Thursday, June 25, 2015

The New York Public Library Wars

What went wrong at one of the world’s eminent research institutions?
The New York Public Library Wars 1
Alamy
The Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library’s main branch, on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. A group of scholars spearheaded a successful protest to stop radical changes at the library, but now it looks as if they may have lost anyway.

Scholars who use the New York Public Library are boiling with frustration. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2014 the library, under pressure from a coalition that included four senior scholars, abandoned its controversial Central Library Plan, which entailed gutting the stacks at the 42nd Street Library and selling the popular Mid-Manhattan Library across the street. But the situation hasn’t turned out how many critics had hoped.

Paula Glatzer, an independent Shakespeare scholar, has been engaged in research at the library since 1963 and has recently used the collections for her contribution to the new Variorum Shakespeare editions, published by the Modern Language Association. On January 15 she sent a letter to Anthony W. Marx, the library’s president: "Sadly, I have had to tell my Variorum colleagues that the NYPL is over … for now." Many books are stored off-site, some mislabeled as on-site; others have been lost or discarded, she wrote. "I requested a series. It couldn’t be found. I said it was hard to lose 21 volumes. A librarian overheard me and offered to look. He later emailed. All 21 volumes were indeed missing."  Read more...

EXPLORING THE MUSEUM ARCHIVES: THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY’S CONTRIBUTION TO NATIONAL ARC

Once upon a time, when Gerald Ford was president, I had a grant to be Assistant Archivist at Columbia University Teacher’s College Archives. Many years later, I was told the archives had closed. By then my career moved on to law librarianship. But that’s another story. I’m always glad to visit archives whenever I get a chance.
The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869. Theodore Roosevelt’s father was president of the Board of Trustees.  The Museum’s purpose is to provide scientific education and research. On Sunday, October 5, 2014, the American Museum of Natural History Library explained some of its archival holdings as part of National Archives Week.
Having completed a project for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reporting on best standards and practices for long term digital objects, I was eager to find out how the AMNH was approaching this problem, Vicky Steeves, a fellow from the National Digital Stewardship Registry has a grant funded by the Library of Congress to develop a preservation plan for the scientific papers with input from the scientists.  Vicky is applying a three pronged approach: following trends in technology; using interoperative file formats and migration to newer formats when required. This is what I learned from my project. AMNH is keeping the original material.
Next I spoke to Barbara Rhodes, the Library Conservator, whose purpose is to repair and restore materials as well as preserve them for research and display purposes. One thing she does is make photocopy facsimiles of materials that are displayed. Barbara had some examples. I particularly liked a facsimile of a work by Anton von Leeuwenhoek, inventor of the microscope (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/leeuwenhoek.html ) she photocopied the original work on handmade paper and then bound it into a book. Except for the binding, it gave a good impression of a 17th Century work.
Stacy Schiff, the Visual Resources Librarian, explained how they plan to eventually provide online access to the Library’s one million photographic images. These include glass plates and lantern slides. Sometimes the museum gives lectures using the lantern slides.                                                 Right now the photographic materials are arranged by size. So there can be all sorts of material in one box. So far the Digital Special Collections (images.library.amnh.org/digital) has curate 8500 items by topic and format. Stacy explained that there were three stages to loading an image onto the database: scanning the image; standardizing the data and adding the cultural context. For that purpose, Library applies Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and Encoded Archival Context (EAC) for metadata.  The website’s platform uses Omeka open source software. As a former cataloger, I was interested to learn that the material was described using Library of Congress subject headings, the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabulary/tgn/index.html ) and a local controlled vocabulary.
Thomas (Tom) Baione, the Library Director, presided over the Expeditions Table which displayed artifacts from Franz Boas’ ‘(http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/70705/Franz-Boas) photo scrapbook form Jessup North Pacific Expedition to Northwest Coast of North America and Siberia. Also displayed was a sweater worn
On the Central Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia lead by Roy Chapman Andrew (www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/24006). It was a little ragged and still had sand from the Gobi Desert. This expedition found a full set of dinosaur eggs. Later on, in the film preservation section, I saw a film of this discovery. Alas, it turned out the discovery of the eggs was staged or “reenacted” as we now say in documentary film and television.
 Also on display was a beautifully stuffed canary that looked ready to fly away except it was in a glass case. Twelve year old Carl Akeley, of the Museum’s Akeley Hall of African Mammals, was the soon to be revolutionary taxidermist. Akeley was also involved with the Field Museum in Chicago (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/carl-akeley). The film preservation section also had film of a camp of one of Akeley’s many expeditions to Africa. You see an African man ironing a table cloth. The expedition members sit down at a table and are served by other men. Along comes Akeley whose chair looked like a throne to me.
Barbara Mathe, Museum Archivist and Head of Special Collections, showed us a scrapbook of photos of Native Americans. In one photo, you can see the photographer in the subject’s eye. Barbara told us that, in discussions with the Zuni, they were told certain photos could not be displayed or otherwise observed as they were taken at a secret ceremony. Even other Zuni may not look at these photos. It’s a good example of how the Museum is sensitive to the people they study.
Then it was on to the film preservation section where Gregory Rami, Special Collections Librarian, explained how they preserved films and then digitizing them. I believe he said it was in the 1980’s they copied the films onto video tape in a format that was obsolete before the invention of the DVD. This is a good example of the difficulty in preserving archival film.
 It’s very expensive to digitize from film. It would cost about $16,000.00 to digitize the 1920’s 10 minute films Gregory showed. So digital copies are made from the tape copies played on the obsolete machines. I watched the films with my niece Brynn (soon to be a student at Pratt Library School). We both pronounced them “cool”. The Museum is still sponsoring expeditions which are recorded digitally.
My final stop was the Hidden Collections Table. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) are funding an inventory and description of all the archives in the Museum Library and Scientific Departments. Becca Morgan is the Project Archivist. Metadata Analyst Iris Lee has what I consider a really fun job. She visits all the departments, talks to scientists, and discovers connections that no one knew existed.
When I was a child, it was a real treat to come to the American Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaur bones. The planetarium was also fun. I am an adult. I know that there is an overwhelming and ongoing amount of treasure in the Museum  It was real treat to learn about what is being done to catalog and preserve it.
The Research Library (library.amnh.org) is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 2:00-5:30 and by appointment. Email libref@amnh.org or phone 212-769-5400.

An Historic Moment for Libraries As NYC's FY16 Budget Includes $39M Funding Increase by Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, METRO

In exciting news for our three public library systems, New York City’s FY16 budget includes an additional $39M in funding for library services. This significant increase will keep branch library doors open 6 days a week throughout the boroughs and will bring 500 new jobs. The de Blasio administration has also committed to a ten-year $300 million capital improvement budget for our libraries, a sorely needed commitment given the steady deterioration of our libraries’ infrastructure.

The city’s FY16 budget was announced late on Monday evening by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The budget also includes a major increase in funding for the NYPD, the parks department, and the city’s public schools.

This historic increase in funding comes after a multi-faceted advocacy campaign set forth by New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Library. The three systems teamed up on investinlibraries.org, which includes a white paper detailing their infrastructure issues. The libraries also promoted the hashtag #investinlibraries, held rallies around the city, created a letter-writing campaign, and gathered testimonials by the likes of Judy Blume, Junot Diaz, and Tom Wolfe.

Meanwhile, Urban Librarians Unite staged a 24-hour read-in on June 11 at City Hall. In his interview with Library Journal, city council majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer called the read-in “a steady drumbeat” that “made a compelling case that, in a city that sees growing income disparities and has too many people falling into poverty, unemployed, struggling, that public libraries are the first line of defense in the war against inequality and library workers are really at the front line.”
Read on metro.org

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The NYPL's Outdoor Reading Rooms Return For Summer

 Photo by Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library)

Can't pop open a Corona and stare at the turquoise waters while flipping through your beach read in the sand? Well, the NYPL has a fine, free alternative: their outdoor reading rooms will reopen tomorrow, and this year they've got swanky umbrellas to shade the sun from your pale winter skin.
The Outdoor Reading Room will be located on the plaza of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue, where there will be chairs and artificial grass to sit upon. If solitary reading isn't your thing, they'll also have author talks and other events, food trucks, and librarians who will help you find your soulmatebook.
The reading room will include colorful lounge chairs arranged on a plush "grass" carpet of soy bean based turf. Its mid-century modern design was inspired by the iconic 1970 Slim Aarons photograph Poolside Gossip, which epitomized the chic poolside social scene of the times.


Read more: http://gothamist.com/2015/06/22/the_nypls_outdoor_reading_rooms_ret.phphttp://gothamist.com/2015/06/22/the_nypls_outdoor_reading_rooms_ret.php

Monday, June 15, 2015

Turning a Long Lost Cookbook Into a Bestseller By Joy Bean | Jun 12, 2015

A cookbook published in 1938 in Yiddish doesn’t sound like a slam dunk to be a bestseller in 2015, and yet that’s precisely what happened with The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook: Garden-Fresh Recipes Rediscovered and Adapted for Today’s Kitchen by Fania Lewando, translated by Eve Jochnowitz (Schocken). The book, released on May 26, debuted at #8 on PW's cookbook bestseller list.

With only about 1,000 copies printed and sold throughout Europe before WWII broke out, the cookbook would have been lost to history if it had not been for two women, Wendy Waxman and Barbara Mazur, who found a copy of the long out-of-print book in the rare book room at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City. The women found a champion of the book in Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan who, in turn, brought the book to the attention of Schocken editorial director Altie Karper.

Bringing new life to a long-forgotten gem is one challenge, but promoting a book in which the author is deceased (Lewando died in 1941 while fleeing from the Nazis), and therefore doesn’t have a current platform, is even trickier. In order to do the book and its history justice, Schocken went back to the cookbook's roots, which are surprisingly current. “With all of Fania Lewando’s excellent advice about using the freshest, best quality fruit and vegetables you can get, and about using every part of the fruit or vegetable, and about not discarding even the cooking water, it seemed as though the book was written last week, and not 70 years ago,” said Karper. “I was particularly intrigued by the vegetable juice and fruit juice recipes. How much more 21st century can you get?”  Read more...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why Libraries Are Effective Instruments for Social Change | Urban Librarians Unite





We have been advocating for libraries for years and it always comes up in conversation that libraries are “book warehouses” or that we are outdated in the time of Google and ebooks. This could not be further from the truth. Here at Urban Librarians Unite we apply a lot of Library Science to the work we do. These are how we see libraries DIRECTLY addressing some of the most pressing issues in New York City every single day.
Services to Older Adults
New York City’s libraries offer many special programs and events tailored to the 50+ audience. These include lectures, films, performances and educational programs that reflect the wide interests of today’s older adults. Library outreach staff regularly visit nursing homes, senior centers, and adult care centers to run programs and loan books and other library materials.
ESOL/Citizens/New Americans
New York’s branch libraries provide a wide array of services for immigrants and are perhaps the most trusted government institution by foreign-born New Yorkers. Libraries offer English training for those who are not native speakers, preparation for the U.S. citizenship test and computer literacy classes. The libraries partner with immigrant and community groups to put on a wide variety of events and classes, from financial literacy seminars to courses on parenting, health and immigrant and tenant rights. In Queens, the library’s New Americans Program (NAP) organizes nearly 80 cultural programs each year. These programs include festivals, dance shows, music events, performances and much more. We have been advocating for libraries for years and it always comes up in conversation that libraries are “book warehouses” or that we are outdated in the time of Google and ebooks. This could not be further from the truth. Here at Urban Librarians Unite we apply a lot of Library Science to the work we do. These are how we see libraries DIRECTLY addressing some of the most pressing issues in New York City every single day.

Services to Older Adults
New York City’s libraries offer many special programs and events tailored to the 50+ audience. These include lectures, films, performances and educational programs that reflect the wide interests of today’s older adults. Library outreach staff regularly visit nursing homes, senior centers, and adult care centers to run programs and loan books and other library materials.
ESOL/Citizens/New Americans
New York’s branch libraries provide a wide array of services for immigrants and are perhaps the most trusted government institution by foreign-born New Yorkers. Libraries offer English training for those who are not native speakers, preparation for the U.S. citizenship test and computer literacy classes. The libraries partner with immigrant and community groups to put on a wide variety of events and classes, from financial literacy seminars to courses on parenting, health and immigrant and tenant rights. In Queens, the library’s New Americans Program (NAP) organizes nearly 80 cultural programs each year. These programs include festivals, dance shows, music events, performances and much more. Read more... 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Internet can’t replace libraries: Why they matter more than ever in the age of Google - Salon.com



This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
AlterNet




If you were airdropped, blindfolded, into a strange town and given
nothing but a bus ticket, to where would you ride that bus? You might be
surprised to learn that there’s only one good answer, and that’s the
public library. The library is the public living room, and if ever you
are stripped of everything private—money, friends and orientation—you
can go there and become a human again.

Of course, you don’t have to be homeless to use a library, but that’s the
point. You don’t have to be anyone in particular to go inside and stay
as long as you want, sit in its armchairs, read the news, write your
dissertation, charge your phone, use the bathroom, check your email,
find the address of a hotel or homeless shelter. Of all the institutions
we have, both public and private, the public library is the truest
democratic space.

The library’s value isn’t lost on us. A Gallup
survey from 2013 found that libraries are not just popular,
they’re extremely popular. Over 90 percent of Americans feel that
libraries are a vital part of their communities. Compare this to
53 percent for the police, 27 percent for public schools, and just 7
percent for Congress, and you’re looking at perhaps the greatest success

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Neil Gaiman: Libraries are cultural 'seed corn' | Books | The Guardian

The author tells Toby Litt how these ‘safe spaces’ were vital to him as a child, and why their closure endangers our future


Love letters to libraries: share your tribute to your favourite



 
Neil Gaiman with ‘a little empathy machine’.
Photograph: Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo Li/Alamy

A feral child who was raised in libraries

Toby Litt: You’ve described yourself as a “feral
child who was raised in libraries”. What age were you when you were
first drawn into a library, and why do you think they hooked you?

Neil: I was probably three or four when I first
started going to libraries. We moved up to Sussex when I was five, and I
discovered the local library very, very quickly. But I wasn’t really
hooked until I got to the point where I was old enough to persuade my
parents to just take me to the library and leave me there, which would
have probably been about seven or eight. And at that point it was like
being given the keys to the kingdom.  Read more...