Results tagged “New York Public Library” from critical difference

The autumn weather was perfect the other night for a stroll through Midtown. So when the theater let out on 45th Street, I headed a few blocks south, cut through the holiday maze of Bryant Park, and crossed Fifth Avenue to the Mid-Manhattan Library. It was late, but there was no need to hurry: The library was open 'til 11 p.m.

Even as I plucked the book I needed from a shelf in the fiction section, I felt a sort of warming gratitude. The New York Public Library fought hard earlier this year to fend off budget cuts that would have devastated its ability to provide services just when demand for them is highest. Its success says a lot about the city's priorities -- and about its wealth, too.

Elsewhere in the nation, the recession is having an ugly effect on libraries. Today's papers alone tell stories of numerous struggles. In Pittsburgh, several branches of the Carnegie Library face closure if funding isn't found to keep them open, and in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times, "the city of Colton shut down its three libraries and laid off nearly 60 employees to help plug a $5-million hole in its budget." The city of Ventura plans to close its most heavily used branch.

It's vicious out there -- for the populace and for our libraries, whose worth we recognize most clearly in bad economic times. So those of us who live in a place where the public library is not only open seven days a week, but open late as well, have reason to marvel.

It isn't a luxury, but it feels that way. Who could fail to cherish that?
November 19, 2009 1:29 PM | | Comments (2)
Facing funding cutbacks that would drastically reduce services, the New York Public Library is in the midst of a fierce campaign to articulate its value to the community. That effort now gets a serious shot in the arm from video testimonials by celebs including Amy Tan, Barbara Walters, Malcolm Gladwell, Bette Midler, Nora Ephron, Bill Irwin, Mike Nichols, Ellen Burstyn, Colson Whitehead, Tim Gunn and Jeff Daniels. It's unlikely that many other towns could round up a similar roster -- but as libraries all over the country confront the threat of shrinking budgets, they can find inspiration for their own counterattacks in the NYPL video.

"Whenever I hear the words that libraries are being cut back, I feel like people's lives are being cut back ... in a very real way," Gladwell says.

"Stand up and bang on a pan loudly for your public library," Mario Batali exhorts.


June 3, 2009 12:29 PM | | Comments (2)
The Prince of Wales made nice with the architects this week, but he's really more fun when he's dropping a few culture bombs in a crowded room. This is the address that got him in trouble 25 years ago, at the gala celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects, to whom he was so respectful on Tuesday. But the Mansion House speech, from 1987, is the one I wish I'd been there to hear him give -- not because the prince and I think as one on matters architectural (we don't), but because even on the page the speech is an absolute blast, exclamation points and all.

I came across it yesterday, quite by accident, as I was doing some research in the Art and Architecture Reading Room at the New York Public Library's gorgeous Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue. In this utterly civilized room, surely one of the most serene public spaces in Manhattan, and one of which even Charles might approve, I shook with silent laughter as I read his impassioned address, with all its shock at the vulgarity of commerce and urban life, its intermittent sarcasm, and what seemed to me an ill-advised mention of a coach-and-four. But I also found more common ground than I thought I would with this man who insists on the importance of "architectural good manners" and "generosity of vision."

A sample:

One prominent architect recently confessed, airily and with no apparent sign of shame, that some of his earlier buildings have ceased to interest even him, now that the thrill of creativity has worn off.

Well, what kind of creativity is that? To put up a building which other people have to live with, and leave them to live with it while you wander off saying you're tired of it, and then to put up another one which you will presumably get tired of too, leaving yet more people to live with the all-too-durable consequences of your passing fancy. There is a terrible fecklessness to all this, when grown men can get whole towns in the family way, pay nothing towards maintenance, and call it romance.

The prince's outrage can be as comical as his advocacy of architectural regulation is alarming. It's easy to dismiss him wholesale if you read only the highlights in the news. But anyone who bothers to argue for architecture that makes workers feel good -- as Charles, of all people, does -- grasps something important about the way human beings interact with the built environment.
May 14, 2009 12:35 PM | | Comments (1)
The injured Esa-Pekka Salonen sent his regrets, so it fell to Frank Gehry -- who was to have appeared alongside Salonen on last night's L.A.-comes-to-New York double bill at the New York Public Library -- to carry the show alone.

If only Gehry had been alone onstage, or up there with one rather than three interviewers, and on a program that wasn't quite so determined to proceed with a discussion of Salonen despite his absence. As it was, and through no fault of Gehry, the conversation was a disjointed and disappointing affair.

But in literally the last two minutes of the not-quite-90-minute talk, Gehry gave the audience a sense of what it might have heard all evening, introducing the subject of neuroscientists' recent investigations of creativity.

"They're getting into it. They're trying to get into the act," he said. "But the questions that they're asking are like, they want to know ... the effect of square or round shapes or things like that. And I keep saying, you know, 'Get a life. That's not the issue.' The issue, the real issue ... is why do we do it? Why did Mahler do that stuff? And why do people love it? How does it nurture us? To understand the importance of it in our lives and what it does for our children and our world and our daily existence: That's the issue. Why? We need it. So why deny that? I think these efforts, to whether it's circle or square, is a denial mechanism."
May 12, 2009 2:47 PM |
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