for the New York Times.  He and another Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, wrote a story about the  secret illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of the American public by the George W. Bush administration that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, but the Times originally suppressed that story.  Risen now works for the Intercept.

    •    Robert Parry- An award-wining American investigative journalist (and finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize) best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek.  In 1995, Parry self-exiled himself from mainstream media to found Consortium News (the Consortium for Independent Journalism Inc.)

    •    Ed Schultz- Fired from the position if MSNBC in the spring of 2014 host after bridling about things such as directions he received from MSNBC management concerning what to cover and not to cover, including directions not to cover the Bernie Sanders campaign, including Sanders’ announcement that he was going to run for president.  Schultz now works for RT where he says he has far more freedom to cover what he wants how he wants.

•        Gary Webb- A journalist forced to resign from the San Jose Mercury News in 1997 and subsequently railroaded out of journalism with the CIA working at it in the background after Webb wrote a 1996 series uncovering the CIA's role in importing cocaine into the U.S. to secretly fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels through the manufacture and sale of drugs in the U.S.  Pressured to drop pursuit of his story Webb published his evidence in the series "Dark Alliance" for which the national Society of Professional Journalists voted Webb "Journalist of the Year" for 1996.  Webb had earlier contributed Pulitzer Prize winning work at the paper.   He subsequently experienced a vicious smear campaign during which he found himself defending his integrity, his career, his family that ended in his unfortunate death.  Later revelations about CIA involvement in illegal drugs coming into the United States validated and amplified what Webb was the first to report.

    •    Seymour Hersh- It is observed that Hersh has been “increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated” although he once worked for the New York Times Washington Bureau to report such stories as the Watergate scandal, and exposed the My Lai Massacre and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  Hersh has been forced from one outlet to another, each outlet more remote from where U.S. citizens are likely to learn what he is reporting: Publication of Hersh's work has moved from the New Yorker, to the London Review of Books to the German publication, Welt am Sonntag.  Thus the American public is unlikely to learn about Hersh's most recent reporting that although a sarin gas chemical weapons attack in Syria was used as an excuse for Trump's recent order of a “retaliatory” strike against the country, there was zero evidence of such an attack.  Similarly, previously reporting, based on what Hersh's contacts within the security and intelligence establishments, revealed that Assad's alleged use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus in 2013 also failed to stand up to scrutiny.  In between the Hersh's reporting on these alleged sarin attacks mainstream media reacted in a suspectly ostracizing way to Hersh's scoop about ways in which the public was misled respecting the reported killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.  Even in the London Review of Books the bin laden story immediately attracted so much attention it reportedly crashed the LRB servers. (In the fascinating Netflix "Wormwood" documentary by Errol Morris, which is about the still mysterious 1953 death, subsequent coverup and probable assassination by our government of an American scientist and Central Intelligence Agency employee participating in a secret government biological warfare program, Mr. Hersh explains what he is and isn't willing to report about events within the very secret intelligence community without sufficient sourcing.)

    •    Peter Arnett (and Producers April Oliver & Jack Smith)- Arnet, a Pulitzer Price who worked for CNN for 18 years and was famous for reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War was, he said “muzzled,” and then fired by CNN, like his producers April Oliver and Jack Smith they did entitled "Valley of Death," (and a more senior producer resigned), because of an investigative report (a joint production of CNN and Time magazine), presenting evidence about how Army special forces venturing into Laos in September of 1970 used sarin gas in an operation to kill American soldiers who had defected into Laos from Vietnam.

•        Dan Rather (and his producer Mary Mapes)-  Dan Rather and others including his "60 Minutes" program producer Mary Mapes were fired by CBS (Rather's was a slow-burn firing) when covering the 2004 presidential election campaign they were subject to criticism for alleged liberal bias in reporting a basically true story about preferential treatment of George W. Bush in the National Guard (1968 to 1973 during which time Bush did not show up for a medical exam and stopped fulfilling his flying commitments).  The criticism leading up to the firing focused on the fact that documents with which the newspeople had been supplied to support their story were likely faked in whole or in part by somebody, possibly in a dirty trick intended to sucker them.  When a 2015 feature film, "Truth," starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford was made dramatizing the issues and events with respect to the firing CBS refused to run advertisements for it.

 •        Chris Hedges- Hedges was another award winning journalist working with a team to win a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times in 2002.  Amnesty International gave him an award that year for international journalism.  He’s worked for Christian Science Monitor, NPR and was a foreign correspondent for the Times for fifteen years.  Hedges, under pressure from the Times, was forced to leave the Times in 2003 (listen at 14 minutes) because he had been denouncing the those urging the U.S. forward to its invasion of Iraq.  (Hedges was an early critic of the war.- We invaded in March of 2003.)  Hedges now writes for Truthdig and is a host of “On Contact” for RT.          

 •        Ashleigh Banfield-  NBC fired news journalist Ashleigh Banfield, host of “MSNBC Investigates,” from MSNBC in 2004 after officially scolding her in the spring of 2003, and thereupon banishing her, because she criticized her TV news colleagues for “sugarcoating Iraq war coverage with patriotism and not showing the reality of the conflict.”  She had criticized  “cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic.”

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Do you know about these media watchdog sites?:
    •    Project Censored
    •    FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) and Counterspin
    •    Media Matters
    •    On The Media (? WNYC)
    •    OffGuardian (watches the Guardian.)
    •    Jimmy Dore Show (also on YouTube)
    •    Atlantic Yards Report (Former Times Report and now Atlantic Yards Pacific Park Report- Watches New York City real estate reporting and started by watching the New York Times slanted reporting of the Atlantic Yards Project)  
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Books?

There is fast news and there is the slow absorption of news and information that puts it in context that can come from books.  As for books, Citizens Defending Libraries has previously posted giving examples about how important books have been suppressed: Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed.  NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller created Forbidden Bookshelf as a way of allowing the public to find and read controversial books that, almost impossible to obtain, are about subjects that have effectively been censored.

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Have you considered how less news might be better la better way to be informed; that addicts to the 24/7 news cycle may want, instead to read classic books to help them understand current events because of how the 24/7 news cycle is addicted, with it voracious appetite to “access journalism,”   which is inherently biased to be flattering to those in power.  That problem is compounded by the unfolding censorship crisis that is making the internet as a source of news increasingly treacherous, which mainstream outlets mat not be concerned about at all.  More here:
On The Media Interview With Dean Starkman: The Difference Between "Access Reporting" and "Accountability Reporting" Explains How Very Important Things DON'T Get Reported- Plus Consider The Censorship Crisis 
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Facebook (and social media generally?)— Reliable filters for the news that will influence you?

Facebook has acknowledged experimenting with its influence on voter turnout and voter biases.  Before the 2016 election Facebook altered its algorithms (without `colluding with the Russians’)  so that deceptive news stories favoring Trump were more prevalent in its ecosystem.

If this is as troublesome as it sounds, what might be the solution? . . . .   

FAIR’s May 25, 2018 Counterspin program lacerated this treacherously counterproductive proposed solution.
Facebook announced it’s partnering with D.C. think tank the Atlantic Council to `monitor for misinformation and foreign interference.’ The details of the plan are vague, but the council has stated the goal is to design tools `to bring us closer together, instead of driving us further apart,’ whatever that means.  Behind it’s bland name, The Atlantic Council is associated with very particular interests: It’s funded by the U.S. State Department, Navy, Army and Air Force, along with NATO, various foreign powers and major Western corporations, including weapons contractors and oil companies.  Fair’s Adam Johnson notes that what diversity of opinion exists is largely about how much and where U.S. military and soft power influence should be wielded, not if they should. But, with the exception of Splinter, news outlets showed no curiosity at all about a government-backed entity telling us which news is fake, or how it works when a venture supposedly meant to curb `foreign interference’ is bankrolled by the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan, to name a few. . .  Not that U.S. government money is exempt from the “foreign” qualifier with its suggestion of malicious influence; to most of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users, after all, the United States is a foreign country.
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See our post about vulture hedge fund Alden Global Capital dismantling local news outlets around the country with the prospect that republished corporate press releases will be the only source of news:
Where Will You get Your News When There Is A Mass-Dismantling of Outlets Like The Denver Post By Wall Street Vulture Capital Funds?
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Latest Non-reporting of the News?– Deaths in Puerto Rico (Second most deadly Hurricane in U.S. history)

This seems like the latest non-reporting of the news: an update on the (intentional?) mishandling of the crisis in Puerto Rico that has gone largely unreported.   . .  What does the number 4,645 on the San Juan Mayor's hat mean?  You'd be unlikely to guess given the  lack of reporting in the media and misinformation in these New York  Times headlines.  . . . What was the media devoting huge time to covering while leaving this national disaster news essentially unreported?: The firing of Roseanne Barr!
Latest Non-reporting of National News?– Deaths in Puerto Rico



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Maybe you would like to get involved in the discussion early?  In the comment section to this page you may want to supply information about where you go to get your news and why.  Or maybe you'd like to post about what you think are the biggest issues that mainstream media is not reporting on?  Climate change?  The cost of war?  Voting irregularities in the last election?

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Planned Overhaul of Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza Library- Another “Central Library Plan” Questionable In All The Same Ways

Presentation of the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library Plan to the real estate committee of Community Board 9 (courtesy of The Movement To Protect The People (MTOPP)
The Brooklyn Public Library is overhauling the Grand Army Plaza Library, by far the biggest library in the Brooklyn system.  This so-called “renovation plan” ensues after the destruction of the second biggest library in Brooklyn, the central destination, downtown Brooklyn Heights Business, Career and Education Library, a library that was also an important Federal Depository Library whose function was to make now increasingly scarce and unavailable federal government documents available to the public.

A Brooklyn Central Library Plan Like the NYPL Central Library Plan

The Grand Army Plaza Library overhaul is not newly planned.  Planning goes back to at least 2008 when the BPL hired an architect to create a Master Plan for its Central Library (eliminating books) that was very much like the NYPL’s contemporaneous “Central Library Plan.”  In 2014, in the face of enormous public resistance and opprobrium, which Citizens Defending Libraries helped provide, that other Central Library Plan, the New York Public Library’s “Central Library Plan” was derailed.  The NYPL has nevertheless resurrected aspects of the NYPL “Central Library Plan,” one remnant at a time, while continuing to be careful not to again use the derided “Central Library Plan” name . . .

. . . The BPL is presenting this plan for its own biggest library as its “plan for the Central Library”; That’s easily transposed to simply calling it Brooklyn’s own `Central Library Plan.’*
(*  If you would like another, almost eerie connection linking these two central libraries found in Manhattan and Brooklyn respectively, besides the fact that they are now both going through similar, and similarly-driven "Central Library Plans," try this:  Previously, just before each library was created, the site of that library was the location of a major, incredibly huge reservoir serving the borough, in Manhattan at 42 Street and Brooklyn at Mount Prsopect by Grand Army Plaza.  So each of these libraries found in public parks is more a dapple-ganger of the other than one might immediately suspect.)   
One reason the consolidating shrinkage of the NYPL’s very expensive Central Library Plan, unveiled at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, was so widely opposed was it’s elimination and banishment of books.  The contemporaneously proceeding BPL Central Library Plan also eliminates books and banishes them off-site.  It’s first inaugural phase was the computer and tech oriented (Shelby White and) Leon Levy Information Commons (January 2013).  The “Information Commons” has no books and, located smack dab and center on the first floor, it is what automatically sops up your attention when you enter the Grand Army Central Library.

Most prominently before you when you enter Brooklyn's biggest library: The bookless, tech oriented "Information Commons"
As with all these central library plans what you see reflected in them is what might be described a slow drift away from what libraries have traditionally been towards something increasingly bookless, something that is also increasingly commercial and corporate in theme, and thus less democratic in insidious ways; something less substantive, that’s more superficial.  It is not really a “drift” so much, as it is a steady pull or tug by those who are now library administration officials.  The changes may seem slow, particularly if your visits to the libraries are not so frequent or closely observed, but the change is not as slow as it seems.  It seems slower, however, because the language used to present these plans generally obscures where library officials intend to go with them.  Their language also obscures memory of the ways in which libraries have succeeded in the past.

Presentation of the Brooklyn Central Library Plan to Community Board 9 land Use Committee- Conflicts of Interest

On April 10, 2018, the BPL’s Central Library Plan was presented to the Brooklyn Community Board 9's Land use Committee for approval.  The suspicious handling it got at that community board meeting deserves scrutiny.  It came before the board without warning or fanfare.  We have the community activist organization The Movement To Protect The People (MTOPP) led by Alicia Boyd to thank for letting us know what went down that evening.  You can watch the entire presentation in two segments via video MTOPP has posted:
Community Board 9 Land Use committee meeting on April 10, 2018 Part 1

Community Board 9 ULURP committee meeting April 10, 2018 Part 2
Along with the videos, Ms. Boyd sent her MTOPP mailing list an outraged description of what unfolded at the meeting.

One of the biggest headlines about this CB9 Land Use Committee library plan presentation was an abject failure of proper process; one that is hard to dismiss as unintentional.  The meeting was chaired by Michael Liburd, the Land Use committee’s usual chair.  (For those of you who do not know Community Boards of New York City, think of the Land Use Committee as the Community Board’s committee for handling real estate development.  Also know that for political reasons, the composition of these land use committees and their leadership tend to reflect friendliness to development.)

Near the end of the CB9 Land Use Committee meeting Michael Liburd says “thank you very much library folks” as if these presenters were somehow separate from him; on the contrary, what he doesn’t say is that he is a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library, a member of the board to whom the “folks” must report and are accountable to.  If you don’t believe it without seeing it with your own eyes come to a Brooklyn Public Library Trustees meeting and watch these same presenting  “folks” deferentially report to Liburd and the other trustees.  In other words, Liburd personifies the BPL too; he is one of these “library folks.”

This is a particular concern in terms of what then happens immediately afterward—  Liburd tells the Land Use Committee that he is interested in giving “these folks” (he uses that term yet again) “what they are looking for.”  There was no quorum of the land use committee (a problem in and of itself), but then Liburd has the committee members who are present vote their approval of the proposed plan, himself leading off the vote with his own raised hand voting approval.  This failure to disclose important underlying relationships is despite the fact that BPL's press release telling the public about the renovation says: "Library staff is committed to open communication throughout the construction process."

There is another layer of seeming conflict with the community's interest in that Liburd, often criticized by the community for pushing real estate development plans, has apparently been positioned as the head of the CB9 Land Use Committee in order to do so more effectively.  His function as a pro-real estate development operative pits him against the interests of the public if the priority of a board overseeing the libraries should be the provision of library services, not real estate developments.

Another question to ask: If what is being done to Brooklyn’s now most important library is truly about what libraries actually are supposed to be, then why was the presentation to CB 9's real estate oriented Land Use Committee?  It could have been instead to (or also to) the CB9 Education Committee (“responsible for advocating for the educational needs of the district”), its Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee (if it has responsibilities for “Culture”), its Health and Social Services Committee (“addresses the district’s needs for social services”), or its Youth Services Committee (“responsible for . . youth services needs assessments, and . . filling any gaps in services provided for young people.”)?  (The BPL presenter said "We want to talk to everybody we can about this project.")

And should this presentation be limited to Community Board 9, just one community board in Brooklyn?  At over 350,000 square feet, this biggest library in the Brooklyn system that has about 1 million square feet of library space, comprises about one third of all the public library space in Brooklyn.  What happens to it should be of concern to all Brooklynites and to all New Yorkers.   The now leveled central destination Business, Career and Education Library that was in Brooklyn's Downtown Central Business District easily reached by almost all New Yorkers was 63,000 square feet.

Conflicts of Interest at the Board Level, Including Newest Trustee Working For The Real Estate Development Mayor

For those who don’t think they understand how conflicts of interests like Liburd’s (or those of the others of the member’s of the BPL board) can be a problem, consider how Liburd chose to pitch his request for the vote to the Land Use committee and public attending the Meeting: In essence he was saying, “you may know me as the head of the Land Use Committee and you may have pegged me as someone who likes to promote development, but these here are `library folks,’ not like me– You can trust them to be caring about libraries, not development priorities.”
Unfortunately, if you look at the board of the BPL and its other members besides Mr. Liburd you find a rogues gallery of people whose first and foremost priorities are likely to be in conflict with the public getting the best possible libraries.  Most commonly those conflicts are by virtue of the interest those BPL board members have in Real Estate development.

Carolee Fink
Just Seven days after the Liburd CB9 BPL Central Library Plan Presentation, Mayor de Blasio’s newest appointment to BPL board attended her first board meeting with Mr. Liburd.  The name of that new appointee is Carolee Fink.  Ms. Fink is Chief of Staff to Alicia Glen.  Alicia Glen, who joined the de Blasio administration coming from Goldman Sachs (there are a lot of connections of BPL board members to Goldman Sachs), is Mayor de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor in charge of real estate development.  See:  New Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Can You Imagine?; One of Them Is Carolee Fink, Chief of Staff to Alicia Glen (formerly of Goldman), DeBlasio’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.

When the BPL sold the central destination downtown Brooklyn Business, Career and Education Brooklyn Heights Library that real estate deal (investigated for pay-to-play) was pushed through at City Hall by Alicia Glen.  In December 2015 when BPL president Linda Johnson told the BPL board of trustees how the sale of that library sale went down (it’s a shrink-and-sink deal replacing the central destination library with a luxury tower), Johnson told the BPL board of trustees that Ms. Glen had adopted the library sale and shrinkage deal as “her own” to “push it across the finish line.”  The secretive final negotiations at City Hall included raiding Department of Education funds for space in the luxury building to help the developer.

Moreover, the trustees were told that this sale was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  And previously Ms. Johnson had told the city council that the shrink-and-sink sale would be a model for all three of the city’s library systems.

Introducing Ms. Fink to the other BPL board members, Ms. Johnson told them that Ms. Fink “loves libraries.”  Maybe so, but in just what manner of speaking does Ms. Fink love libraries?  For their libraryness?

When "Loving Libraries" Is Nothing But Satire

Although those trustees and administrators now in charge of the libraries increasingly see them in real estate development terms, they do not want the public to know that.  Hence the need to carefully parse what is behind their actual words.  On April 1st Noticing New York did an April Fools satire about the PR the BPL was breaking out for its Central Library Plan: Reimagining Our Library Spaces: Where Once There Were Books There Will Now Be “Maker Rooms” To Be Named Appropriately After A Famous Hedge Funder and Presidential Candidate.  The satire did not have to stray very far from actual facts in its lambasting of the kind of library administration double talk that requires incredible vigilance from any listener.

One thing that helps when listening to current library administration officials telling us about plans for the libraries is to let what we know other library plans inform our intuition about what we should be alert for: For instance, the former NYPL Central Library Plan and now, in the wake of its derailment, the NYPL plans for the 42nd Street Central Reference Library, the Mid-Manhattan Library and the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL).

The presentation to the CB 9 Land Use Committee began by telling those present that the Grand Army Plaza Library "has challenges" because it “opened in 1941" and "hasn't seen much comprehensive improvement since that time."  That disingenuously seems intended to make the library seem like an old library in need of an expensive overhaul.  The presentation did not say that the library was actually not actually completed until 1955 (a substantial public commitment, the library took almost sixty years to put in place beginning back in 1898), or that it was expanded in the 1990s and again in 2005.  After that last expansion (back in the days when libraries were still expected by everybody to have books) the library was still not sufficiently large to house the Education Library, which had to be moved to the Brooklyn Heights downtown Brooklyn central destination library. (Because the Heights library is now destroyed, the Education Library has theoretically come back to Grand Army Plaza.)   The Land Use committee was also not told that the Brooklyn CPL, as previously defined, was already underway with the opening of the Leon Levy Information Commons in January of 2013, done with at least a $3.25 million expenditure that replaced the library's media section. Additionally, according to the BPL‘s minutes, it cost $5 million to jettison the books (February 23, 2010 BPL minutes), not the $3.25 million figure given by the Times, which lower figure in the Times, was the amount of Leon Levy Foundation gift money paying for this.  One figure the Times gave doesn’t include, for instance, is the $1,334.764 that came from Albany by virtue of taxpayer largess (June 15, 2010 BPL minutes).

The Land Use Committee was told that the library was not getting rid of books.  This despite the fact that New York Times article about it said that plan called for, among other things, getting rid of “two levels of old-fashioned `stacks’” describing these shelves to hold books as “unused space that Ms. Johnson wants to repurpose.”   This is the kind of deceptive description of what is going on that listeners need to be alert for.  It also says something about how administrators proceed.  If library administration officials remove books from the shelves before they tell the public about subsequently revealed physical changes they intend to make to the libraries then they can say then, they are not getting rid of books.  If the stacks have already been denuded of the books they were built to hold then the space that they occupy can be derisively referred to as “unused.”
Pictures Citizens Defending Libraries posted in 2016 showing shelves at the Grand Army Plaza Library were already extensively emptied as of that spring.
Pictures Citizens Defending Libraries posted in 2016 show that shelves at the Grand Army Plaza Library were already extensively emptied by the spring of that year.  These empty and thus “unused” shelves were in public areas like the Grand Army Plaza Library’s history section, but the Times article referred to elimination of other book shelving stacks the public doesn’t even see and thus, with the books they held, would not be as automatically conscious of.  These empty shelves were despite and don’t take into account all the books that disappeared from the Brooklyn Heights Business, Career and Education Library, including the Federal Depository included there that disappeared with it.  The layers of forgetting are being lathered on . . .

In his book “Dismantling the Public Sphere- Situating and Sustaining Librarianship In the Age of the New Public Philosophy,” John E. Buschman, complaining about some of the objectionable things that befell libraries after 9/11, noted that, in addition to some of the surveillance undertaken at libraries, “librarians have been ordered by the federal government to purge government documents items from their collections.”   Early in the book, Buschman noted that in 1984 “the Federal Depository Library program was seriously curtailed” and that “between 1982 and 1985, about four thousand government documents were eliminated— among them titles like `Statistical Reporter’ and `Health Care Financing trends.’” Nevertheless, in 1993 the Brooklyn Heights Federal Depository library needed to be expanded in 1993.

When the BPL closed the Brooklyn Heights Library, it promised that the once very substantial Business and Career Library that functioned within it (not, however, the “Education” portion) would be reopened at Grand Army Plaza.   Technically, this was a consolidating shrinkage.  What the BPL opened immediately at Grand Army Plaza was a pathetically small room of books hidden at the end of a narrow wending hall that it called the Business and Career Library while promising at the time, with supplied visuals, a bigger and glitzier “Business and Career Library” via future remodeling of some other Grand Army Plaza space.
In a hidden room the remains of a Business, Career and Education Library that was also a Federal Depository Library
What they were then destroying in 2016 was called a “Business and Career Library (emphasis supplied) and so that losses would perhaps be less noticed, what they in 2016 provided in the interim and promised to provide in improved form in the future was a “Business and Career Library.” The word used was Library.”  Now in 2018 as the BPL promotes the overhaul at Grand Army Plaza the terminology has shifted and the public is being told that what it will be getting with the overhaul is a “Business Career Center,”(emphasis supplied) a “center” not a library.  These shifts in terminology are important, insidiously implying that libraries don’t have value and must be replaced with facilities described with other terms, most likely those sounding more potentially more worshipful or respectful of technology and sometimes real estate.

Although Buschman was writing his “Dismantling the Public Sphere,” in 2003, before some of the worst NYC library plans would first see the light of day, he was already picking up the way even library schools were starting to eschew honoring graduates with the title of “librarian” or referring to collections of books; library schools were instead becoming “schools of information” and the schools were coming up with descriptors for graduates like “information professional,” “information manager,” “knowledge specialists.”  In New York we had also stopped referring to those in charge of libraries as head librarians, substituting the real estate term “project manager.”  As
Buschman points out these terms, increasingly general and abstract tend to lose their meaning.  What is the difference between a bookless "Information Commons" that encourages business meetings and a bookless "Business and Career Center?"  Probably not much: The BPL told the Community Board that two spaces would on top of each other and would "work together." 

Indeed, the new image of what is now proposed to be the “Business Career Centeris now supposed to look like is unabashedly devoid of books.  Sterile and white, rather like a makeshift low-budget hospital cafeteria I suspect that most people will find the image unappealing and lacking in imagination.


Don't call it a "library", call it a "Business and Career Center"
It feels like a bait and switch: As noted, called a "center" now, not "library" it's not the same name given for this 'replacement' as when the Brooklyn Heights Business, Career and Education Library was being sold to a developer and it's not the same name rendering supplied at that time either.  One must wonder if the budget has changed.  Perhaps it's not the budget for building what the public might actually get someday (who knows if there were actual designs to price that out back when the Heights library was being destroyed); Maybe it's just the budget available for making attractive renderings.  When approval of a developer's development proposal is at stake gobs of money get spent on persuasive PR and renderings, but now the David Kramer Hudson Companies proposal is in the bag and the Heights library leveled, a hole in the ground.  Does the budget for renderings therefore go down now?
A better "library" or a better "rendering"?: The previous "conceptual rendering" of the "Business Career Library" offered in 2017.  Does it seem to have more books, or is it just that you can't tell because the elevators and stairs are featured so prominently instead?
How do you tout bleak, empty spaces as beneficial to the public and distract from mention of their unlibrarylike booklessness?:  Dutifully picking up, without question, from the Monday, March 26, 2018 BPL press release announcing the latest iteration of these plans the Brooklyn Eagle article about them quotes Linda Johnson as saying that with the overhaul of the library the public will get, not a `library,' but the “inspiring, flexible space” the public `richly deserves.’  That's right, the empty bookless space that Johnson thinks the public deserves is “inspiring, flexible space.”
 
The "so cool, so cool" Leon Levy Information Commons space- Immediately usable to hold your wedding!

"Flexible space" means that once was once "library" space dedicated to such uses can be diverted to other uses.  The "so cool, so cool" Leon Levy Information Commons space be easily used to host a wedding (with the BPL swiftly contacting the press to promote it). (See:  Public Spaces- At Brooklyn Library's New Center, Books Are Secondary, by Eli Rosenberg, May 9, 2013.) The BPL, just like the NYPL, has a whole program now set up devoted commercially renting its spaces to host events; Weddings are a featured subcategory— That's if you are among those luck enough to be able to afford them.  One problem is that this can dictate that the library sometimes closes for special events, evicting those who want to use actual library services and making library hours unpredictable.


Another rendering of“inspiring, flexible space,” a virtual empty dance floor devoid of books that the BPL intends to create out of library space in its plan, is what the BPL is now calling its "Civic Commons" . . . a "first-of-its-kind."
"Civic Commons"?
The Noticing New York April 1st satire about the BPL's plans spoke in jest about how the BPL supposedly saying it was creating the neo-commons that makes sense today.”  How far away from this satire will the "Civic Commons" be?   The BPL says that it intends to make use of this space with "partners."   One day we may find out who those "Civic Commons" partners actually wind up being as they materialize, but it doesn't bode well that some of the first "partnering" the BPL started off with when going down this road was real estate developer Forest City Ratner and partnering with the Nets basketball team.  That's what Ms. Johnson told her board of trustees at the December 2013 board meeting just months before the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" arena for the Nest was to open.  Indeed, afterward tents were set up taking over the plaza space fronting the Grand Army Plaza library to promote the Nets to children.

That the BPL's future be structured to involve “alliance and partnerships” was recommended in a suspiciously produced “Community Needs Assessment” that finally saw the light of day at the Trustee level in the fall of 2009.  The same “Community Needs Assessment” said that BPL should be engaged in "support for economic development."  Don't such "partnerships," especially when they are commercially oriented, together with the support of economic development compromise the mission of the library and subtract from public sphere?. . .

John Buschman has another question in this regard: He asks if libraries are not providing an alternative model, are not serving democratic ideals, "What public purpose is served by public funding of" projects that "are imitative of the private sector?  What right do we have to public funding to compete with [other?] businesses.  Perhaps more importantly, does society need another model of media-dominated, entertainment oriented consumerism in its public institutions?" 

Buschman suggests that key to attaining the equilibrium whereby libraries will provide a democratic public sphere is to avoid the "'steering mechanisms' of money and power (i.e. corporate-dominated mass media)." 

 
Here is what might happen to the "Civic Commons" or some other of the library space being converted through possible future "partnering."  Along with a lot of other commercializing changes, The NYPL is currently proposing to convert the Map Room and map reading space at its fabled 42nd Street Central Reference Library into an apparently fancy wine-serving wait staff-equipped café.  Rather than being alarmed by this proposal when it was presented to them NYPL trustees wanted to make sure officials were considering expanding and opening up the café to absorb some of Bryant Park’s public space. That was something apparently part of their out-of-public-sight discussions. . . .

Parts of the BPL's plan would readily facilitate a Brooklyn version of this: a new restaurant space within the library building that could open up into and include outdoor café space in a public park.  The BPL intends to convert parking space now behind the library into green space.  That green space abuts Mount Prospect Park, a public park which sits between the library and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Mount Prospect Park includes the promontory that is the second highest point in Brooklyn; the highest point in Brooklyn is Battle Hill in Greenwood Cemetery.  Explaining what was intended, the BPL spokesperson said that it was hoped the park's boundary with the BPL's space 'seamless.'  The BPL press release says, "to connect the branch with Mount Prospect Park to create a Central Brooklyn green campus that includes the library, park and Botanical Gardens."

The BPL spokesperson said this plan to “dramatically open up the exterior of the library” was what “gets the Oohs and Ahs.”

Right now Mount Prospect Park, closed on all other sides, can only be entered from Eastern Parkway. To the Park's East side, there is the boundary around the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where visitors must pay a fee to enter, a fee which, after 85 years of being free, the Garden started charging in 1996. That fee was originally $3.00 if you weren't a student or senior, but, significantly outpacing inflation, it's now up to $15.00.

Where it not for the heavily trafficked Flatbush Avenue and the fences that close both of them off, Mount Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden would be extensions of Prospect Park.  The creation of connections that would allow people to, by walking behind the library, go from Flatbush Avenue through Mount Prospect Park all the way to Eastern Parkway arguably could be a good thing; Jane Jacobs in her precepts generally praises the multiplication of connections in cities.  Still, there should probably be some wariness about for whose benefit these changes are being launched intending and whether they are intended to serve a gentrifying impulse.

At the same time that the BPL is creating the "Civic Commons" and adding the green space outside, it is asking for Landmarks Commission approval to add a new door on the Flatbush side of the building to access the "Commons."  Although that could be convenient for some patrons, it would also allow for that portion of the building to be accessed separately from the rest of the building and perhaps shut off from it to maintain separate hours.  The proposed door, no image of which was circulated by the BPL with its press release, was shown to Community Board 9, presumably so Landmarks could be told they had seen it.  The board was told the door along with new windows would make the building look less "scary."
A new door and windows will be less "scary"?

For some reason the BPL with its press release included an image of new staircase and seating area looking rather like the reception area of a midtown law firm (minus a magazine table).  
A staircase you can sit under to watch people ascend and descend!
Although the Central Library Plan involves all this bookless space in the images above, the first picture slide that was actually shown to the land use committee was the one slide that showed them the most books. In fact, the committee was told that BPL wanted to have the library to feel more like a library when someone walked in the front door;  “When you walk into the library it doesn’t feel much like a library”(i.e. You don’t see any books), said the BPL's presenter.  (That's partly, as noted, because the smack-dab-in-the-middle "Information Commons" — soon visually to be essentially two stories when  — is presented as the most prominent feature.)  So the BPL says it is proposing to “pull the library experience forward” by “repositioning” the “Popular Library” near the entrance.  The “Popular Library” according to the presenter is currently it’s a lot of “magazines and a lot of comic books,” but he said to generate that book experience the BPL plans to "reformat" the Popular Library to make it more “book focused” “so that just as you walk in the front door you” by turning you head will “see the popular library off to the right.”


New York City libraries have been focusing on the popular and the new designs for them tend to include "grab and go" book desks by the front doors of the redesigned libraries to streamline visitor interactions with the libraries to efficiently brief interactions that supply the patron with what they probably think they already want when they walk in the door.

Pushing a superficial focus on the currently popular has a lot in common with the how media obsessions with junk food news stories (Jonbenet Ramsey, Chandra Levy or runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks) can take over the 24/7 news cycle of outlets like CNN, corporate commercialism thus hijacking, en mass, public attention away from deeper exploration of probably more relevant news. Even obsessions with supposedly “serious” news like Russiagate can effect that kind of hijacking.  And should we all be steered into reading exactly the same books as suggested by a new Mayoral NYC subway promoted ad campaign “Let's get everyone in New York on the same page— NYC.gov/onebook #OneBookNY.”  (The NYC library systems are participating in this campaign.) Doesn't this crowd control of having everyone reading the same few books at the same time thwart discovery shunting the exploratory wandering of individual imaginations into more predicable mainstream channels while exacerbating that fabled race to the down to “the lowest common denominator”? . . .

. . . Does it also remind you of how "teaching to the test" has turned over to the monopoly of a few testing corporations the job of determining how everyone should be educated no matter where they live or what communities they are parts of?
In the subway, the NYC-promoted campaign“Let's get everyone in New York on the same page— NYC.gov/onebook #OneBookNY.” (click to enlarge)
In “Dismantling the Public Sphere” Buschman (p. 121) writes that essentially the idea of a consumerish “give ‘em what they want” focus of librarianship, putting up “a large number of `hot’ items on the shelf to compete with bookstore chains” and quantifying the value of a library only through popularity ignores “merit or lasting value” in curating selections.  While not arguing that libraries should be unresponsive to the public, Buschman says that “customer-driven librarianship abandons a number of public sphere roles.”  “The first of these,” he says, is “our role in organized social memory and rational discourse in a democracy.”  He says that the consumer driven fixation on “exclusively what is popular at the moment” by definition “abandons the public sphere goal of a plurality of ‘voices’ and viewpoints on anything not ‘hot’ to a present or future reader.”  He reminds us that “there is a reason some services are in the public sector; their value is very real but difficult to measure and requires a different kind of judgement and management.”

In a democracy where we can get our information and where we get out news is important.


There was one slide the committee was shown that was not one of those it distributed with its press release about its central library plan:  The BPL says that early on they want to implement “a concept” of a “teen center” they say they will work out after they have talked with some teens.  Is this sort of "been there-done that"?:  May 4, 2000, with a $2.5 million "renovation and expansion of the Eastern Parkway wing" completion, the "new Youth Wing" officially opened that had "exclusively designed areas for children and teens."

Getting Rid of Books Is Expensive

At a time when the BPL claims a desperate shortage of capital funds is hobbling its entire system, these book-eliminating Central Library Plan changes will not come cheap.  Now, at the starting point the BPL is projecting, without actual plans to cost everything out, the total project costs will be $135 million, but over the at least eight years execution of the plans if now expected to take it is more likely to exceed $200 million.  When the NYPL first promoted its original plans for its own Central Library Plan they promote the plan as expected to cost $300 million for the consolidated shrinkage that would eliminate space, bookshelves and books; We never found out how much more those plans would actually cost, only that they would cost more than half a billion dollars ($500 million+).

John Buschman in his book looks skeptically at how promoting a "crisis culture" in libraries is used to put libraries on the defensive while pushing them into ill thought out responses.   The suspect tales of how we are supposedly no longer able to afford our libraries sure fit within that mold.

Buschman also makes the case (p. 149) that there is an extreme imbalance that allows those hyping "technology"  to speak with a louder voice during decision making about our libraries; that when librarians shop for any traditional library resources that are somewhat expensive they "will professionally and critically evaluate the resource against their needs and weigh costs," but "when an electronic resource costing multiples" of those amounts are considered "critical facilities seem to go out the window," the focus becoming presentation and style, while "the authority and efficacy of the product" is just assumed because there is no real way to evaluate it.  This is the way that technology that will readily be outdated in just a few years gets substituted for the time-tested curation of books and human history of the centuries.
    

Meanwhile, where are the books going?  Not so very, very long ago, New York Magazine put the number of books at the Grand Army Plaza library at 1.5 million.  The Business, Career and Education Federal depository library previously in Brooklyn Heights and now leveled once had at least another 130,000 books.


Getting Your Head Around The Idea of a Commons 
       
As they were waiting for a quorum, before the BPL’s April 10th meeting officially began BPL president Linda Johnson told some of the BPL trustees that she had just returned from a trip to Cuba.  Explaining what it was like, Johnson said about the island that “it was hard to get your head around, but the people are very nice.”

“Hard to get your head around”?— Cuba is a country organized insistently around the idea of much more extensively shared public commons and mutual support.  Among other things it’s been observed how that means delivery of better health care than in the United States.  It also means that after Cuba was one of the islands hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in September, Cuba, “a world leader in hurricane preparedness and recovery” suffered minimal loss of life and, within days provided aid to its neighbors sending “more than 750 health workers to Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Haiti.”

By contrast, Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico just a few days later that month and six months later, under the auspices of our capitalist country, tarps had still not been provided to cover leaking and wrecked roofs and all sorts of other basic relief lags.  The New York Times was willing to blame bungling on its front page (subsequently suppressing the word, not the concept, from its internet article), but that ignores how this “bungling” furthers plans for privatization of the island of Puerto Rico that were afoot before the storm hit and how, there has been a subsequent  “disaster capitalism” intensification of the machinations to privatize the island of Puerto Rico, chase out its current inhabitants and make it a tax-haven paradise for the likes of cryptocurrency adventurists. 

What was Linda Johnson doing in Cuba?  Theoretically, as head of the Brooklyn public library system, she is herself is in charge of caretaking one of the biggest most important commons in the city of New York.  Officially, the Trump administration is now trying to dissuade Americans from the more frequent visits to Cuba that began with policies the Obama administration made.  Johnson went to Cuba just before April 17th, the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs, the U.S. sponsored invasion of Cuba, chosen as the day for Raúl Castro, brother of Fidel, to step down from power.  What changes are expected; hoped for?  Who hopes to be in on them?

Meanwhile, there are interesting developments on an island closer to Brooklyn.  When Governor’s Island was transferred from the U.S. government to New York City there was a covenant that housing on the island was prohibited.  Since the military left and the subsequent transfer, people haven’t been sleeping on the island; everyone gets ushered off at the end of the day. . . But now, although the word is being avoided, "glamping" is coming to Governor’s Island via a company that specializes in it.  What is "glamping"?: It is `camping' for the glamour set.  "Luxury tents that come equipped with chandeliers  . .  start at $500."

April BPL Trustees Meeting

At the April board meeting, Linda Johnson told the trustees that the Brooklyn Central Library Plan "is underway" and that "all of the planning is being done so we have actually just one big construction project that goes over a significant period of time" saying the BPL wanted to "seemlessly move from one phase to the next."  She said that the BPL was thinking of the phases from a "development standpoint," because they are "concerned about raising the money needed as `public-private partnership.'"  She said that come next January people using the library are going to need to understand that use of the library is going to be "compromised" for a time because "things are going to be tight around here."

At the April board meeting, the trustees were told that the demand for physical books at the library was not diminishing, not being reduced by any continuing shift over to the more expensive digital books library administration officials years have been pushing after introducing many years ago: Digital books steadily remain at a continually low, essentially flat, 7%, with circulation of physical books for the year at 13 million, and the more expensive, more evanescent, typically just "rented" digital books being pushed by the library at only 1 million.  Nevertheless, Johnson's focus was to emphasize to her board that there had been an incremental increase to that low 7% figure this year (about 1%).

Elected Officials?

 Can we expect help from our New York City elected officials? . . .

The BPL press release includes the statement of New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo that she is "proud to join in support of the four-phase renovation" and what it will mean in terms of the ability of "future generations" to access the "vast resources" of the library.  Other statements showing a lack of appreciation for the very worrisome aspects of the BPL's plans were furnished in the press release from United States Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, New York State Senator Kevin Parker, Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley.