Tag Archives: New York Public Library

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

A Find in the NYPL Archives

(2015-05-14 001)It’s always interesting what you can find when doing archival research.

When I was at the New York Public Library (the main one) doing research for my term paper. I was going through the John Shaw Billings papers when I came across a small envelope, inside which was a ribbon with the word “Usher.” Here, someone had donated their ribbon from being an usher at the laying (2015-05-14 002)of the corner stone of the New York Public Library (the main building) in 1902.

I just had to take a photo of it. Here’s a link to the past, from someone long dead. This is what makes research interesting, finding physical pieces linking the present with the past.

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Filed under History, New York City

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

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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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Filed under Holidays, Libraries, New York City