Last Day of a NYC Library. A Eulogy in Pictures.
December 11, 2008 10:12 PM   Subscribe

What happens when a NYC Library Closes. Sad story of the NYC Donnell Library that closed to make room for a luxury hotel. The blog post is written by one of the workers who was rushing to scan information for the Internet Archive. He took photos on the last day. Coral Cache of the images via boingboing

Technically, as a loophole, a small reduced area in one floor of the hotel will act as a library, because the physical location 'must' remain a library.
posted by filmgeek (29 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
They're trying to get rid of Mid-Manhattan too.

Fuckers.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2008


To be fair, the building needed $48 million in renovations, and this way the system gets a partial replacement of the facility and $59 million to use elsewhere. Most of the collections will apparently move permanently to other specialized facilities, but there was no real relationship between them (films, Winnie-the-Pooh, etc.). Three floors vs. five is a trade-off but one can see the advantages to the system as a whole, as they own very, very, very valuable real estate. The building itself dates from the 1950s and is not considered architecturally unique.
posted by dhartung at 10:43 PM on December 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


On the one hand, I spent much of my high-school time in the Donnell and Mid-Manhattan branches, so it's sad to see them go. On the other hand, I haven't set foot in a library in 15 years (except the Main Branch, to hang out in the Map Room) so I guess I can see why they're closing...
posted by nicwolff at 10:45 PM on December 11, 2008


That will work out well. Just take the Mid-Manhattan's circulating collection and throw it in with the Humanities non-circulating collection. What could possibly go wrong?

In 2006 the tuition reimbursement of employees working on their masters was cut from $6,000 to $3,300 and undergraduate degrees from $3,000 to $1,500. At the same time, the salary and compensation for Paul LeClerc, the library’s president and chief executive, increased from approximately $600,000 to $800,000 and several other executives received raises in the 50K range boosting their salaries past $300,000

Maybe Dr. LeClerc could take a pay cut this time around.
posted by mlis at 10:45 PM on December 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


People are still reading, but not buying due to the recession and layoffs. Thepublic libraries are bustling, but Portland's iconic book store Powell's is asking employes to cut their hours in order to avoid layoffs.
posted by Cranberry at 10:52 PM on December 11, 2008


It could be worse. Philadelphia is closing 11 libraries to avoid a budget shortfall, and the eagerly anticipated expansion of the main branch is likely dead in the water.
posted by deafmute at 11:03 PM on December 11, 2008


In related news ... NBC Nightly News had a segment on Wednesday evening regarding the increased popularity of/attendance at libraries in the current economy and the impact that the recession has had on the closing of others. Video.
posted by ericb at 11:08 PM on December 11, 2008


People who make fun of Crying Library Man will burst into tears if you take away their football team.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:36 PM on December 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


When people use the term "not architecturaly unique," to describe Donnell, they secretly mean "kind of a craphole." That goes double for the Mid-Manhattan, a library that is far too used and useful for it's cramped, broke-down quarters.

So long as the NYPL divides Donnell's collection wisely, I'm sort of okay with this. The NYPL has had some great success with both building new libraries, and renovating old ones. (Once, you know, it gets around to it.) Though they have quirks, the relatively-newish SIBL, renovated Schomburg, and new Bronx Library Center are absolutely rad.

Thanks for posting that Times article, MLIS. While I'm a big believer in having competitive compensation for civil workers, $800k/year to run a the libraries is just inane. Especially right now.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:51 PM on December 11, 2008


*Disclaimer: I think Donnell was the only library open on Sundays when I was in high school. Given that I generally crossed its threshold in something of a fugue state (as a rule, I try not to mix massive sleep deprivation, hauling ass through midtown, and Monday due dates), I might be a little biased.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:59 PM on December 11, 2008


.
posted by mandal at 12:31 AM on December 12, 2008


Wow, this is weird. I'm one of the photographer's coworkers at the Internet Archive's New York scan center, and I'm actually in a few of those photos. (I'm the guy with the glasses and red shirt.) It was definitely surreal working at Donnell that last month or so, as the library got emptier and emptier every day, but we had our own little room on one of the upper floors, and we were able to function more or less normally throughout.

(Incidentally, we are still active. We're now operating out of a really cool old mansion in Jersey City.)
posted by Silune at 12:41 AM on December 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


.
posted by infini at 1:49 AM on December 12, 2008


This is a pretty interesting post. So sad to see the linoleum floor with the square cutouts, where bookshelves had been, in the last photo. Why does it have to be an "NYC library", though? Can't it just be a library?

Wow, this is weird. I'm one of the photographer's coworkers at the Internet Archive's New York scan center, and I'm actually in a few of those photos. (I'm the guy with the glasses and red shirt.)

Eerie. Had you noticed him taking the photos?
posted by seagull.apollo at 1:52 AM on December 12, 2008


The NYPL has had some great success with both building new libraries, and renovating old ones. (Once, you know, it gets around to it.) Though they have quirks, the relatively-newish SIBL, renovated Schomburg, and new Bronx Library Center are absolutely rad.

Anyone know if there are plans to renovate mid-Manhattan?
posted by puckish at 3:38 AM on December 12, 2008


The latest I've heard is that the plan is to renovate the research library across the street from mid-Manhattan and put mid-Manhattan's circulating there, while the noncirculating collection moves to high-density shelving.
Good idea in theory, but my experiences with high-density shelving have not been so good.
posted by Jeanne at 4:55 AM on December 12, 2008


It could be worse. Philadelphia is closing 11 libraries to avoid a budget shortfall, and the eagerly anticipated expansion of the main branch is likely dead in the water.

It's a pretty fucking rugged situation that is seriously impacting the city's opinion of mayor Michael Nutter, especially considering his campaign rhetoric from three years ago. My ex is a children's librarian at one of those branches, I heard through a mutual friend that she was slated for termination but was able to keep her job by agreeing to a pretty harsh salary cut. It's a brutal landscape to work in right now, but I'm sure Metafilter's significant librarian contingent was well aware of that.
posted by The Straightener at 5:53 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


It kills me to see libraries close. I worked a pretty large university library while in college and always shocked at how many books we had had stamps from other libraries where they were originally housed. Most of them were from very small town libraries that had closed over the years, which made me even sadder to think of these little towns that couldn't support library. I just hoped that they had another library close by. I know my childhood would have been a lot less fun without the several libraries nearby.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2008


Even though we lived on the upper west side and had a perfectly good local branch library (always reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), my mom insisted on regular Saturday outings to the Donnel, via lengthy busrides. From my child's perspective, the Donnel was "modern," having elevators, among other things. We went for story time.

Years and lives later when visiting from CA I took my children to see the A.A. Milne stuffed animals (he and I share a birthday, actually) and the place smelled exactly like it always had.

Sorry it had to go, but libraries seem like living things to me and as such constantly grow, change, die, etc. Here in CA the issue is always retrofitting for earthquakes.

As for the Mid-Manhattan, I have many many memories of Sunday marathons researching and writing term papers there. It was such a bare-bones utilitarian environment, totally conducive to keeping your blinders on and scribbling on index cards, the opposite of the beautiful and imposing Main Branch (lions and Map Room etc.) which seemed more like a museum than a library.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2008


Mid-Manhattan could use a major renovation. In the last few years, their DVD collection has started to take over most of the space in circulating. I work nearby and walk home a lot and generally pass by that branch on the way (since it stays open until 8 PM a few nights a week). I also frequent a few other branches downtown and have noticed the same electronic media creep. They are going to have to find an efficient way of managing this that is not at the expense of their book collections.
posted by nikitabot at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


.
posted by dr_dank at 8:07 AM on December 12, 2008


Thanks for this post. Last time I visited NYC, a couple of months ago, I headed straight for the Donnell, where it feels like I spent half my time when I lived in the city, and was shocked to see it empty and abandoned, even though I'd known that it was going to close. The sign said most of the collection had been moved to the Mid-Manhattan, so I walked down there, and was told by a very nice lady at the information desk that that branch was going to close too! She put the best spin on it she could, but all the excuses are bullshit. So what if it was "very, very, very valuable real estate"? It was a very, very, very valuable library, and I guarantee you the library system got screwed on the deal, because they're library people dealing with corporate sharks. And what guarantee is there that the hotel is even going to be built, now that the world economy has collapsed? Fuck all these fucking fuckers. The city's going to hell.
posted by languagehat at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


For everyone's information, there are some seriously NSFW images on the rest of the site in the "coral cache of images" link.
posted by googly at 10:20 AM on December 12, 2008


It's OK, 'hat, you can tell us how you really feel. Open on up.
posted by eritain at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


While it's possible something good might come out of this, the Mid-Manhattan and the Donnell were the only two libraries I ever went to growing up, and it's hard to imagine the system being so useful without them. (Though, yes, both were kind of dumps.)
posted by Casuistry at 11:27 AM on December 12, 2008


Corporate sharks and blah blah blah blah blah. Charity is for diseases and endangered species. Real estate is not included, at least not in New York.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Charity is for diseases and endangered species. Real estate is not included, at least not in New York.

Tell that to the stinkin' church.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:41 AM on December 12, 2008


Or the stinking hobos living in libraries
posted by johannahdeschanel at 11:45 AM on December 12, 2008


The city whole world's going to hell.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:57 PM on December 12, 2008


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