|Rose Room at the NYPL|
Here it is at last: a petition asking the president of the New York Public Library to reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library. The plan's critics - and I am one of them - believe that the plan would turn the landmark building into a glorified Starbucks, stymie research and gut the libraries original mission. Simply put: it's an awful idea and must not happen. Why? The main branch at 42nd Street is a rare thing in this day and age since it is one of the world's greatest research libraries.
Please join me and add your voice by signing the petition here.
For those who would like to better understand the need for this petition, I highly recommend reading Charles Peterson's chronology of events which you can do here and here. Mr. Peterson's interviews with former librarians illustrate the central point of opposition: it's not about technology, but rather, the denigration of research.
"With few exceptions, the older librarians with whom I spoke were similarly technologically up-to-date. Unlike newspaper and book publishers, who greeted the internet and e-readers with fear, librarians have little attachment to books, since they have long provided patrons with everything from papyri to scrolls to broadsides to prints to photographs to manuscripts to 78 rpm records to CDs to 16mm films toVHSs to DVDs to databases. Librarians pride themselves on knowing more about how to access information than anyone. No matter how old the librarian, and no matter how much I learned about the latest trends, I continued to find that most everyone I spoke with knew far more about how to find things online than I did.
Nonetheless, almost every single former librarian with whom I spoke opposed the plan to renovate the main branch. Why? Ann Thornton, the system’s newly appointed top librarian, suggested that the concerns of former librarians are due to the fact that, as she put it, “Change is really difficult.” The change the older librarians had trouble dealing with, however, was not technological. It was the change in the library’s mission. No former staff member said to me, “The administration doesn’t care about books.” Rather, they said, “The administration doesn’t care about research.”
If you are in New York, you might consider attending a public debate on this issue on Tuesday May 22, 2012. For more information, please click here.