Article on the NYPL in N+1

Like most librarians, I’ve been following the changes going on at the New York Public Library. It is one of those issues that casts a spotlight on the larger library world because of the vast importance of the institution. Charles Peterson’s essay in the amazing and fabulous journal N+1 burrows deep into the issue and he comes up with some suprising findings that have a lot to say about the corporatization of libraries and the future of reading culture. Here is a representative quote:

“More than anything, this rhetoric reveals the fundamentally anti-democratic worldview that has taken hold at the library. It is of a piece with what the new Masters of the Universe have accomplished in the public schools, where hedge funders have provided the lion’s share of the backing for privatization, and in the so-called reforms to our financial system, where technocrats meet behind closed doors to decide what will be best for the rest of us. Oligarchs acting in the people’s name (with the people’s money) is not democratic; selling off New York’s cultural patrimony to out-of-town heiresses, closing down treasured divisions and branches, pushing out expert staff, and shipping books to a warehouse in the suburbs, all without consulting the public, is not democratic. If the reconstruction goes through, scholarly research will be more, not less, concentrated in the handful of inordinately wealthy and exclusive colleges and universities. The renovation is elitism garbed in populist rhetoric, ultimately condescending to the very people the library’s board thinks they’re serving. It suggests that no one other than an Ivy League professor or student could ever hope to engage in scholarship or original research. Leave the heavy lifting to the folks at Harvard and McKinsey (and the quants in our commodities division), the financiers are saying; for the rest of you, there will be lovely sun-filled spots to check your email.”

I encourage you all to read the whole thing and let us know what you think. Part One can be found here and Part Two here