Big Apple, big library, big controversy
To some bibliophiles, it feels like an all-out assault on library books. The Charleston County Public Library is purging its collection of thousands of volumes. The historic library in the town of Brent, England, which was opened 112 years ago by Mark Twain, is in danger of being shut down totally.
And the star attraction of all U.S. municipal libraries, the New York Public Library — yes, the one on 42nd Street with the giant lions out front — is in line for a major redo that has scholars in an uproar.
In essence, it would remove the 3 million books that are now kept in seven floors of shelving beneath the library and retrieved upon request. A library without books on hand.
The plan is to keep the books elsewhere and bus them over upon request.
But that’s not all. The plan also calls for selling the Mid-Manhattan Library, one of the largest circulating library branches in the world, and the Science, Industry and Business Library. They would be consolidated and put where the New York Public Library stacks now stand.
Library officials say the changes will bring an influx of badly needed money. But the plans don’t sit well with lots of people. Some fear the library will become an Internet cafe. Some fear they will have to wait too long to get a book that must come from New Jersey. Some are leery because former librarians said they had to sign agreements not to talk about these issues when they left their jobs.
What’s to hide?
Nothing is engraved in stone, and it is certain that people will have a lot more to say before the New York Public Library plans are complete.
Meanwhile, appreciate your local libraries.
It seems we are facing a new chapter on their function and operation — even though some users don’t feel they’ve finished the chapter they’re on now.