What is going on with New York’s public libraries?

chart showing rising demand and program attendance at NYs libraries and lowering support

Rising demand for NY’s libraries and lowering support. Source.

I know people are probably pretty up on the general level of change, upheaval and consternation that are happening surrounding NYPLs big changes, most notably the changes at the Central Library but also the closure and sale of the Mid-Manhattan branch. You may not know about the closure and sale of some of the Brooklyn Public Library’s branches in which buildings are being sold and new spaces are being leased/rented to fit the library collections, programs and staff into. I know we’ve been fighting against some of the major downsides involved in leasing versus owning content, I think it’s important to think about the major downsides involved in renting rather than owning real estate. Here is some further reading about the Brooklyn plans.

Want to get involved?

How accessible is your library?

I was looking for something completely different and wound up finding the Traveling Wheelchair’s four star review of the Boston Public Library and noticed they’ve reviewed a few other libraries in the Massachusetts area. Reading Kenny’s experiences in and around Boston Public Library gives you a really good idea of not just what accessibility means from a legal perspective, but how it’s perceived from a wheelchair user perspective.

EBSCO and ecards and who is setting your library policies?

EBSCO made a bold move recently claiming that libraries that offer e-cards [for accessing electronic library resources from home] are violating their licensing agreement. San Francisco Public Library has a statement on their databases page.

Special Notice Regarding E-Card Users: Due to electronic vendor licensing agreements, San Francisco Public Library must suspend issuing e-cards, effective immediately. Existing e-cardholders must validate their current address no later than April 10, 2009 in order to continue using SFPL databases and other electronic resources remotely. This validation must take place in person with appropriate identification and proof of address at any San Francisco Public Library Branch or the Main Library. The Library will continue to investigate ways of offering a revised e-card in the future. We recommend that non-San Francisco Bay Area residents check for similar electronic resources at their local public library. We apologize for the inconvenience

Boston Public Library is taking a different tack and keeping the e-card program and dropping remote access to EBSCO. Both libraries have to curtail services — and SFPL is changing their e-card policies fairly dramatically — because of this. Does anyone else see this as a shot across the bow? While I’m aware that things are tough all over, this move surprises me. Not because it may not be EBSCO legally enforcing their agreement, but because libraries with e-card options have always been offering patrons an amazing service in a way that seemed almost too good to be true. I have access to Heritage Quest with my totally free library card at the library I work at. Lucky me, but really anyone can get a card at my library — no matter where you live, no matter where you pay taxes — and get access to the same resources. I think this move, and libraries’ decisions about their responses to it, is going to be the start of a long (or depending how you look at it, continuing) struggle.

Bernie Margolis

Bernie Margolis, ousted former head of Boston Public Library is starting a new job as the New York State Librarian.

Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the 67,000-member American Library Association, said Margolis has earned “a great deal of respect throughout the profession” and called him one of ALA’s most active members in standing up to censorship. Margolis, who grew up in Queens and New Rochelle, credits his activism to his dad, who was a fundraiser for the Anti-Defamation League. He calls reading the New Yorker magazine “part of my religious practice.”

updatefilter – BPL’s evolving online collection

Just got this in my inbox this morning and figured I’d share. I edited a little bit and added some hyperlinks, also suggested that BPL needs an announcement blog along the lines of the nifty one at NYPL Labs.

Hi Jessamyn and Alison,

Thanks for blogging about our Flickr presence last week… your influence was greatly felt (to the tune of 2,500 hits on the day of your post, with virtually no other publicity at all).

I wanted to let you know about a couple of this week’s developments:

  • In response to comments on Jessamyn’s blog, we’ve gone ahead and opened up all of our items to tags and comments from any Flickr user; we welcome/encourage/request any and all submissions. We’ve made the photo titles more meaningful as well, instead of simply using our digital accession numbers.
  • In addition to the 1,227 items posted last week, we’ve added 4,523 really cool vintage postcards of New England, geotagged by the location pictured (and therefore viewable on our map). It’s so cool that I’d probably lose a lot of productive time playing with this stuff if it weren’t my actual job to play with this stuff.
  • We’ve got two or three more collections identified for uploading in the very near future, with plenty more to come after that.
  • We’re still waiting to see if Flickr will let us use the “No known copyright restrictions” license that they created for the Flickr Commons pilot project.

    If you feel like any of this is newsworthy enough to treat your readers to a followup, we can always use a little pre-launch publicity. :-) Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you both posted as the project continues to grow.

    Thanks!
    Michael


    Michael B. Klein
    Digital Initiatives Technology Librarian

look who is putting archival photos on Flickr

Boston Red Sox players in salt baths at Redondo Beach, California

It’s Boston Public Library! Photos and metadata! Red sox in swimsuits! Neato. Meanwhile NYPL “soft launches” a redesign for their Digital Gallery. Go peek. Give feedback. [via spinstah]

Fishy behavior with trust money at BPL

So after Bernie Margolis has his contract “un-renewed” the mayor of Boston is looking at seizing control of the moneys that make up the Boston Public Library’s trusts. This means that to spend money from the BPL trusts, the library has to get approval for each specific expenditure from City Hall. Margolis, still at work and annoyed at his ouster has ordered his staff to not send overdue fines collected to the city as was the usual procedure. It’s not totally clear from the article what the ordering of events is. At least one donor is thinking of asking for her money back.

Under current practice, the library trustees approve formation of the trust funds and transfer custody of the funds to City Hall. City Hall then forwards trust proceeds – dividends and other returns on investments – in a lump sum annually to the library.

Library trustees decide what to spend the money on, in accordance with donors’ instructions, and library staff members cut the checks. Library staff members also reconcile the books and file annual reports and tax returns for the board of trustees, which is operated as an independent, nonprofit corporation.

Signori, the city’s collector-treasurer, said her office will no longer be giving the library lump sums. Instead, she said, the trustees will now have to submit invoices to City Hall for processing and payment. If Signori or her staff members believe the expenses do not match donors’ intent or if there is another problem, she says she will raise an issue with trustees.

[thanks kate]

BPL’s Bernie Margolis – contract not renewed

Bernie Margolis was on ALA Council with me and is one of my favorite library administrators. He’s taken some bold stances in favor of intellectual freedom, from resisting filtering to refusing to bow to government pressure to remove items from his libraries’ shelves. Now he’s being fired — or rather his contract isn’t being renewed — because, as near as I can tell from the Boston Phonix, the Mayor dislikes him. While I assume that Bernie will emerge from all of this unscathed because he’s that type of guy, I’m distressed to hear this. I always liked this photo I took of him during the Democratic National Convention, telling the TV crew to quit parking on the plaza in front of the library. [techtonics]

Now that Margolis’s firing is about to be made official, the city is being treated to a campaign of disinformation suggesting that, while Margolis was good for the historic central library in Copley Square, his track record in the branches was lacking. This is rubbish, so out of line with reality that it approaches a big-lie strategy: tell a whopper with enough conviction and frequency and you can get the public to believe it. It will probably work. Also wrested out of context are recycled versions of Margolis’s unwillingness to install Internet filters — except for children — on library computers. Free speech may be uncomfortable at times, but it should never be so in a library. It is the branch libraries, though, that are now center stage.

my VR experience, follow-up

Two things to post in the aftermath of my virtual reference experience with Boston Public Library. First, Luke the Librarian, who does a lot of VR himself has written a long thoughtful post on what people should know about virtual reference, and what VR practitioners can still learn. Second, I got this follow-up email from the Social Sciences librarian at BPL with some more information both about the resources that were suggested to me as well as some information about the author of a book that was recommended, I guess he’s going to be in the area soon. Very cool, don’t you think? Marta Pardee-King is a class act. Note at the end of the transcript, someone there reads my blog too.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this sort of ongoing patron-relationship model is one of the things that the flesh-and-blood librarian model has over the VR model. I had a fine interaction with the woman I worked with, but she’s paid to interact with me, and many other patrons, on a case by case basis ONLY. There is no possibility of having a longer-term patron/librarian relationship and every VR situation is a new case. The VR librarian never gets to know you, never learns your habits, doesn’t have an investment in your continued patronage and in fact wouldn’t have a way to continue a librarian relationship with you if they wanted to. This is a shame. Having an option for 24/7 readyref types of interactions is definitely a way of increasing the library’s presence. Making sure that answering reference questions doesn’t become simply a matter of expedience and profit-motive is equally important. Thanks again to BPL and the woman who tried to help me with my harder-than-I-thought-it-was question. I had not intended to turn this into an object lesson, I was just trying to help my friend impress his mother-in-law.