City Journal Spring 2014

Current Issue:

Spring 2014
Table of Contents
Subscribe
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Stephen Eide
The New York Public Library’s Uncertain Future « Back to Story

View Comments (16)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.


 
Showing 16 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
The Internet is the new library.
You've got "central" and "plan" in the same phrase, so what could go wrong?
It interesting that this plan doesn't seem to include a comprehensive plan to digitize the collection. That,s something that all world class libraries should be planning to do.

Not only does it guarantee easy access,it also allows researchers to easily follow up footnotes and cross referenced items.
The NYPL's access is perhaps a bit too open. Sometimes book go missing.

Years ago, I decided that, although I don't even come close to agreeing with her, the 1870s writings of Victoria Woodhull anticipate so much of modern feminism that what she wrote really ought to be back in print.

Only two copies of one of her books existed in WorldCat. The NYPL seemed rather evasive when I tried interlibrary loan with them. I had to push to discover that the book had gone missing from their collection. I ended up persuading Yale University to loan me the only other copy, bless their hearts. When I went to return it, I hand delivered it to the librarian and told her to watch it carefully.

Those two books are Lady Eugenist, which has her pioneering eugenics well before any men got interested in the topic, and Free Lover, in which she advocates sex any time for any reason.

Woodhull gave up free love, denying she'd ever said what she'd said, to marry into a wealthy English banking family. But she was still promoting eugenics in 1927, just weeks before her death, when she told the NY Times that she fully supported the forced sterilization of Buck v. Bell.

In The Pivot of Civilization in Historical Perspective I explore in greater detail why feminism became so rabidly pro-eugenic in the early decades of the twentieth century. Understand both Woodhull, the pioneer, and later activists such as Margaret Sanger, and you'll understand a lot about modern feminism.

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books
Someone should also look into how the library has off-loaded storage of its branch collections to the public and how it has sold of at radically low prices to the book re-seller whose name escapes me now.

The library has accomplished the former in different ways: increasing the number of books that can be taken out to 50; increasing the number of times that a book can be renewed to 10; and, removing electronic guards and security guards from library. These may be all for the better, but it has to be looked at in the larger context of other decisions. The size of collections at many libraries has shrunk dramatically.

The other component is the selling off of older books to the company. By doing this the library is also removing the element of serendipity, where one finds a book one was not looking for, and thereby discovers something new, sometimes a new vein of exploration that might lead to even greater findings.
This is utterly ridiculous. Can you please base your reporting in reality and not hyperbole? "Further, combining research and branch services in the same facility amounts to administrative folly." You are really letting your snobbery and entitlement show there. These "scholars" that are complaining have no extra right to library services. You have done this whole story, talked about history, and done absolutely NO HOMEWORK about the current budget situation. As usual discussions of this topic are supposition and hand-wringing from another "expert" who has no clue about libraries or our community.
Thank you. -David (NYPL staff)
I am 64 years old. I have been using the NYPL
42nd St. library(aka, Schwarzman Bldg)not just for years, but for decades(I remember before air conditioning and when the card catalogs lined the walls of Room 315). My impression of Anthony Marx and the current management of NYPL
is that they are more interested in making the 42nd St. library a tourist attraction than a
first-rate research facility. They are not thinkers and scholars interested in education and the public welfare; they are nickel'n'dime
carnival barkers interested in a high-school sort of "chic" and popularity.
Bruce I. Gudmundsson November 01, 2013 at 1:06 AM
Mr. Eide is right. Combining the functions of a world-class research library with those of a local public library is folly. Offsite storage, however, is not without its advantages. Indeed, when doing research for my doctoral dissertation at the Main Branch I discovered that it was easier to use offsite books than those that were stored locally. That is, if I ordered an offsite book, it would be waiting for me when I arrived in the reading room. If, however, I ordered a book stored in the stacks of the Main Branch, I had to wait an hour or two for it to make its way to the reading room. Moreover, while offsite books would be held in the reading room for several days, onsite books would be returned to the stacks each evening.
Libraries are not in the real estate or architectural preservation business. I agree with Deidre. The building should be abandoned (sold or used for revenue positive events such as weddings and meetings) and a new building better able to house the collection and provide the latest technology should be built. If all books were available in a digital format, the originals could be housed in a state of the art facility in a much less costly venue and the cost of service would be greatly reduced.
Both the Bibliotheque Nationale and the British Museum recognized that they were primarily research libraries, and not public gathering places in high-rent districts, and moved their research operations to lower-rent parts of their cities. The result has been revitalization of those marginal real estate areas, and sophisticated, modern facilities appropriate to their enterprise which is research. NYPL would do well to draw lesson from these examples. The Bronx? Queens?

One other note: books placed below ground level get flooded eventually. The so-called waterproof "tub" under Bryant Park is not the answer for permanent protection of valuable and in some cases unique research materials. Recent storm history and rising sea levels make this proposal unrealistic at best.
Congratulations on an excellent history and critique. This should be required reading for all NYPL board members. We at the Committee to Save the New York Public Library are in your debt.
Where are the library associations on this? Too busy promoting "social change" I expect.
The Library's plan is modern and democratic. The chief opponents of this plan seem ridiculously elitist and privleged. I don't have time for their perspective. Get the project done. The Library serves the City of NY and this project will enable it to stay with the times and continue to be relevant.
I, of course, have many wonderful memories of reading and doing research at the NYC public library when I was a student at NYU some 35 and 40 years ago. All the declarations of independence of the nations of the Americas were there in the original languages with histories and commentaries. But exiled as I am thousands of miles from New York the great library might as well be the Vatican or the Library of Alexandria. As a matter of fact I am more likely to visit the Vatican than the New York City public library. And the fate of the New York City Public library is probably the same as the Library of Alexandria: a slow inexorable decline and a final destruction. As New York City, New York State and the USA decline economically that future is almost a certainly. AVE ET VALE
Staten Island Lil October 29, 2013 at 5:18 PM
The problem with the Manhattan Branches and the Mid Manhattan in particular is as a Staten Island Resident, I have to truck into Manhattan to borrow from it otherwise it is considered an ILL (inter library loan) and I get a one shot 15 day loan). If I live out the City in the State, I have to pay for usage. The whole setup for borrowing for New Yorkers is insane and because of that most people outside of Manhattan don't care about it...and that's the real tragedy