Reflections on the New York Public Library or An Ode to General public Institutions.
Anyone who has visited the New York Public Library understands the most basic elements of what is amazing about it. When you walk in, you feel both grand and small. This is a magnificent edifice dedicated to knowledge, ideas, culture, and creativity, which are all-as Maria notes-limitless. At this same time, this is a public space, it is there to serve you and it was created in your honor. This has always inspired me once i walk into the library.
But this time, a few more reflections are in order. This city honors libraries. The buildings that make up a city determine the character of a city. It’s very important to appreciate older buildings in Manhattan, as many are a part of the library..
What does it mean to honor libraries? I don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, there are estimates carved into the wall all over the library. To honor libraries is to honor democracy. It is to honor the equality of citizens-to respect and indeed develop a meritocracy.
It is to honor the role of knowledge in society. It is to honor human being potential. This library is a demonstration that New York City honors these ideals, however imperfect we may be in fully realizing them. Libraries are both the past and the future Although its architecture is very classic, when the New York Public Library was built, it was a model of innovation. The system of publication retrieval is an illustrative example. Being a research library, many of the NYPL’s books are not in continuous demand.
Therefore most books are not stored in the open spaces of the library, but rather between floors and below the basement where they may be amassed in shelf after shelf of books. A patron would find the publication she desired in the catalogue and write it down on a retrieval slip. The retrieval slip would then be put into a capsule which would be transferred to the appropriate floor via what was then a modern vacuum technology. A porter would receive the capsule, and fetch the publication.
This system experienced the added benefit of offering rise for a metropolitan star: that the groups retrieving books travel throughout the stacks on roller skates ( incorrect, I am sorry to survey ). As you may expect, the NYPL is completely different now than it was when it opened. It had been main libraries to digitize its catalogue, preserving a wall structure of books filled up with the old credit cards, for preservation purposes. We noticed books being transferred off-site, as the collection relocates a lot of its collection to a warehouse in NJ.
The books it’s still available, however they should be carried from the warehouse about demand. While this move was spurred by changes in the ways the brand new Yorkers gain access to information-and specifically a reduced demand for books, it triggered a great deal of controversy in NY, as people lamented the finish of the reserve. Obviously, the NYPL hasn’t abandoned the reserve. But this tale does bring about a fascinating conundrum that libraries face.
However the collection is an open public institution, people’s romantic relationship with it is deeply personal. The library is thus in a complicated place, it must both constantly innovate to be at the leading edge, but additionally it is the vanguard of our distributed culture, which can spill over into nostalgia. In Busia, we reach be leading edge now. We get to begin from nothing and think about everything that Busia needs, range out every one of the best ideas that are out there, and build predicated on that.
We’ll have a citizen research middle, a co-working space, and an dental background lab. But , once built, the work of being impressive is not done-it’s a continual process to not be a relic. Libraries are multi-use spaces I can’t even list all of the different activities we saw happening at the library. We went to the map room, the reading rooms, the microfiche room, and the children’s section (Winne the Pooh! ).
We stepped over art students making sketches of the building interior, we breezed through one of the two amazing exhibitions curated by the library’s staff, we tip-toed through the library’s rooms for research fellows. Each of these places were full of human beings, doing-I don’t know what. Perhaps one of them was there to look online for a job, and maybe one was researching a story from their family history. I’m sure one of them was there to read poetry, or look at old maps, and I’m equally sure that someone was there simply because she had no place else to visit.
Perhaps someone is on the verge of treating tumor, or writing their first novel. Each one was in their own universe of thought, of ideas, of creation. In the international development community, when we talk about participatory or community-based development, I’m not sure why libraries aren’t at the end of our tongues. They will be the ultimate manifestation of individuals defining and conference their own needs. Libraries are a civic responsibility. New York Open public Library was constructed with private money and it is largely maintained with private money, as are many libraries in this country.
Team Maria’s Libraries has had the conversation about private donations many times, including doing a two month research project on it this summer. We’ve experimented with different models of garnering funds from the community, and nothing has really taken hold quite yet. Maria had a lot of questions for our noble tour guide about this aspect of things-especially about how the trustees work. Of course people have their own interests for being on a library board, but overall, supporting libraries is firmly in the sphere of civic duty.
Another way to look at Maria’s “libraries are like an ocean” comment would be to consider the intricate collection of actors required to make a library run and be relevant-although perhaps we should call it an ecosystem. Private citizens, government, technical experts in library science, architecture, and technology, and of course the library users-all of these groups need to be in balance, to work in separate spheres but in concert with each other. This is a library.
In Conclusion The tour of the NYPL is greatly inspiring; it was also both intimidating and affirming. While Maria has been working for 12 years and Maria’s Libraries has been working for 4 years towards the completion of the library in Busia, we continually realize that we’re only just starting. Since ML has been included, we’ve spent 2 yrs training our romantic relationship with the federal government, 2 yrs settling the house rights issues on the storyline of collection land, and today we’ve started our negotiation process with the architects across the building programs.
We’ve yet to recognize our local patron (if anyone scanning this is the Brooke Astor of Traditional western Kenya, email me! ), and determining what’s needed in the entire collection collection is not up for grabs yet. This technique is sluggish and sometimes feels as though some hurdles. Which it will eventually continue being, for so long as the collection is around.