When Necessity Feels Like Luxury

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)


Kudos to the NYPL for finding a way to keep its doors open in these difficult times. Here in San Francisco, our public library is trying to plug budget holes without reducing hours. Their solution: library employees are not being paid on holidays. So the libraries are open the same number of days and hours but staff are essentially "furloughed" about 10 days per year. Other cuts within the system have been designed to minimize impact to services. Still, there is something to be said for the public outcry that results when libraries are closed. Library patrons here don't really understand how dramatic the budget problems at SFPL are.

I am VERY grateful for the NYPL. Quite frankly, I always have been. In fact, I have been a library patron and supporter all my life. Most especially, I also know what a jewel the NYPL is, even amongst libraries. It may sound silly, but the NYPL has been a contributing reason I have not moved from NYC because I know, I will never be able to replace it somewhere else. Thank you to the NYPL and all it's contributors and supporters! Something as great as the NYPL sure does seem like a luxury since it is THAT GOOD, but, in reality, it is a much needed, and much appreciated necessity! It has helped more people, and in more ways than we would ever be able to quantify, and that helps our society and world as a whole! PRICELESS!


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This page contains a single entry by Critical Difference published on November 19, 2009 1:29 PM.

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