Michael White and Carolyn McIntyre came to Alternative Banking on Feb. 1st to describe their work fighting efforts to shrink the public library systems in NYC.
Hear Citizens Defending Libraries” talk here.
The group was formed almost two years ago in response to the then breaking headlines about how, across New York City, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated. Since that time, Citizens Defending Libraries, working with many others from our communities, have won a number of victories although the threats to our libraries still loom large. For instance the sale of the beloved Donnell for a pittance is now appropriately decried, and, in July 2013, candidate de Blasio joined with Citizens Defending Libraries in calling for a halt to library real estate deals so that the Central Library Plan was consequently derailed saving Mid-Manhattan and protecting the 42nd Central Reference Library from destruction of its research stacks designed to hold three million books. The plan would have cost more than $500 million, hundreds of millions more than the NYPL had publicized. Citizens Defending Libraries has also had seem success in protecting other libraries, including: the Pacific Branch, The Brooklyn Heights Library, the Science, Industry and Business Library, the Clinton Hill Library, the Sunset Park Library, the Red Hook Library and the Williamsburg Libraries, the last two mentioned libraries having been targeted for shrinkage by the private Spaceworks firm. Much work remains to be done.
Going forward, Citizens Defending Libraries is looking to protect libraries still targeted for sale like the Brooklyn Heights Library and the Science, Industry and Business Library online slots and we seek to restore books to the shelves, including, but not limited to, all the books missing from the shelves of those two libraries and the more than three million books that have been exiled from the 42nd Central Reference Library. We have launched a Citizens Audit and Investigation (in part using the Freedom of Information Law as a tool) of the intrusion of real estate interests into the administration of the libraries. We are calling for greater transparency together with a change of mind set and management at the libraries while promulgating principles for dealing with the physical assets of the libraries that put the public first rather than the private interests of the so-called “public-private partnerships” into public properties are being steered.
Citizens Defending Libraries is also working to shed light on, and form coalitions, respecting the sale of public assets generally: hospitals, schools (both physically via `redevelopment’ into mixed-use facilities and with charters), parks, public spaces, historic districts, public housing. We have had several forums and the modus operandi involved are often strikingly similar in ways that can be very elucidating.
Those who would like to join with us in supporting these goals can sign our petition (available on line), and join with us at our rallies and/or our weekly meetings to strategize, work on projects, canvass and get the word out. We regularly inform our petition signers with critical updates as well as putting information out to the public via our web pages, Facebook, YouTube channel, Twitter and press releases.