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...

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