Michael Borries | 17 Apr 20:03 2012

What readers want

Without commenting on the issues (with which I am not familiar), I send this along primarily as an example of
what at least one segment of readers wants from libraries (neither Joan Scott nor Sandy Cooper are
librarians, and the people to whom this was                sent are faculty of various institutions).

Michael S. Borries
Cataloger, City University of New York
151 East 25th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY  10010
Phone: (646) 312-1687
Email: Michael.Borries@...<mailto:Michael.Borries@...>


From: CUNY UFS Announcement-only list
On Behalf Of Sandi Cooper
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 1:23 PM
To: UFS-NEWS@...<mailto:UFS-NEWS@...>
Subject: The NYPL proposal to alter 42nd St

Dear Colleagues

Please send this around widely.   Attached is a letter drafted by Joan Scott of the Princeton Institute of
Advanced Study to Anthony Marx, head of the 42nd St. Library -- who plans to alter the library in a manner
antithetical to its status as a premier research institution.  Your endorsement in important.


Sandi E. Cooper, Chair
University Faculty Senate -- CUNY
535 E 80 Street
New York, N Y 10075
212 794 5538


From: *Joan Scott* <jws@...<mailto:jws@...>>
Date: Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 4:59 PM
Subject: A letter to the NYPL
To: Joan Scott <jws@...<mailto:jws@...>>

Dear Colleagues,
Several of us, concerned about the direction being taken by the plan to restructure the New York Public
Library, have written the attached letter to Anthony Marx.  We hope you will be willing to sign it and to send
it to others who may wish to sign as well.
If you wish to sign, simply send me an email--I'm collecting signatures.
Many thanks
Joan W. Scott

Joan W. Scott
Harold F. Linder Professor
School of Social Science
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, NJ  08540

Anthony Marx
New York Public Library

Dear Dr. Marx,

                We write, as scholars, writers, researchers and teachers, who have long benefitted from the services and
collections available to us at the four research facilities of the New York Public Library.  We are alarmed
by the Central Library Plan, which seems to us to be a misplaced use of funds in a time of great scarcity.   The
budget cutbacks of the past five years have had disastrous effects for the NYPL'S research libraries, and
especially 42nd Street:

*the skilled staff vital to supporting our research activities-curators, archivists, bibliographers
and librarians-have been drastically reduced in number;

*the Slavic and Baltic division and the Asian and Middle Eastern division have been entirely eliminated;
and there is no full-time curator for the Slavic collection.
*the Schomburg Library in Harlem-THE place to do research on African-American history-- has been allowed
to deteriorate through the postponement both of capital improvements and of computer upgrading;

*The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center  is no longer a haven for scholars and critics.  Many of
the reference librarians who specialized in dance, music, recorded sound, and theater wre eliminated,
moved off the reference desks or offered buyouts.

Instead of addressing these issues, the CLP will spend over $300 million on a restructuring of the 42nd
Street building which includes a huge expansion of public space, the removal of stacks (and and the 3
million books in them), and the creation of a circulating library in the building.  While we understand
that it may be necessary to store some books in order to make room for others and that more computer access
may be necessary for users of the library, the changes planned envision a much more radical transformation.

NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution (second only to the Library of Congress in the
US),--a destination for international as well as American scholars-- and become a busy social center
where focused research is no longer the primary goal.  Books will be harder to get when they're needed
either because of delays in locating them in the storage facility or because they have been checked out to
borrowers.  Those of us who also use university libraries know how frustrating it is to discover that the
book we need immediately is checked out or lost.  And we worry about the effects of removing the stacks that
now support the glorious Rose Reading Room. More important, perhaps, is that the CLP seems to make no
mention of restoring the staff positions that have been lost and that are critical for the functioning of a
major research institution.

One of the claims made about the CLP is  that it will "democratize" the NYPL,  but that seems to be a
misunderstanding of what that word means.  The NYPL is already among the most democratic institutions of
its kind.  Anyone can use it; no credentials are needed to gain entry.   More space, more computers, a café,
and a lending library will not improve an already democratic institution.  In fact, the absence of expert
staff will diminish the accessibility of the collections to those who aren't already experienced
researchers, narrowing the constituency who can profitably use the library.  They will be able to borrow
books, to be sure, but they won't be inducted into the world of archives and collections if staff aren't
there to guide them.  Also, in the age of the web, we need, more than ever, skilled, expert librarians who can
assist us in navigating the new databases and the back alleys of cyberspace. We understand that it is often
easier to raise money by attending to buildings (and naming them), but the real need at the NYPL is for the
preservation of a great library and the support of its staff.

We appreciate the fact that you have established a committee consisting of some critics of the CLP to advise
you.  We hope you will take a hard look at the plan you've been given and revise it so that the splendid culture
of research embodied by the NYPL can be maintained.   We think the money raised can be better used to preserve
and extend what already exists at 42ND street.  Change is always necessary, but not of the kind envisioned
by the CLP.



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