Category Archives: Libraries

Look! A Real Ship’s Library!

I decided to take a look at the ship’s library, and boy was I surprised.

Other cruise lines have a “library,” which is usually shelves of books, in open cases, where people can help themselves to what they want. The Queen Mary 2 has an actual library. The bookshop (where they are selling books and trinkets) is part of the complex. The circulation desk and the cash register is the same area. I found really strong, florescent lights (ick!) that illuminated the cases. The books were on shelves with lips on them (to stop books from spilling over on rough seas) and the cases actually locked! Passengers were allowed to borrow two books and they had to be back before the ship returns to New York. I found two books I liked then decided to sit and read them there. (They were mostly just photographs.)

I wandered around and found computers for the Internet and spaces to sit and read. The stacks were pretty big, running the aisles and around the rim of the room.

I haven’t seen a ship’s library like this since Semester at Sea. I’m impressed.


Filed under Libraries, Travel

What Happened to Schwarzman’s 100 Million to NYPL, and Woes for Queens Library

New York Public Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Library

New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library

First things first.

Another negative article on NYPL, this one in the Daily News.

Stephen Schwarzman gave $100 million to NYPL, which was the biggest donation in the history of the library, prompting the trustees to rename the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at 42nd Street–the flagship, main library–the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Reporter Scott Sherman wants to know where the money went. NYPL just recently got back $39 million in funding from  New York City to stay open 6 days a week.

No one at NYPL has said much, including Schwarzman.

In the meantime, an article in The New York Times reports financial improprieties at Queens Library, one of the three public library systems in New York City. Thomas W. Galante, the president of the library system who was fired last December, is at the center of a $310,000 misappropriation of funds that the city comptroller has discovered during an audit. (Galante looks like a happy camper in the accompanying photograph.)

The comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, turned over the information to the IRS. The taint from Galante extends to the acting president, Bridget Quinn-Carey, as well as others, which prompts one to ask, whose snout isn’t in the trough?

Just the type of negative publicity that libraries need. Already there are people who think that public libraries are expendable; during budget cuts the libraries are the first to get hit.


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More Woes for NYPL

Stitched Panorama

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article by Scott Sherman on what is going on at the 42nd Street main library of the New York Public Library.

This library, also know as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, was renamed the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building after one of the Board of Trustees who donated millions to the library. Like most New Yorkers, I still call it by its two former names.

The comment on 21 volumes of a title that is now missing in a closed stack library is interesting. Closed stacks are when library personnel need to retrieve materials for the patron. Most of Europe’s libraries are closed stacks. Most U.S. libraries allow patrons to walk in and retrieve the materials for themselves, unless it is a special collection or archival material, in which case these collections are closed stack.

If this was a title that was sent off-site and then brought back, it sounds as if the movers that were used were not professionals in moving library collections. These specialized movers know that library collections are in a certain order and they preserve that order when they move them. I know of  a college library where the library was remodeled. They hired bargain-basement movers who, once they filled up the shelving, started back at the beginning and filled up those shelves until all the books were shelved, thereby destroying the classification order of half the books. It took the college library YEARS to get their collection back in order.

However, it seems that the stacks that were emptied for the renovation still remain empty; the books are still in the off-site facility. As Sherman suggests, is this revenge on those who stopped the renovation? A colleague of mine at New York University who is an expert in his field went to NYPL when they first started moving the collection from the building. Of the nineteen titles he said were basic texts needed for his subject, eleven or twelve were off in storage. Needless to say, he was not impressed with the selector.

Sherman’s remarks about the trustees being devoted to the special collections but ambivalent to making these materials available to researchers says quite a bit. The rich collect manuscripts and pieces of art to show off–what? How rich they are, how cultured, how sophisticated, etc. This sounds like how the trustees are treating these materials. Look but don’t touch. Even in the Roman Republic and Empire, private libraries were made available to patrons of affluent patricians. In this case, the materials are in what is supposed to be a public library–funded with government dollars. Even the Roman patricians understood research. They don’t in this country, apparently.

People like this have been slowly draining this country for over four decades; I see no relief in sight.



Filed under Libraries, New York City

At the UN

(2015-05-22 001)On Friday, I took a tour with other ACRL/NY members to the United Nations for a tour of the library. We were met at the visitor’s gate by two UN employees, one of them being a librarian who was originally from Germany. (The other one was originally from Portugal.) We were led into where the metal detectors were and, like in the airports, we had to take off our belts and empty our pockets of everything. Then we were led back out into the courtyard, across the compound and into the building where the delegates cafeteria is located, past that and down a long hall, turning right and coming to the entrance to the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, named for the second UN secretary-general who was killed in a plane crash on a peace-keeping mission to Africa. In March 2015, the current secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, named a three panel commission to investigate new evidence about the plane crash; the report is expected at the end of June. The Guardian has an article on it.

(2015-05-22 014)We were shown the library, which is on three floors, all disconnected. The stacks we could not even get to because someone had locked the door to that level, so we had to take the elevator. Since there were so many of us, we made several trips. We were shown items from the collection, including the 1945 San Francisco treaty that established the United Nations. This was published in a book. And where is the original? Why in the National Archives, of course. The library has almost a complete set of the League of Nations documents; the complete set is at the former League headquarters in Geneva.

(2015-05-22 010)In a meeting room where it looked like the card catalog was kept (all materials 1979 and back are still on cards and are not in the computer), the chief librarian welcomed us and gave us an overview of how the library’s staff has shrunk with the cuts in funding. He also presented how he would like the library to begin doing outreach to other libraries in the Greater New York area, and becoming more connected. There were two other CUNY librarians there and I commented that the library looked like one from CUNY, and the two quickly agreed with me, since they had come to the same conclusion. It is sad. This is the leading institution in the world trying to resolve conflicts between nations peacefully, and its library is woefully underfunded.

(2015-05-22 016)There was a question-and-answer with the librarians while we noshed on some snacks. Then it was time to leave. I’d like to help the library find funding to finish the retrospective conversion–meaning that what the library has in the card catalog would be completely computerized. Materials are also being digitized, so digitizing the rare materials like the League documents would be available online. Unfortunately, since the terrorist attacks in 2001, security has been tightened so much that it is almost impossible for scholars who need to do research over the long term to get access for more than one day.


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Along Library Way in Manhattan

(2015-04-17 009)The other day, I was walking to Grand Central and on the way I snapped some photographs of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library of NYPL. (Final project for class.) After snapping some pics, I headed down Madison Avenue and turned onto 41st Street, the block facing Park Avenue. It was then that I realized that I could fulfill one of my dreams.

I stood in the middle of the sidewalk like a tourista and took a photograph of (2015-04-17 008)the sidewalk.

Ah, but not just any part of the sidewalk. 41st Street’s blocks between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue have been designated “Library Way,” since the main entrance to NYPL is across from 41st Street on Fifth. Besides renaming these two blocks, the city put bronze (well, they appear bronze) plates in the cement to celebrate NYPL. There are all sorts of quotes, designs, whatever in celebration of libraries and, I assume, knowledge and civilization.

This is a popular tourista attraction: standing in the middle of the sidewalks (2015-04-22 011to photograph these amazing markers–much to the annoyance of New Yorkers. Having lived here for years, I knew better. Still, I took my pics, then quickly headed to the terminal.

If you ever come to the city, be sure to stand on 41st Street between Fifth and Park Avenues so that you can read each and every one of these markers. I’ve actually seen some people do this, or I assumed I did since I didn’t stand around and wait for them to finish.


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Filed under Art, Libraries, New York City

Busy, Busy

I’ve been busy these last few weeks.

ACRLNY-Logo-Rectangle2Today, I talked to the Academic Librarians’ Writing/Research Group about how to find ideas to write about. The notes I used were from a 2010 talk a colleague of mine from New York University gave to the ACRL/NY New Librarians Discussion Group (NLDG) when I was the chair. I was his “poster child” in his five steps of getting a work published. My colleague has said that he ought to write-up his points in an article, and I could not agree more.

It seems to have gone very well; there was a lot of questions and answers from all over the room. I met some very interesting people who need a little help in getting their publications out. This group, originally under the aegis of the NLDG and the Mentoring Program, was established as an ad hoc committee in the afternoon by the president of ACRL/NY, on its way to becoming a regular group in the organization.

Jacob Odell House (Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown) (2013-03-15 001)Last night, I went to a Board of Trustees meeting of the Historical Society Inc., Serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. It was held in the Washington Irving Memorial Chapter, which is in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. After the new trustees were elected, a news writer spoke on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. I was against the new bridge, but I had misinformation. There’s was less dredging of the Hudson River than I thought, the bridge will have express bus lanes, it has sensors around the work site to protect the endangered sturgeon, and the bridge is built to carry two sets of train tracks that can be added in the future. Even the design doesn’t disgust me as much. The bridge is guaranteed to last 100 years.

And I continue to work on the Charles Rockwell papers at the historical society. I only do this a few hours a week, so progress is slow, but the papers are getting organized.

On April 24th, I was on a panel at the NLDG event, “Demystifying the Hiring Process.” Three other colleagues from other institutions were on the panel and we were asked questions by the moderator. Questions were also taken from the audience. This was another good talk that was well-attended, and I think people took away some ideas about how academic libraries do their hiring.

PSC-CUNY logoIn mid-April, I was awarded a PSC-CUNY grant to buy a Mac Air computer. I will need this to do research on Greco-Roman libraries built in the early 20th century and compare the structures to their ancient predecessors. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get the equipment until after July 1 as this is when the grant begins. Still, I am eager to begin working on my web site. Because I need to know Omeka and geographical software for my job, I will probably use Omeka for the content, and I will be looking at different software for geographical locations.

Like I said, busy, busy, busy.


Filed under Libraries, Writing

At the Historical Society

Jacob Odell House (Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown) (2013-03-15 001)

The Jacob Odell House (Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown)

Though another winter storm is expected Monday, the weather has been looking up. Spring is just around the corner. Besides, our bit of Earth is moving too close to the sun, so even if we get snow it cannot last long.

I officially started volunteering at the Historical Society, Inc. Serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. The Historical Society is in the Jacob Odell house, built in 1848. Odell was a resident who left his house for the Historical Society.

I’m working on the Charles H. Rockwell papers. Charles Rockwell was a resident who served in the Union Army as the assistant quartermaster of volunteers in New Orleans during the Civil War. There’s about two boxes of papers and a box of ledgers. It’s going to be my job to create a finding aid for the collection.

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Books vs. the Rich: the Protest at NYPL on Monday

(2013-12-16 035)

The protest on the steps of NYPL’s main branch at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

On Monday at noon, a bunch of people dressed up as books were told by another bunch of people dressed up in fancy clothing to get out of the library. The books fought back and refused to leave the library. A debate ensued between the books and the rich, who were trying to get the books to realize that no one needs libraries because no one reads books, and that the libraries could be sold to developers. This was the entire point of the protest: NYPL had been sold down the river by the rich serving on its Board of Trustees

NYPL is currently relocating a large chunk of it’s main branch research collection to New Jersey, where the library shares a storage facility with NYU and Princeton. The idea is to create a “library of the future” by remodeling areas and folding into the main branch the Mid-Manhattan Library, which is a very popular (and busy) branch library across the street. They also intend to sell that building as well as the part of the old Altman’s department store that currently houses NYPL’s Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL), the collection also being folded into the main branch.

The main branch has a major research collection known throughout the world. The relocating of materials to storage to make room for the popular library and SIBL (also used by quite a number of people), which is also a research library, as well as redesign former book shelving areas to create new patron areas, has many people alarmed.

From the beginning, NYPL botched the unveiling of the new plans, which were presented as an accomplished fact without any public input. This went over like a lead balloon and galvanized people to preserve the Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL and the research collection at the main branch.

Promoted on Facebook, this protest was a success in that it garnered quite a bit of attention from passersby as well as a few media outlets that showed up to get their five second sound bite. Rumors circulate that NYPL is now an organization of fear, where librarians and staff are terrorized by the administration to stay silent on what is going on.


Filed under Libraries, New York City

Holidays at the New York Public Library

Though NYPL is embroiled in a controversy to “remake” the main building at Fifth Avenue  and 42nd Street in Manhattan into a “library of the future,” the building is spruced up (as usual) for the end of the year festivities.

The entrance from Fifth Avenue brings the visitor into Astor Hall, which is made out of marble and truly is a grand entrance. The tree is beautiful. Though Hanukkah is over, the menorah was completely lit when I visited.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing are the wreaths around the necks of the famous lions outside the library. The wreaths are far too big, and the lions literally get lost in them. A much smaller wreath around the necks of the lions would look so much better. Perhaps the wreaths (and bows) are so big to make it harder for someone to steal. After all, what would one do with such big wreaths?

Then again, just a little bigger and those wreaths could probably fit comfortably around Lady Liberty’s neck.

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George Washington’s Presidential Library

The entry sign across the street from the Mount Vernon complex

The entry sign across the street from the Mount Vernon complex

Mary and I arrived a bit early, and after parking in the lot on the opposite side of Mount Vernon, we moved to the parking lot right next to the library. The library sits back from the road among trees. The landscaping is not finished as yet, and there are still some things missing in the library itself, like the signature of George Washington which will hang in the entry lobby.

Washington's library surrounded by barren ground

Washington’s library surrounded by barren ground

I knew Mark Santangelo from the Onassis Library at the Met. He had assisted me in my research before I went on sabbatical. I was surprised that Mark had left and took the job at Mount Vernon, but this was helping to finish a new library for George Washington–the only president who didn’t have a presidential library. It was Mark’s wife’s birthday, so all his in-laws were there. He gave them a tour and invited Mary and me along.

This is the main reading room from the outside. The walls have busts of Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison mounted

This is the main reading room from the outside. The walls have mounted busts of Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison

There is no photography in the library. I might have been able to get away with some pictures, but I decided not to try. Special collections houses the books that were owned by George Washington. There’s a vault for the papers of Washington, which are slowly being transferred from the University of Virginia. In the 1960s, the Ladies of Mount Vernon worked closely with UV to gather and publish Washington’s papers, which are now being digitized.

Mary and me at the reception with the library in the background

Mary and me at the reception with the library in the background

The reception was nice, but it was held outdoors in the high humidity. As a result, the cheese had started to melt. This, however, didn’t stop people from eating. A nice couple talked to Mary and me and offered to take our picture. I also took one of them and promised to send them the photo.

What a wonderful place. Finally, Washington has the library that he always wanted, even if it is 214 years after his death. (Better late than never.)

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