How Rainha Lost Her Crown: A Mini-Story on the Importance of Reading and Libraries
A couple of years ago I received a contract to write an article for an online encyclopedia predicting how Latino voters might affect the 2012 election. My search for primary and secondary sources led me to the New York Public Library’s Research Library at 42nd St. and Fifth Avenue. Within minutes, the library staffer had set me up with a library card even though I lived in Albany rather than New York City; this card, she said, is available to all residents of New York State. My books arrived promptly, and I spent several days in the historic reading room, where I managed to focus on my research and resist the speedy WiFi available there.
Since then, I have become a regular user of the World Languages Collection at the Mid-Manhattan Branch across the street. The Portuguese books have played a major role in helping me become a fluent reader and writer of the language. I would like to see that collection expand. I would also like to see the branch libraries stay open longer, with larger collections and more programs. Libraries in New York City have suffered greatly from budget cuts in recent years. I hope that this will change under the administration of recently elected Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Last week I received an email from my friends at the New York Public Library, asking me to sign a petition in support of the NYPL, as the new mayor sets his priorities for the city. I signed, hoping that corresponding support also goes to the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library, formerly known as the Queens Borough Public Library and the creator of the groundbreaking New Americans Program for immigrants to the borough and their neighbors.
If you are reading this and live in New York State (and especially if you live in New York City), I urge you to sign this petition by January 23, 2014. Signers of the petition will receive a free NYPL bookmark as well as the satisfaction of know you’ve done your part to insure that the free books, classes, programs, and other resources offered by the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library will be a major part of New Yorkers’ lives for years to come.
And if you’re still sitting on the fence, here’s a mini-story in LEGO of what can happen if our libraries do not get the support they need.
Here’s hoping that the NYPL takes top priority with the new mayor.
We’ve got a good shot! De Blasio was elected on a platform of looking out for the 99%, and supporting NYC’s cultural institutions truly benefits everyone.
Please do not sign the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) misleading appeal [mentioned above]. It has been designed with dishonest language by the NYPL and their costly PR firm, the Parkside Group, to trick you into signing-away public assets.
More on the Parkside Group here:
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has just sent out their annual email asking that people sign a letter to Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito urging them to support public libraries. Buried in the middle of this letter is a highly-misleading pledge of support for the Central Library Plan – a plan that would demolish the research stacks in the 42nd Street Library, send 1.5 million books to New Jersey, and sell the Mid-Manhattan Library. In short, the NYPL is asking you to tell Mayor de Blasio: please wreck the 42nd Street Research Library.
Please do NOT sign this appeal! And please tell your friends via email, Facebook, and tweets that this appeal is deceptive and should not be signed.
The appeal misleadingly asks that de Blasio support “A renovated central branch library that provides longer hours, more public space, and more resources for children, teachers, job seekers, and more.”
“Central Branch Library” is an intentionally camouflaged reference to the 42nd Street Library. The letter provides no indication of the destructive consequences of this so-called “renovation” – the irreparable harm to the 42nd Street Research Library, the loss of the Mid-Manhattan as a free-standing library and its shrinkage into a much smaller and ill-suited space never designed to hold a circulating library.
Because “renovated central branch library” is never defined, people reading the appeal will not realize it refers to the 42nd Street Library and to the Central Library Plan. NYPL simply made the name up; “central branch library” appears nowhere else in the entire NYPL website.
It’s a striking confirmation of the Plan’s unpopularity that the NYPL has to make use of such deceptive language in an attempt to create an appearance of support.
Mayor de Blasio has the power to stop the plan, and is on record demanding that the library find an alternative:
We intend to help him follow through on this commitment and truly strengthen our public library systems!
New York State Assemblymember Micah Kellner has issued a powerful statement about the NYPL’s misleading tactics:
I am profoundly disturbed that the leadership of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is using misleading and deceptive language in an attempt to trick New Yorkers into supporting its controversial Central Library Plan for the main 42nd Street Branch…
This is truly an example of Orwellian double-speak. The NYPL’s leadership must harbor serious doubts about the merits and practicality of its Central Library plan to employ such a willfully deceptive appeal.
Read Kellner’s full statement here:
Learn More About the NYPL’s Deceptive Campaign Here:
Learn More About the NYPL’s 42nd St. Library Plan Here:
Find Out About Brooklyn Library Sell-Offs to Developers Here:
I agree that the NYPL’s Central Library Plan is a foolish waste of money and we need to mobilize to reverse it and ensure that the city capital funds Bloomberg pledged to this plan be spent instead on actual branch libraries. However, the way to do this is not to oppose a larger city allocation to the NYPL, Queens and Brooklyn systems. First, we need to press for a significant increase in the city’s annual library budget. If we fail to do this, it only will give more power to the private interests that control NYPL. Then once the city’s contribution becomes more dominant at NYPL we can build on the existing opposition to convince DeBlasio to pull the plug on the Central Library Plan. I agree with the Committee to Save NYPL’s goals, but think their tactics will backfire.
Decades of starving the NYPL have led to these Faustian bargains with corporate interests to the detriment of the library system and the people of New York. Our first priority should be to fund the libraries to the extent that they do not have to ally with private entities that don’t care about ordinary library users and in fact often see them as an inconvenience. With sufficient funding in place we’re in a much stronger position to oppose the sale of valuable and irreplaceable library assets to the highest bidder.
Richard Lachmann is absolutely right that our branch libraries desperately need proper operating budgets and funds for renovation; so many of these libraries that serve our communities are in bad shape and underfunded. But the NYPL leadership is trying to link these things together with their grand renovation scheme (a big real estate debacle in the making) turning it all into one big package deal so they’ll get public $ for their huge unnecessary construction project – which involves, among other things, selling 2 branch libraries to private developers, who are going to make a fortune on the deal, as happened with the Donnell Library, sold in exactly the same way they are now proposing. The way NYPL has gone about trying to push this plan through with no public oversight and zero transparency (they haven’t even presented a budget yet but have already applied for building permits and put literally 3 million books into storage last winter/spring) is just appalling. And now they’re sending around this petition asking people to sign it to show the mayor they want him to support libraries (of course!), and only if you read the fine print and already know about the Central Library Plan do you have any chance at all of realizing that if you sign the petition you’re saying: Yes, please spend $350 million (including at least $150 million of taxpayer money) to chop up the research library and sell off the single most popular library branch. If their plan is such a good idea, why aren’t they openly asking people to support it rather than trying to trick people into signing a deceptive petition? Not cool.
What Susan Bernofsky says about the Central Library Plan is totally accurate. The question then is: how can we both support increased library funding and make our opposition to the Central Library Plan clear? Perhaps the best is to write letters to the Mayor and to our City Council member specifying our views. Elected officials pay the most attention when they think constituents are informed and closely following an issue. That is why individual letters carry much more weight than signatures on petitions.