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

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

As the Brooklyn Heights Central Library Gets Dismantled, the Business Career and Education Portion of It, Once Internationally Renowned For Its Resources, Dwindles To Hidden Away Room

On Monday this week a small hidden away room you might not even know is there at the Grand Army Plaza Library (and that you will probably have problems finding) replaced a the once centrally located downtown Business, Career and Education that was internationally renowned for its “wealth of resources.”
The page will be updated.

For a while, several years now, foreshadowing the ultimate dismantling the Brooklyn Public Library intended, the BPL has been emptying the books from the Brooklyn Heights Library, but now they are proceeding in earnest full speed, disappearing every last vestige of the library’s collection of books.

Officially they are “moving” a substantial portion of the library, its Business Career and Education functions that once upon a time even stood on its own as a separate library “located in the commercial hub of Brooklyn since it opened in 1943" internationally renowned for its “wealth of resources.”  They are "moving" it to the Grand Army Plaza Library where no new space has been created for it.  

It’s now evident, that as was previously suspected, those “moved” functions tucked away in a small hidden away room look instead as if they have all but ceased to exist at all.  The room has five small tables, no computers at all except for two restricting the public to catalogue access and another one at the tiny desk with one seat for the three librarians wandering through. 

It’s the BPL itself that’s quoted above.  Brooklyn’s libraries were once run by people who spoke and thought in such terms, not by real estate interests and political operatives catering to the priorities and schemes of hedge funds and private interests. . . .

Ironically, to get to this hidden away room you must pass down a back hallway where you might notice a vintage plaque from the old days that describes the former Business and Career Library in all its glory  in these glowing terms:
    The Business Library, which is the only public library on the East Coast devoted exclusively to business reference, has been located in the commercial hub of Brooklyn since it opened in 1943. The Library is internationally known for its wealth of resources, from the CD-ROM network of business, statistical and reference information, to the National Trade Data Bank, to newspaper abstracts, the New York Census Summary and much more.

    The Brooklyn Business Library and the Brooklyn Heights Branch functioned under the same roof at 197 Montague Street until 1960, when both collections moved to separate temporary quarters. In 1962, the Business and Brooklyn Heights libraries united again permanently in a spacious building at Cadman Plaza West.

    In 1991, the Cadman Plaza West building underwent an extensive $5.5 million overhaul that expanded the second floor to separately accommodate the Business Library and enhance the space throughout the building.
[The full upgrading and very substantial enlargement of the library was completed at the end of 1993.]  The renovations also added a new auditorium and state-of-the-art technology. Through its information resources and programming the Business Library looks forward to serving Brooklyn's business community into the 21st century.
Here is a floor plan of just the ground floor of the Brooklyn Heights Library, a four story library in all (two underground floors to store books for immediate access) showing what the Business, Career and Education Library has been at the Brooklyn Heights location although besieged by those intent on dismantling it.

Here are some pictures of the Business, Career and Education Library (more of the entire library being lost here.-  These pictures were taken on a tour of the library when it was closed.)

Note that no new space is being created to house the Business, Career and Education Library at the Grand Army Plaza Library where it is now being put.  In the 1990s the Grand Army Plaza Library was enlarged.  The Business and Career Library in Brooklyn Heights became the Business, Career and Education Library at that location when the Grand Army Plaza Library, even as expanded, was not large enough to accommodate the Education functions to they were moved to Brooklyn Heights.

Truckloads of books were moved out of the Brooklyn Heights Business, Career and Education Library.  Where did all of those books go?  Librarians told us that any books that duplicated books that could already be found at Grand Army Plaza (part of the point of having the convenience of multiple central libraries with deep resources) would not be moved to the new location.  In theory, many books would be kept off-site, not in the libraries.  Books would be "curated,"  librarian code for culled out and discarded.   Seeming to confirm this, those packing and transporting the books spoke of the many books headed for discard.

Here are the books disappearing as the shelves are completely emptied.

The next day Citizens Defending Libraries was outside.

Shelves were already empty weeks before in April while patrons struggled to use the library's resources.

While the BPL has shrunk the library down to a teeny room it is telling poeople that isn't its final or actual long term plan.  Many who might be curiously wondering and perhaps not actually visiting the room now called the "Business, Career and Education Library" (or sometime just the "Business and Career Library" are being handed our a flyer with a "conceptual rendering" of what the BPL says it expects to open in "2017" (i.e. in the next 18 months).  Trafficking in "conceptual renderings" of what will replace the Brooklyn Heights Library both in Brooklyn Heights and at Gran Army Plaza and the BPL can do so, and does, without ever having to actually design what is being rendered first.  You can speculate what we will actually get and when.

We were told that the BPL will convert auditorium space.   

"Conceptual renderings" are a cheep substitute for what isn't even designed although promised for "2017."  The BPL is perhaps now careful to say "conceptual" given we pointed out so many time that the were releasing PR renderings of space for which there were no designs.
What's promised-  promised?

It's best not to judge the BPL intent by what it promises with pretty pictures.  It's better to judge its intentions by what it is actually providing.
Is the once internationally renowned Business, Career and Education Library located here?  There is no reference to it when you look at the directory signs entering the Grand Army Plaza Library.- Click to enlarge and scan more closely
On the second floor you can find this sign for the "Business and Career Library".  Where does it actually point to?  Hint: It's not this little stack of books.  It actually seems to point to the "History, Biography and Religion" room.
The sign and what comes next appears to lead you into the "History, Biography and Religion" room and no where else.
If, misdirecting yourself, you wander into the "History, Biography and Religion" room you are apt to be discouraged by the empty shelves you will find there.  See below.  This is what the BPL is actually giving its patrons as it spends lavishly to sell and shrink libraries.  And the absence of books points to more shrinkage envisioned by the BPL in the future.

It's the books that themselves are history in this "History" room of the Grand Army Plaza Library, Brooklyn's biggest, most important central library, a library that is supposed to be all the more critical if the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library is sold and shrunk

Is it irony or something intentional on the BPL's part that it is featuring displays of art that ignore the sacred function of books, and conceptually reworks them into physical objects to chopped up, shredded and destroyed?  Remember that administrators could have used these display cases for something to interest people somehow in the content of the books in the library's collection.

What is the BPl really intent on giving the public in the way of books and a library experience?  Just down the hall the "Society, Sciences and Technology" rooms there are more bare shelves.

Looking to figure out how to understand and address climate change?  The BPL's central science library collection has a scant few books devoted to the subject.
A very minimal few books in the Science section of Brooklyn's biggest library about climate change.
BTW:  Nowhere in the entire Science section, nowhere in the entire Grand Army Plaza Library, nowhere, we were told in the entire BPL system is there a globe that shows the earth's geography or other related things.
A globe in use at the old NYPL Donnell central library.  You won't find Donnell there anymore and you will find it very difficult to find a globe in the NYPL system.  There isn't one in the Mid-Manhattan Library which was supposed to take up Donnell's functions.  There also isn't one in the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library which the NYPL wants to sell although it cost $100 million to build in 1996
Reference globes now in the Portland Oregon Library.  It has a fabulous map room
All the shelves of all three floors of the Portland library are crammed with available books.  Portland has a population of just over 600,000 compared to Brooklyn's population of over 2.6 million.
If you find the hallway (it once led down to former staff and administrative space the BPL was letting WorkForce1 use) where the Business, Career and Education Library room is located you'll pass by the plaque that says how great the library once was.

That day while we were there two people found there back back to the BCE room.

One was researching corporate bank manipulation schemes.  Not finding what was needed the patron had enlisted a librarian's aid and that was not working out either although the librarians was search the computer screen on her desk.

The other patron wanted a college test preparation book which was found, and also needed help about locating resources to find a job.
The BCE is the library where you would go to learn about the real estate industry in New York.  It has a few books on this shelve about zoning.

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