22 December 2008

NYPL on Flickr, School Libraries in the Times, and FotC in the 'Burg

Some Monday morning newsbites:
  • NYPL joined Flickr Commons one week ago today with an initial set of 1300 images. Unlike the Library of Congress, NYPL chose to add librarian-assigned tags to each photograph, partially culled from subject headings.
  • The New York Times ran a short feature on the library at Brooklyn Collegiate, a public school in Ocean Hill. The article documents the school media specialist's struggle to provide materials for her students on a tight, tight budget.
  • Clear the stacks! Brooklyn Public's Williamsburgh branch appears in Flight of the Conchords' season two premier. The episode has already been posted elsewhere, but for those of us who require our Jemaine Clement fix in clear, unpixelated glory, the official, high-resolution version should appear later today on the HBO website.

20 December 2008

New School Libraries' Obscure Future

The New School student occupation of their Graduate Faculty building ended early yesterday morning with President Bob Kerrey's capitulation to some of their demands. Of particular interest is point number two:
I agree that students may use the GF building at 65 Fifth Ave until a suitable replacement is secured and instituted, which would include the re-installment of suitable library and study space. This would need to be approved by the USS.

Due to my limitation under the board, and because of repeated and voiced student concern about the university's investments, this is already underway for alternative space. I guarantee that by the beginning of spring semester I will provide new library space in Arnold hall. I will also provide 7000 feet of quiet study space at Sheila Johnson galleries by the end of spring semester. I agree to meet with the students to discuss the current plans, alternatives, and financial planning.

The new library space in Arnhold Hall was already scheduled to open January 20 (see Interim University Librarian Ed Scarcelle's comments on my previous post). Kerrey's promise of additional study space is, if acted upon, a significant accomplishment by the protesters that will benefit the entire student body. Considering the severity of the study space deficit, however, 7000 square feet is hardly sufficient. (If you're having trouble visualizing this, think Bowery Ballroom-size.)

More than half of Fogelman's collection is now in offsite storage. This makes sense, given that the Arnhold Hall space is temporary. In preparation for the move, however, only a tiny portion of the physical collection was available to students during the fall semester and, critically, during their finals period.

The new building to be constructed on the GF building's footprint will include a larger, centralized library facility that may merge Fogelman with the Gimbel Art & Design Library and the Kellen Archives Center. All of this is tentative, however: according to this article in the New School Free Press, construction plans for the "Signature Building" have been downsized and delayed indefinitely. With a future this uncertain, it's no wonder New School students are angry, frustrated, disheartened....

18 December 2008

Night of Disquiet

The occupation of the New School's Albert List Academic Center at 65 5th Avenue continues and is being blogged about and reported on by media sources major, minor, and middling. For the students' perspective: New School in Exile website; New School in Exile blog; New School Free Press live blog. Elsewhere: the Gray Lady's City Room; Gothamist; NY1.

My understanding that the New School's Fogelman Library was closing for one month was based on this short note in the Weekly Observer. In truth, Fogelman -- the school's humanities and social sciences library -- has been slated for demolition. As far as I can determine, a new student services building will be constructed on the same site at 65 5th Avenue. Information about this new building and the temporary fate of the library's collections is hard to find. (Either the New School has imposed a veil of silence over their plans, or I'm a lousy librarian. The latter is quite possible...and it's awfully late for serious research.)

Any information or insights into the New School's libraries would be most appreciated. Where are you New School librarians? Tell us your stories, please!

New School Students Take Over Grad Faculty Building

Viva la revolución! Since last night, a significant group of New School University students has occupied the Graduate Faculty building. A few have been arrested, but it seems the police and administration are allowing them to continue their peaceful protest, holding the building "as a student-run autonomous space". Read all about it at the New School in Exile blog. These are their demands:
• The removal of Bob Kerrey as president of our university.
• The removal of James Murtha as executive vice president of our university
• Students, faculty, and staff elect the president, EVP, and Provost.
• Students are part of the interim committee to hire a provost.
• The removal of Robert B. Millard as treasurer of the board of trustees.
• Intelligible transparency and disclosure of the university budget and investments.
• The creation of a committee on socially responsible investments.
• The immediate suspension of capital improvement projects like the tearing down of 65 fifth Ave.
• Instead, money towards the creation of an autonomous student space.
• Instead, money towards scholarships and reducing tuition.
• Instead, money for the library and student life generally.
The library connection? There's plenty:
Meanwhile, there is virtually no common study space - certainly not enough for over 9000 students. We have no library. Only 10% of the book collection is actually on the stacks at Fogelman library - everything we need is in storage, and the new library will not be built this year.
I was aware that New Schoolers would be without a library for about a month, but it sounds like the situation is far worse than that. I'll check into the full story and post more later this evening.

17 December 2008

Minding the Deficit

According to the 2009-2010 Executive Budget Briefing Book, Governor Paterson has proposed a $13 million reduction in aid to New York State's public libraries, bringing total State-funded library aid to $80.5 million. (I'm not sure how the math works, exactly, as the 2008-2009 libraries budget was $99 million after a mid-year cut of $1 million.) This budget is very similar to the one proposed back in November that provoked anger, frustration, and a rally at the Capitol.

If Paterson's plan passes, deep cuts in staffing and services would necessarily follow. The Mayor of Philadelphia is threatening to close 11 of 54 public libraries in his city. Are New Yorkers doomed to an equally dire future? We'll know for certain when the Legislature votes in February or March. In the meantime, I expect the hearty outcry to begin right...about...now.

16 December 2008

Tis the Season...

...of frantic students, scaled-down holiday parties, and snow! There will be few library-related events to report on until January, so you won't see any "week of" posts until then. If your library is lacking in holiday cheer -- or if you're just plain in the mood to meet some friendly folks over a beer -- head to the Librarians without Boundaries happy hour this Thursday at Slainte. And if you're looking for a little biblio-activity to fill the time, check out Shelf Life: Works in Brass by Christopher Hewat at the New York Society Library. The book-as-object never shined so bright!

13 December 2008

Librarians as "wee timerous beasties"

As a follow-up to my post of 9 Dec., Dr. LeClerc's three sets of responses to NY Times readers are available here. LeClerc did answer a significant number of reader queries and for that, I commend him. He even tackled a couple questions regarding the now-defunct Donnell Library Center, a library whose loss has engendered a significant public outcry. [Update: Check out some amazing pics of Donnell deconstructed at Driven By Boredom.]

On the whole, however, LeClerc's responses fit the smooth, benign style of a typical bureaucrat. No surprise there! He did not reply to the vitriolic scree I quoted in my earlier post, nor to this lament from a retired librarian and current NYPL volunteer. I know I'm focusing on the negative here, but these are valid questions that deserve a response. And then there's this:

Is it correct that libraries are no longer headed by librarians but by “site managers” without library degrees? What’s wrong with librarians with degrees? Site manager sounds like someone who can handle a computer crash and crowd control better than knowing what books are on the shelves. It seems to me you’ve put in charge a new breed of librarian, wee timerous beasties, who can be cowed by your administrators.

Is it correct? According to the Library Site Manager job description available on the New York Public Library Guild's website, the answer is yes. The position requires a B.A. "or an equivalent combination of education and experience". Current Branch Managers get "first crack" at these lower-qualification positions which are, at least, unionized (more details here). Some Local 1930 members "feel [this] will enable the Library to reduce the ranks of librarians and 'de-professionalize' the job by piling on administrative duties that don’t require the knowledge they gained in graduate school." No kidding! Considering the current economic climate, does NYPL have the funds for 80 new positions? What do branch librarians really think about this development? So many questions....

Another update: Nate Hill created a neat Wordle cloud composed of words from the NY Times article's comments. Check it out here and on the PLA Blog:

11 December 2008

On Exhibit: Happy 125th to the Grolier Club!

'For Jean Grolier & His Friends': 125 Years of Grolier Club Exhibitions & Publications, 1884-2009 has just opened at the venerable East Side institution. It runs through Feb. 14, 2009 and admission is free. From the Club's press release:
'For Jean Grolier & His Friends' is much more than a piece of Grolier Club history, it is a survey covering 125 years of American trends in the book arts, as well as the steady growth of interest by Americans in political, literary and art historical topics, as embodied either in Grolier Club publications, or Grolier Club exhibitions. The show will be accompanied by a monumental 500-page illustrated history and comprehensive checklist of over 1000 Grolier Club exhibitions and publications produced since 1884.

10 December 2008

Artists in the Library: Design by the Book

The second episode in the Design by the Book video series (click here for the high-res versions), a co-production of Design*Sponge and the New York Public Library, was released yesterday. If you missed it, episode one introduces us to five NYC artists in their homes or studios:

In episode two, the artists travel to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library where they enjoy some top-notch reference service and peruse print-based fodder for inspiration:

I'm excited to see the results from this collaboration in episode three. But how will they top the Isaac Mizrahi cameo?

09 December 2008

Patience, Fortitude, Vicious Infighting

This week in the NY Times' City Room blog, New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc will be answering readers' questions about, presumably, the NYPL. (The article itself is a bio of Dr. LeClerc, but no one seems to be interpreting this as an invitation to inquire about his "contributions to French culture".)

As of 8:30 PM Tuesday, the post has logged 79 comments, with queries ranging from the prosaic to the insightful to the truly bizarre. As expected, there are plenty of complaints about limited hours, inequality of resources/services allotted to certain branches, fines (too low!), and overzealous security. Then there's this scathing indictment:
There seems to be a huge upheaval in your research libraries with vicious infighting for turf supremacy and wholesale transfers of staff from one supervisor to another (outside of their core competency) by mid-managers in each respective institution. It seems like a wholesale slaughter with morale at an all time low. How is this supposed to improve the research libraries internal and external relationships?
Sacre bleu! I presume this was written by an insider. We can only hope Monsieur le Président chooses to respond to this and other serious and/or critical questions posed by his constituency.

Some librarians are, of course, contributing to the commentary, even responding to some of the more mundane questions that surely don't warrant Dr. LeClerc's attention. We just can't help ourselves!

08 December 2008

For Your Consideration: Field Trips, Week of Dec. 8, 2008

Busy, busy! There is much to see and do this week as the library world makes its final push of fall activities. Highlights:
...and more! Check out the complete listing in the right-hand calendar.

07 December 2008

In Vino Veritas

Short on holiday gift ideas? From now through December 31, Oriel Wines will donate 40% of all profits to Live from the NYPL. They've even created a special 6-bottle deal for the occasion. Make certain you enter LIVE08 in the Promotion Code box when you check out, or NYPL gets diddly squat.

05 December 2008

On Exhibit: Bookbindings at the Morgan Library & Museum

Holy goatskin appliqué! Protecting the Word: Bookbindings at the Morgan opens today and runs through March 29. The exhibition includes a superb selection of bound treasures dating from the 7th through 20th centuries. Be sure to check out the full panoply of exhibitions currently on display at the Morgan before you go and plan accordingly; you might be there a while.

03 December 2008

New York Heritage: 3,016 Newly Digitized Items

From techMETRO: "The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) recently added 14 digital collections to the New York 3Rs collaborative digital heritage website, www.NewYorkHeritage.org." The contributions came from eight NYC institutions and are also available via the Digital Metro New York site.

Update on "Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano"

From the NY Times: "Can the cost of the book be justified? 'Such a beautiful book has relevance in a time of economic hardship,' said Ms. Ferrari, a businesswoman who is not related to the automobile family." Hmm...so the recession does have a silver lining!

NYPL's copy is a donation and will migrate to the Rare Books Division after the one week viewing opportunity ends.

01 December 2008

Get Out of the Library! Field Trips, Week of Dec. 1, 2008

First and foremost, the weekend: Saturday night brings this season's premier philanthropic shindig, Be Still My Frosty Heart : The Desk Set Presents The Biblioball at the GlassLands Gallery in Williamsburg. All proceeds will go toward books for Passages Academy, serving incarcerated and detained youth in NYC. Plus, dancing, dress-up, fantastic raffle prizes...it's win-win-win!

Also on tap:

30 November 2008

On Exhibit: An Italian Curiosity at NYPL

One week only! "Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano", a 62-pound marvelhand-carved marble cover, silk velvet lining, 100,000 euro price tagwill be on display at the NYPL Humanities & Social Sciences Library from Tuesday, December 2nd through Monday, December 8th. (Strangely, there are no details available on the NYPL website.) For a preview, the NY Times published a slideshow back in May.

25 November 2008

Budget Cuts Loom for BPL, NYPL, QL

Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget modification hits the city's public libraries rather hard (even taking into account the caveat mentioned below the table). This from the Gotham Gazette:

At another of many budget hearings last week, Councilmember Gale Brewer questioned the administration on how it collects taxes from vacant buildings.

Sitting at the very top of the dais, Brewer couldn't help but add a closing remark.

"Don't cut the libraries," she jabbed.

A typical council-mayoral battleground, libraries under the budget plan would cut back hours to an average of five and a half days from the current six. Some branches, said an aide to the council's libraries subcommittee chair, Gentile, would only be open for five days, while others will be budgeted for the extra half day. The library cut would save $8 million in this fiscal year.

Every city agency will have to tighten its belt, but what of the obvious correlation between economic recessions and increased library use? What does cutting hours and services this early in the downturn mean for branch libraries in the 2009/2010 budget cycle? Vigilance, NYC librarians!

23 November 2008

Technical Parables

Friday night's New York Technical Service Librarians fall dinner program -- yes, I am behind here -- featured a compelling talk by the Library of Congress' Thomas Mann. Entitled "The Reference Librarian's Toolkit," Mann's presentation focused on the limitations of keyword and federated searching, researchers' ignorance of the power of controlled vocabularies (i.e. LCSH) and conceptual categorization, and the general dumbing down of search tools.

Mann was eloquent; I couldn't possibly reconstruct his arguments. Lucky for you, a number of his recent papers are freely available for download at the Library of Congress Professional Guild website, including "The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries".

And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the NYTSL board. Thus, I have limited my subjective commentary on Mann's speech to the words "compelling" and "eloquent" and my impression of the event itself to, well, nothing. I leave that task to my readers. What did you think?

22 November 2008

LJ's Man of the Year (kinda, sorta)

Here's a news item from earlier this week that I completely missed: Rick Block, cataloger extraordinaire, has been awarded Library Journal's Teaching Award for 2008. Rick has taught thousands of New York City librarians over the years, juggling a heavy load of courses at both Pratt and the Palmer School with his 9-to-5 gig as head of the Special Collections and Metadata Cataloging unit at Columbia University Libraries. John N. Berry of LJ writes:
Block's love for his work, his teaching, and his mentoring is obvious when you talk to him. His faculty colleagues see it, too. “Rick Block is the most respected and beloved adjunct member of our faculty,” says Palmer dean Mary L. Westermann-Cicio. “His classes are always full and overflowing.”
As one of the lucky former students who parlayed a Rick Block internship into, eventually, a full-time job at Columbia, I can attest to the veracity of this article! The award is well-deserved. Thank you, Rick, for your tireless effort to enlighten an army of NYC library school students in the dark arts of cataloging and metadata...and congratulations!

21 November 2008

Weekend Event: Book Sale at the Goddard Riverside Community Center

Make a trip to the Upper West Side this weekend for the 22nd annual Goddard Riverside New York Book Fair. The books are cheap and plentiful, mainly publisher's overstock, though I've found some odd treasures in years past. Print out an admit ticket before you go; otherwise, I believe they charge a $5 fee.

Addendum: there's no fee. Go get yourself some bargains.

19 November 2008

"No More Cuts!"

Although Governor Paterson's budget-slashing plan has been put on hold until he can convince the Legislature of its wisdom, funding for New York State's public libraries is still under threat. A whopping 20 million dollar threat. Yesterday, 450 librarians joined various other constituencies in a protest at the Capitol. For the full low-down on the rally and New York Library Association's advocacy initiatives, check out their website.

Hello, New York, and welcome to Shelved @ NYC!

Herein will be gathered news about New York City libraries, librarians, and library-related stuff. This is not a blog aimed specifically at metadata specialists or children’s librarians or LIS students; it’s a blog for ALL librarians working in this culturally rich—but frequently disjointed and overwhelming—city.

In addition to its function as a traditional blog, Shelved @ NYC will provide a single source for library events and workshops…one-stop shopping for your professional and social calendar! Please email me (shelvedatnyc [at] gmail.com) if you have information about events or workshops and I’ll add them post haste.

Likewise, if you have news to share, complaints to make, or topics to discuss, please let me know. I hope this will become a place where librarians of all persuasions and from all kinds of organizations can both debate and conspire. Suggestions gratefully accepted!

[N.B.: Hundreds of exciting readings, programs, and classes take place in our city’s libraries every day. Listing all of them would be a gargantuan task and one that is out of this blog’s scope. The events assembled here are of particular interest to librarians and bibliophiles, encompassing everything from professional workshops to library soirees to book fairs.]