Yesterday I was invited to tour the stacks at the 42nd Street Library as part of a delegation from the PEN American Center, which the NYPL is hoping to win over to its cause. The purpose of the tour was to convince us that the demolition of the stacks is necessary and a contribution to service and scholarship. What I saw convinced me of the opposite.
We were led through a floor of the stacks that once held 3 million books directly below the Rose Reading Room, making it possible for a book to be delivered to a library user minutes after it was requested. The rows and rows of empty stacks were a sad sight. There was also a striking discrepancy between what we were seeing and the talking points that our hosts, Chief Library Officer Mary Lee Kennedy and Vice President of Communications and Marketing Ken Weine, kept repeating as we walked.
What they said was: Look what bad shape the stacks are in, and before we removed the books you would smell a terrible smell down here: “the smell of the books dying” (Kennedy). This has been a talking point NYPL CEO Anthony Marx has been repeating for months now: the claim that the library “had no choice” but to remove the books from the stacks a year ago because the books were “rotting” on the shelves. I don’t know anyone not in the employ of NYPL who believes that this is true. (more…)
The following article is an op-ed by Susan Bernofsky, associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts.
The New York Public Library is the only research facility open to the general public in New York City, and now we stand to lose it as part of a renovation scheme that is poised to sell off public buildings for private profit. It came out last week, in an interview on Charlie Rose, that Schwarzman, the library’s biggest donor, made his $100 million contribution in 2008 with the understanding that the library would sell off some of its local branches and undertake a massive renovation project designed to result in enormous construction contracts (most of which will be funded at taxpayer expense). In short, he bought the right to determine the New York Public Library’s future, something that should not have been for sale at any price. (more…)