Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 

SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES:  Sign our new updated petition here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also stay informed by following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries) and by liking our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page. And we post videos on our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.
When We Started and Why

Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk at great public loss, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.  Citizens Defending Libraries was first to point out how the the real estate industry's interest in turning libraries into real estate deals was driving such sales and the reduction of funding and library resources.

Achievements

Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding.  These successes include: 
    •    The sale of Mid-Manhattan, the most used circulating library in Manhattan, was prevented with the help of two lawsuits in which Citizens Defending Libraries was first in the list of named plaintiffs.  That sale was prevented as Citizens Defending Libraries joined with others to successfully derail the New York Public Library’s ill-conceived consolidating shrinkage of major Manhattan libraries known as the Central Library Plan.  Citizens Defending Libraries accurately predicted this sell-off and shrinkage of libraries was likely to cost over $500 million, far more than the $300 advertised by the NYPL as it promoted its real estate deals.  Unfortunately, work remains to be done as aspects of the Central Library Plan still ominously survive:
    •        The NYPL still plans to sell and close the largest science library in New York City, SIBL, the Science Industry and Business Library, eliminating its collection of science books just when they are needed most,
    •        Millions of additional books are still missing from and need to be brought back to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library at Fifth Avenue (yes that's the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude).
    •        The NYPL still plans to subject the Mid-Manhattan Library to a consolidating shrinkage with a concomitantly vast reduction in available books.
    •    The sale and closing of another beloved central destination in Manhattan, the 5-story Donnell Library is now widely understood to have been a mistake. Library administration officials now apologize acknowledging it was a significant mistake, but that is only so long as we keep reminding the public what was lost and how the library was sold for a pittance, while real estate industry insiders like Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner benefitted from this first “shrink-and-sink” deal by replacing it with luxury tower, a tiny underground and largely bookless library in its base.
    •    Working with others in the community, we have so far prevented the sale the Pacific Branch Library, the first Carnegie in Brooklyn, next to Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards megadevelopment (now aka “Pacific Park”), which in 2013 the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced was one of its two highest priorities to sell as it launched a program of real estate deal sell-offs.
    •    For almost four years, from 2013 to 2017, we delayed and fended off the sale and destruction of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library, which included the central Business Career and Education Library and a now shuttered Federal Depository Library making federal documents, records, and history available to the public.  This was another “shrink-and-sink” sale of property, also next to (and involving) Forest City Ratner property was the BPL’s other first announced highest priority.  Again, a luxury tower will stand where an important central destination library once stood.  Garnering over 2,000 testimonies from the community we surprised everybody by causing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to come out against the project after it was launched.  It was also reportedly the subject of a “play-to-play” investigation with respect to the development team that was an inferior bidder channeling funds to Mayor de Blasio.  That investigation appears to have been dropped immediately after Donald Trump stunned the public by firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
    •    We alerted the public and Red Hook community about “Spaceworks,” a real estate company formed Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to shrink libraries viewing library space as being under utilized we helped to prevent the already woefully small 7,500 square foot Red Hook library from being shrunk down to just 5,500 square feet.  Brooklyn Community Board 6 helped kill the shrinkage.  (While we also worked to get the word out to the Williamsburg community about a proposed shrinkage there with Spaceworks being handed the second floor of the Williamsburg Library, we were not able to act fast enough and Councilman Steve Levin and Brooklyn Community Board 1 were supporting the scheme.)
     •    We alerted the Sunset Park community about long-secret plans to sell the Sunset Park Library and redevelop it into a mixed used project.  We believe that because we were on the scene to shine this spotlight, and also because the BPL wanted to overcome our opposition to the Brooklyn Heights Library sale, Sunset park is the first time the BPL actually proposed to enlarge one of the the libraries it was targeting for sale.  That will be a sort of victory if there is no subsequent bait-and-switch.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect victory.  Our sense is that for good and valid reasons the informed Sunset Park community was still largely, perhaps 90%, opposed to the library replacement plan they were not involved in developing and from which they will suffer while the library is closed for many years before it is replaced.  Unfortunately, those who were in place to fight for the Sunset Park community’s interests did not ultimately defend them.  That includes Brooklyn Community Board 7 and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries was also on the scene to shine a spotlight and help put things quickly in perspective for the Inwood Community when the NYPL announced it wanted to turn the Inwood Library into a real estate deal, likely also as a part of an effort to help push through a upzoning of the area.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries similarly sounded the alarm before word was out publicly about a proposal for a consolidating shrinkage of the Brower Park Library with the Prospect Heights Children’s Museum (reversing a previous expansion).
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries has been engaged in an education and publicity campaign.  It included:
     •        Forums, including a mayor forum during the 2013 election with most of the candidates endorsing our proposals that libraries be properly funded, not sold and shrunk.  Mayor de Blasio, whose position we changed during the campaign, joined with us in July to proclaim that our libraries should not be sold saying: “It's public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”  Unfortunately, by October he was taking money from developers behind the curtain.
        •    As a result of our activism there have been hearings about the sale and shrinkage of libraries starting with a very important June 27, 2013 New York State Assembly hearing that embarrassed city library administration officials. 
       •    A letter of support signed by multiple community organizations, electeds and candidates running for office.
        •   In May of 2016 Citizens Dfending Libraries was honored to be a recipient of the Historic Districts Council's Grassroots Preservation Award.
Despite our battles won, our NYC libraries are still besieged by a major war and the threat of such plans.

What libraries are affected?
Library officials said early on that they wanted to sell the most valuable NYC libraries first.  And indeed, that is exactly what the NYPL did when its first move was to sell the central destination Donnell Library, a library that was documented to be on most valuable block in Manhattan at the time.  Similarly, the concurrently launched Central Library Plan with its proposed sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library focused on the choicest real estate.  The BPL did the same thing prioritizing two prime site libraries adjacent to Forest City Ratner property for probable luxury towers, the Brooklyn Heights Library and the Pacific Branch library.  Unfortunately, the libraries that are most valuable to real estate developers are also the most valuable to the public for very similar reasons, including central accessible locations.

The most valuable libraries may be at the top of this list, but all libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  All libraries are under siege because of the deliberate, unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary underfunding of NYC libraries that is being presented as an excuse to sell libraries affects all libraries in all our city's boroughs.

All libraries in the New York City system should also be considered currently under siege because each and every library sale becomes precedent and a model for the next.  The shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicates the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library (in fact it was conceived at the same time with the same people in the background).  Moreover, BPL president Linda Johnson told the City Council when it was approving the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library sale that it would be a model for future library deals by all three city library systems, the BPL, which she heads, the NYPL and the Queens Library.  Johnson has referred to herself as head of the Brooklyn Library system as having "over 1,000,000 square feet of real estate" at her disposal.

While Library officials are attracted to seizing for conversion the most valuable libraries first, they are also usually tactically coy about their plans. At this point they openly acknowledge going after only a few libraries at a time.  They go after the very valuable ones they want and they also go after the libraries where they believe they have ascertained that they can overcome community opposition and expect that they can, at the same time, perhaps achieve another objective that attracts them, like laying the groundwork for an upzoning in Inwood or establish and entrench a principle of reduction as with Spaceworks in Red Hook and Williamsburg.

For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"?

Although the people promoting library sales and elimination of books would like to use as an excuse that the world is going digital, that is not the case.  New York City libraries are more used than ever.  Although use was up 40% programmatically, most of the recent increased use is in terms of circulation, 59%, and almost all of that circulation is physical books.  That is despite an effort by NYC library administration officials to steer people into the use of digital books (which, maybe surprisingly, are actually more expensive for the libraries) and away from what they derisively refer to as "old-fashioned analogue books."

While digital books sometimes have some advantages the general population tends to prefer physical books.  Further, there are advantages with physical books related to the way people learn and think and there are problems and concerns about digital books that need to be considered.  See:  Physical Books vs. Digital Books.

At the same time, libraries do need to address digital needs and provide access to the internet; they need to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don't.  For that reason libraries should actually be growing to address these expanded needs rather than shrinking.  In this regard it is, indefensible and inexplicable that two top-notch libraries with some of the most advanced and robust support of computer and internet libraries, SIBL the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library and the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library with its Business, Career and Education Library, were both targeted for simultaneous elimination.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For?

In the overall scheme of things, New York City libraries cost virtually nothing.  When it comes to libraries, no matter how you slice and dice it, we are dealing with total funding figures that come to fractions of a percentage point, this despite the fact that, economically, libraries more than pay for themselves, and: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”

Notwithstanding, subsidies to sports venues like the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena dwarf what we spend on libraries. In 8 years when we spent at least $620 million on just three sports arenas, (the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" included) that amount was 1.37 times the amount spent on libraries serving seven times as many users.

The underfunding of libraries is notwithstanding that libraries are one of the public's top priorities. The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services as their“third highest budget concern” and“Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”  In 2013 when the NYC Comptroller polled the public about its priorities for "The People's Budget" libraries were again one of the very top priorities.

Valuable in so many ways in their own right, libraries must also be considered an essential adjunct to schools and ensuring proper education and literacy of the population.  One thing that a recurring trope in science fiction scripts gets right is that there is a high correspondence, if not quite one-to-one correlation, between the demise of great libraries and the collapse of once great civilizations.

NYC Libraries Are Being Sold For Huge Losses And For Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

People ask whether the public is at least getting good deals or "value" when we sell our libraries.  We absolutely are not.  We are selling our libraries for far less than their worth and far less than we have invested in them.  The losses are actually profoundly embarrassing notwithstanding the proclivity of library officials to deceptively characterize proceeds from sales as "profits," and as "hefty" rather than "paltry."  That's been true since the beginning. . .

. . .  The first library sold, the Donnell Library, the central destination, 97,000-square foot, five-story central destination library on what was documented to be the most valuable block in Manhattan at the time, was sold to net the NYPL less than $25,000 million.  The penthouse in the luxury tower that replaced it in the 50-story luxury tower replacing Donnell went on the market for $60 million.  Another single lower-level condo unit in the luxury building, 43A, sold for $20,110,437.50.  There is also a 114 guest room luxury hotel in the tower.  according to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese investors made that hotel,“the most highly valued hotel in the U.S.” after agreeing to buy it for “more than $230 million. . .  .more than $2 million a room.”

. . . The central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn, expanded and fully upgraded in 1993, one of the most modern and up-to-date libraries in the system would cost more than $120 million to replace.  The city sold it for less than its tear-down value, for less than its value as a vacant lot, and because it was sold to a developer who's inferior bid was not the highest bid, it's sale became the subject of one of the pay-to-play investigations of the de Blasio administration.  When costs are finally calculated it is likely the city and library administration officials will have netted less than $25 million from this library's ruination.

. . . In two suspicious real estate deals the NYPL has sold the 34th Street SIBL library, the city's biggest science library . . . . .

TO READ MORE- Click:  TO READ MORE- Click: Libraries Being Sold For Huge Losses And Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

Who Is Selling Our Libraries?

The plans to sell our libraries were announced under the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and it appears that they go back to at least 2005 and probably at least 2004.  Prior to the Bloomberg administration, NYC libraries were being expanded significantly under the Giuliani administration.  During the 2013 mayoral race, candidate Bill de Blasio said that the library sales should be halted, but in short order Mr. de Blasio was taking money from real estate developers "behind the curtain  . .very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Once in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued with the library sales he decried as a candidate, although, to give the devil his due, de Blasio did not proceed with the full-blown NYPL Central Library Plan.  While the Mid-Manhattan library is now being subjected to a consolidating shrinkage it is no longer being sold straight out, but, under Mayor de Blasio we are still selling SIBL the city's biggest science library.  We are also still exiling research books off premises from where they were once readily and quickly retrievable at the 42nd Street Library.


There are other elected officials that are avidly taking the lead pushing these city library sales.  Foremost among them is city council member Brad Lander.  Also clearly conspicuous in his enthusiastic and unrelenting support for these plans is Jimmy Van Bramer head of the City Council Cultural Committee of which the city council's library subcommittee is a sub-component he domainates in leading.  .  .

 . .  Each particular local city council member must also be held responsible for what happens to the libraries in their districts, but revelations are that many of them, like Councilman Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg libraries), Ydanis Rodriguez (Inwood Library) and Carlos Manchacca (Sunset Park Library), were brought on board behind the scenes in advance to  . . .

TO READ MORE (including about the involvement of a Trump presidential son-in-law, Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman, the library boards of trustees, law enforcing officials standing idly by the sidelines and what are supposed to be charitable organizations serving the public) - Click:  WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?
Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
As noted, although plans to sell NYC libraries were not announced by the Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration until much later, those plans actually to go back to at least 2005 or probably 2004David Offensend was hired by the NYPL in June of 2004 and, though he is imprecise, he says that he started working on library deals not long after his arrival there.  Janet Offensend, his wife, who helped launch BPL library sales started haunting the BPL and its board in 2005.  Other city development officials were being positioned by Mayor Bloomberg on the BPL board around that time.  (The Bloomberg administration took office January 1, 2002, shortly after 9/11.  By contrast, the Giuliani administration implemented library expansion plans that carried over into the early Bloomberg years.)

The BPL's minutes for 2005 show that in January a developer, perhaps jumping the gun based on inside knowledge, was angling to buy the 12,200 square-foot Midwood Library.  In November 2006 the New York Times ran a little noticed article about tearing down “obsolete” branch libraries to produce “new,” "better" library space in multi-use developments saying that a study had produced "an inventory of nearly every branch library in New York City" to identify "candidates for redevelopment" (like the "Red Hook, Sunset Park and Brower Park" libraries and the "Clinton Hill Library," which involves pushing through an accompanying rezoning.)  The article mentions "deferred maintenance" as a reason to redevelop the libraries.

In May of 2006 it was revealed that four Connecticut librarians had won a fight, secret because of a gag order since it began in July 2005, to resist broad federal surveillance of their library patrons.

Although the public did not know what it needed to know in order to see it happening, 2007 and 2008 were extremely eventful years in terms of furthering the plans to sell NYC libraries: 
2007 
    •    In January 2007, Booz Allen Hamilton (known principally as a private surveillance firm, the "colossus" in the industry, working for the federal government) was hired to assist the NYPL trustees with their strategy of the sale and reformulating of libraries.
    •    In the Summer of 2007 the Mayor Bloomberg and First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris expressed enthusiasm for the NYPL’s plans to sell and redevelop major central destination Manhattan Libraries.
         •    In November The Donnell Library sale was announced . . . .

TO READ MORE (a complete timeline of library sale events and maneuvers in 2007, 2008 and right through to to the formation of Citizens Defending Libraries) - Click: When Did Library Selling and Underfunding Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries


While most New Yorkers are attuned to the power and excesses of the city real estate industry and therefore easily understand its role as a key motivator in the assault on libraries, it's unfortunately naive to believe that only the real estate industry has an agenda that is adverse to the tradition of continuing libraries as the democratic commons we have known them to be.

This gets us into some other big questions. TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

Control of Information

Does dumbing down the public make sense, is it truly workable if you want an effective democracy?  The availability and control of information, including in libraries as copious storehouses of information, has always long disconcerted authoritarians.  For instance, is it surprising to know that Senator Joseph McCarthy exercised his influence to ban from U.S. controlled libraries the music and scores of the "Fanfare For The Common Man" composer Aaron Copeland, because McCarthy believed  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats 
No doubt there are those for whom it would be preferable if information in libraries was tidily circumscribed so that it just slipstreams comfortably behind the limited thinking and reporting of the corporate conglomerate controlled national media.  That's a corporate media which among other things and by example underreports the climate change crisis, and  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
 While the tradition has been to protect and preserve the information entrusted to libraries, information on the internet can be startlingly evanescent, its continued existence subject to decisions made by whim or out of wrath about what the public should see. . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
The Internet And Digital as Business

As the world speeds into digital, it is important to recognize the pull and tugs of what the internet corporations would like, including reasons for wanting things to go digital.  There are reasons why, when just five or six (as of 2017) people control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world's population, that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon (and Washington Post) owner Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Bill Gates are three for them (with another Carlos Slim Helu incidentally, as part of his media holdings, being the largest shareholder of the New York Times.  Those reasons coincide with the reasons Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are all vying (along with Exxon Mobile) for the spot as largest U.S. company.

 . . . Think where all this money comes from.  There is, of course, the ubiquitous advertising, as the pop-up ads that saturate far-flung corners of the internet will remind you, just as advertising saturates the monopolistically owned TV and radio airwaves.  There is also the data-scraping.  As the "old internet saw" was quoted when Google was wiring all of NYC's streets for wireless internet "for free": "If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product."  What the private internet companies know about you helps target you . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats (or start by reading some of the snippets in different categories below.)
Privatized Political Advantage

Among those buying the data are political parties and their campaign operations looking to control the elected seats of government. Now with unprecedented insight into your preferences, those actors and operatives use the data to decide, with tools like gerrymandering, how much your vote should or should not be allowed to count.  With "voter preference files" that contain tens of thousands of "sets of data points" they have graduated from "microtargeting specific groups" to "nanotargeting" with different kinds of messages (whether true or not) designed elicit particular `emotional responses' from voters.  "Pay to sway" services supply a smorgasbord of  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Owning Ideas and Culture to Charge For Them

The content industry has its wants as well.  Its purveyors desire, for instance, to get the public out to the very latest movie you see touted on billboards, simultaneously on the sides of city buses, via the ads on Comedy Central and other channels, perhaps also boosted by a "sponsorship" mention on your local public radio station as it does featurette reporting . . . 
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
A Reduction to Dollar$ Sense

. . Traditional libraries have always stood as models opposite to the concept that everything in the world, plus everything that ought to be prioritized and perpetually pushed to the fore should exist in stripped-down monetizable dimensions.  To evaluate the world exclusively in the very limited terms of seeing things in terms of just numbers or only following the money is, in an of itself, impoverishing.  A 2015 report published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review studied how  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Surveillance

The last big subject to mention bears a relationship to the first topic.  When the government, whoever is in charge, isn't actually preventing citizens from reading certain books it might proscribe, it can, nevertheless, be interested in surveiling what books and information members of the public are reading.  In theory, this could allow the government to  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially  Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

Defunding and dismantling our libraries hurts society broadly, probably more broadly than many may have considered.

It is, of course, usually recognized that cutting back on library services significantly impacts low-income neighborhoods relying on them.  A PowerPoint presentation to the Queens Library board told it that library service is most important to low-income users: 2/3rds visit at least weekly, & almost 30% visit every/most days.  A recent Pew research Center report says "Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities," see them as community anchors, and use them to pursue jobs.  And it's been astutely commented that wherever it happens the loss of libraries is "another surefire way to entrench inequality."
 
Researchers and students also use the libraries.  Arguing to destroy libraries, the NYPL tried a divide-and-conquer-the-community approach suggesting that the research library was elitist and not sufficiently populist when in any given year the researchers and students at its 42nd Street central reference library consult "only 6% of print sources."  The same argument was being used to thin out collections at neighborhood libraries and move books off-site from those locations too.  That "6%" consultation rate was referred to by Ada Louise Huxtable in her very last column, published just weeks before her death (Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, December 3, 2012), in which she lambasted the NYPL's Central Library Plan including its stingy thinking that books should not be kept on hand if they are consulted infrequently:
If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library's own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular "People's Palace." But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.
Among other things, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and SIBL are the libraries for the graduate students at CUNY, the City University of New York, who  . . . .

TO READ MORE (about how the benefits of libraries are transmitted throughout society, the racial discrimination in selling libraries and divide and divide-and-conquer-the-community ploys) - Click: Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled?

How Many Books Are Disappearing?


Venturing into a library to witness scads of empty book shelves is a disorientating experience.  The empty shelves constitute early warning signs: Empty shelves at Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL, the Brooklyn Heights Library, the Grand Army Plaza Library, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library have meant that these libraries have been targeted to be involved in library sale and shrinkage plans.

It is stunning how many books have disappeared and become unavailable, multiple millions overall.  (Library administration officials have done their best to obscure true counts of the reductions.)  If the books disappear from targeted libraries far enough in advance library administration officials can deceptively promise that there will be as many books after the shrinkage of the library as before.  Another deception is for library officials to claim that if books are exiled to be consolidated elsewhere in a "deduping" center there will actually be "more" books as a result.  ("Deduping" is euphemism for book elimination, the idea being the more books you consolidate in a central location the more books you have that are "duplicates" to be eliminated.)

Amazingly, despite the increasing difficulty in obtaining books NYC book circulation is going up and circulation increases are mainly the physical books that patrons generally prefer.  The idea that because some books (not all- for instance, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker") are available digitally we no longer need libraries to supply physical books is a myth.  That library administration officials disparage physical books as "old-fashioned analogue books" or just "artifactual originals" or that those officials will spend more money to push people in to digital reading than what spending on physical books costs does not make that myth any more true.

When library officials solicit contributions from the general public they will jive about how they are asking for that money in order to buy more books because they know that is a vision the public will support and respond favorably to, but at the same time library officials are less than transparent about how they are actually removing books from library premises and from the system entirely.

For more information about how many millions of books have disappeared from which libraries . .

TO READ MORE- Click: How Many Books Are Disappearing From New York City Libraries?

Why Turning Libraries Into Real Estate Deals Isn't The Good Deal Library and City Development Officials Describe

At first blush, many people have accepted what city development and library officials have regularly asserted about the deals launching this city-wide program of converting libraries into real estate deals (or, similarly, "redeveloping" our schools for that matter), that by "unlocking" library real estate development rights with multi-use developments it is a "win-win" proposition that benefits the libraries as well as the developers and real estate industry.

The offer of a free lunch is a tempting thing to hope for, but it doesn't bear scrutiny.  The math, when you do it, simply doesn't work out: It is expensive to tear down existing, frequently recently renovated libraries that the public has already invested substantially in.  When these development ideas are promoted the math goes from initial wishful fantasies, to deliberately obfuscated lack of transparency, to outright mendacious misrepresentation.  If library officials had insisted that the Donnell Library or the Brooklyn Heights Library be fully and completely replaced when they were sold (irrespective or their spaces being shoved underground), the sales would have to be calculated showing deep and obviously absurd public losses. . .

There is also the disruption that affects the public. And, although library and city officials try to skip over the point, when library assets are being divested, the libraries are, in the process, shedding their opportunities for future expansion and to keep pace as the city grows.

Moreover and probably most important, such multi-use development schemes force the libraries to "partner" with powerful private real estate interests that ultimately wind up in the drivers seat, setting the priorities with big checkbooks that bankroll false and misleading PR.  With the moneyed interests throwing their weight around, the public is exposed to bait-and-switch variations.  The Donnell Library sale deal that was described to the press and public when it was announced in no way resembled the deal that was consummated.

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property

Libraries are not our only public commons that are undemocratically under attack.  The attacks on libraries reflect a much wider scourge of plundering our public assets with the selling off and privatizing of schools, hospitals, public housing, parks, and even the privatization of our streets and sidewalks.  Accordingly, instead of just fighting the library fight, Citizens Defending Libraries (and you can join us) has reached out to other activists to hold a series of forums on the selling off of public assets and help engender and understanding of the commonalty of the threats and tactics an subterfuges we see.  For instance, as Noam Chomsky has explained one such "standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.". .  (In other words, when the door is open to privatization and sell-off there is an inducement to underfund.)  And then, with the transfer to private ownership, the result for public gets even worse.

Some of The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For 

City and library officials working with real estate developers trot out a standard set of misleading falsehoods and ploys to promote library sales.  If you think they sound good, watch out, often what they are saying is pretty much opposite to the real truth.

Want to know what lies to watch out for? . .

TO READ MORE- Click: The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Official Sell Libraries

(Read about: lies about public process * Lies about how to oppose a sale * Lies that "replacement" libraries will be as big or bigger *  Lies that libraries are too "dilapidated" to fix * The "same number of books" lie)

Where Does It Go From Here?  What Can You do?

One thing you can do is consider this a worthy cause and inform yourself and others about it.  Protection and preservation of our libraries is something that most people instantly and automatically understand.  As one member of our group observed early on: "If you can't stop them at libraries, where can you stop them?"  That's why we must stop them.. .

 . .  But also, because people do understand what it means to protect libraries, because they understand it in their very bones, the protection of libraries is an issue and a cause that can be used as a fulcrum to push back on the many other issues that relate to it, the impoverishing privatizations of public assets in general, abuses of the real estate industry, the corrupting influence of money in politics, inequality of power and wealth and the abuses of power by the wealthy. 

What Can We Do Next?

TO READ MORE- Click: How to Defend Our Libraries.

(Read about: Altering the law * Insisting on transparency * defending library buttons * Our Letter of Support * Our petition * Our mailing List * Testimony at public hearings *  Birddogging elected officials  *  Contacting the press *  Social media * Having us speak to yous community organization * Letters to the editor/comment on web articles * Research help * FOIL assistance * Singing the marvelous Judy Gorman library song )



The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries

The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email MDDWhite (at) aol.com.

The archive of our previous web page (used into December 2017) can be found by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Testimony Respecting Proposed Sale of Inwood Library for Redevelopment and Upzoning of the Inwood Community

The community's message in chalk outside the library vs. that of elected officials creating "done deals" without public knowledge or participation: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer standing next to City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in blue suit as he promotes the sale of the Inwood Library.  The man with the folded arms on Gale Brewer's other side is from de Blasio's HPD, also there to promote the sale of the Inwood Library. The man with the lowered head is a PR official from the NYPL.
Here is the testimony that Citizens Defending Libraries has submitted to Manhattan Community Board 12 and its Land Use Committee respecting the proposed sale of the Inwood Library for redevelopment and the upzoning of the Inwood community.

* * * * 

February 20, 2018

Mr. Wayne Benjamin, Chair
Land Use Committee
Manhattan Community Board 12
c/o Ebenezer Smith, District Manager
Manhattan Community Board 12
ebsmith@cb.nyc.gov
Re: Testimony respecting proposed sale of Inwood Library for redevelopment and upzoning of the Inwood community
Dear Manhattan Community Board 12 and Land Use Committee:

Don’t let the NYPL and de Blasio administration put another notch in the belt sacrificing a public library to real estate interests with real estate deals that harm and don’t benefit the public as they waste and squander public assets.  We are asking that Manhattan Community Board 12 and its Land Use Committee not let another such notch be put in that belt with the sale for redevelopment of the Inwood Library which is tied in with another attack on the Inwood neighborhood. . . that is the upzoning of the neighborhood as real estate greed goes on the war path.

As the community will surely testify, the upzoning will drastically change the character of the neighborhood with the expected introduction of upsurging gentrification that will displace existing residents.  Existing lower income residents are likely to be hit especially hard.  Plus what thought has been given to how the existing fabric of the neighborhood and its culture will be shredded as change evicts the familiar and affordable mom and pop stores?

The sale of the library has been laminated to the upzoning.  Why?  What a strange thing to do.  At the developer meeting held in connection with the prospective sale of the Inwood Library the developers when they asked were told by city and library officials the library sale would only go forward if the upzoning goes forward.  Therefore the developers were told not to prepare any packages of proposals that did not assume that the upzoning would not go forward at the same time.

But to show you how out of control this process is, a developer at the meeting noted that the Request For Proposal guidelines specified that the proposals for a redevelopment of what is now the Inwood library should take into account the character and nature of the surrounding neighborhood.  The developer pointed out that the upzoning was going to change the neighborhood tremendously, probably in ways that can’t even be predicted.  He asked whether proposals should take into account the character of the existing neighborhood or the character of the neighborhood as it might possibly be after the effect of the rezoning.  “You figure it out,” library and city officials told him.  That illustrates not only how out of control these proposals are, it also illustrates an attitude that is execrably cavalier.  The last thing it illustrates is just how completely laissez faire public officials are being in turning over the public welfare to the whims (or worse) of the real estate industry and those trolling for profit at public expense.

The real estate industry looks at libraries, not as the community does, but as playthings with which to manipulate the community and perhaps bamboozle it into accepting what is against the community’s interest.  At a January 12, 2015 New School conference that addressed the real estate uses of libraries the New School’s host told the assembled professionals that in the end “a library is real estate” and that she had found:
it's often a nice placating gesture in a real estate development. You want to do commercial development?: Put a library in it and you win a new public that you might not have had on your team initially.
The sale of the Inwood Library may have been strangely and confusingly laminated to the upzoning in this instance, but probably the greater fool-or-confuse-the-community manipulation associated with the proposal to redevelop and privatize much of the site where the library now stands is the talk of the so-called affordable housing that is unlikely to replace the affordable housing lost when existing residents are displaced.

It is wrong to sell a library that has just been renovated and expanded.  It is impossible to recoup that investment when you destructively tear down and have to rebuild all over again.  The proposal is to give up most of the library real estate that the public now owns and put a replacement library in the bottom of a privately owned residential building.  That means the library can never be expanded when it needs to be.  If the library were to be put into a city-owned building that was also commercial it could be expanded, but that is not the proposal. .

. . . The proposal is the shrinkage of what the public owns, a shrinkage of the public realm, a shrinkage of the public commons.  And because libraries are the public commons that represent democracy so quintessentially, this is a shrinkage of democracy.  Because the shrinkage is laminated to an overall upzoning of the neighborhood that shrinkage is proportionately all the greater.

And the NYPL and de Blasio officials do not care one whit about that loss.  At the meeting they held for developers submitting RFP’s to tear down the Inwood library and acquire the site for redevelopment we made sure certain questions were asked and answered.  Will developer proposals supplying a bigger library get extra credit? No. Will developer proposals supplying more above ground space for the library get extra credit?  No. Will developer proposals that create the possibility for an expansion of the library in the future get extra credit?  No.  Is there a particular shape or configuration that would be good for the library that officials would like to specify would be good (rather than just leaving the public with the dregs after the developer has creamed off for itself the space the developer likes best)?  No.   

It is to be remembered that all these Nos were after the plan to sell the library was presented to the community as a `done deal’ with unaccountable local politicians signing onto the plan before it was ever communicated to the public for reaction in any way.

As others in the community will surely testify, the library is an essential ancillary facility to the neighborhood schools it abuts and is immediately proximate to.  These schools stand to suffer loss for a generation of the student classes passing through.  This loss should not be underestimated.  No interim arrangement is going to come close to meeting the community’s true needs- But then, from the standpoint of the real estate industry, and therefore city and library officials, that is not the point.  Don’t let them put another notch in their belt.

If you let them sell the Inwood Library for a concocted real estate scheme, you put every other library in New York City more at risk.  And even if you want to move out of Inwood after the rezoning and loss of the library you stand to be affected in those other neighborhoods.

Citizens Defending Libraries, formed in the beginning of 2013, has been witness to the callousness of the many concocted plans of the real estates industry supported by the library and city administration officials. We invite you to study our web page where we lay out and catalogue a record on the part of those officials that is not at all pretty.  Please consult the attached addendum with more information about what is on our web page.  It is the intent of Citizens Defending Libraries to shine a light and hold accountable over the long term all those participating in the irresponsible sale of our libraries.

Sincerely,
       
Michael D. D. White
Citizens Defending Libraries   

- - - - -

Citizens Defending Libraries Web Page Information

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Web Page is at:
https://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2017/12/citizens-defending-libraries-main-page.html
Or you can read the page LONG FORM if you want to read straight through to go more deeply into topics without clicking on them to do so as you read:       
https://citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com/2017/12/
Here is the way that our web page now breaks down into important subject headings, each of which can be individually read:
SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES (Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em)

When Citizens Defending Libraries Started and Why
Achievements of Citizens Defending Libraries

What Libraries Are Affected By New York City Plans To Sell Libraries As Real Estate Deals, Shrink And Underfund Libraries And Eliminate Books?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"? NO, That's NOT a Reason It Should Happen.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For? Absolutely NOT!

NYC Libraries Are Being Sold For Huge Losses And For Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries: Examining The Panoply of Other Threats

Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

How Many Books Are Disappearing From New York City Libraries?

Why Turning Libraries Into Real Estate Deals Isn't The Good Deal Library and City Development Officials Describe

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property
   
The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Officials Sell Libraries

How To Defend Libraries - What You Can Do

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Library Selling NYPL Trustee Schwarzman Becomes $1 Billion+ CEO

Did you catch the news last week in Crain’s that library selling NYPL trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman is going to be the first $1 billion+ CEO?  He's the head of the Blackstone Group.  His salary must have just gone up a few hundred million this year.  It is hardly surprising that as Schwarzman’s salary went up, the NYPL trustee library-sale-pushing Schwarzman is doing all sorts of deals with Trump son-in-law/advisor (without a permanent security clearance) Jared Kushner.  Kushner was a principal financial beneficiary of the plundering Donnell Library sale the NYPL trustees pushed out the door.  Worse yet, amongst the swirl of Trump/Schwarzman/Kushner/Saudi deals that are going on Schwarzman is leading the charge with Saudi money to sell off American public assets to private interests . . .

. . . The Trump administration is helping with SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction curtailment and otherwise striving to impoverish all government in furtherance of the Koch agenda.

For the latest and more about the Schwarzman Kushner deals see Noticing New York: Reporting About Multiple Troublesome Real Estate Deal Connections Between Presidential Son-In-Law/Advisor Jared Kushner and Presidential Advisor Stephen A. Schwarzman, New York Times & Press Overlook Connections, Including Library Sale (January 29, 2018)
NOTE: Crain's did not publish a comment on its article linking to information about the Schwarzman/Kushner deals.  If you want to come to a forum about where you get your information and how mainstream media often unreliably curtails the information you get see:
Coming March 4th- Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication Can You Plug Into?




Sunday, February 11, 2018

Coming March 4th- Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication Can You Plug Into?

We hope this interest you.  Citizens Defending Libraries is all about people getting the information they need and should have.
Forum: Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication Can You Plug Into?

Sunday, March 4, 2018, 1:00 Pm to 3:00 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation Chapel
119-121 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Join a discussion to exchange information and ideas about how you get your information about important events in the world.  Where do you go to seek reliable news and complete information?  Should the country’s main stream media have reported the recent succession of unprecedentedly calamitous weather events without mentioning climate change?  Does a media drumbeat for war seem off-base? Do we hear about its cost?  Picking up newspapers, do you feel like you are reading compiled corporate press releases? As much of media ownership is consolidated in fewer corporations and when a wealthy few with disinformation agendas like the Kochs buy up ownership of outlets like Time magazine, where does truth take refuge to be found?  If your media literacy tells you that the most important part of narratives you are being served is what has been edited out how do you find what fills in the blanks?  Let’s identify what kinds of critical stories go unreported and how can we find out about them.

Conversely, when things need to become news, need to be known by the general public, what channels are there to transmit that information?  When structural reforms need to be made in our society they cannot be made unless we are able to exchange information about the changes that are needed: Serviceable channels for circulating information may be our threshold basic need.  How reliable is social media as an avenue for transmitting information and in what ways is it deceptively not?

* * *

Maybe you would like to start early?  In the comment section to this page you may want to supply information about where you go to get your news and why.  Or maybe you'd like to post about what you think are the biggest issues that mainstream media is not reporting on?  Climate change?  The cost of war?  Voting irregularities in the last election? 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

NYPL’s Presentation of its “Master Plan” to alter and commercialize the 42nd Street Central Reference Library

The NYPL has been presenting and getting public reaction to its “Master Plan” to alter the 42nd Street Central Reference Library (see our videos linked to below).

One big question is whether the plan is a stealthy new working-in-from-the edges version of the NYPL’s reviled and loudly rejected “Central Library Plan.”

The 42nd Street Library was designed and built around its famous research stacks designed to hold 3 million books.  The new master plan inverts this process leaving unspecified what is to be done with this core element of the building, saying that it will be dealt with following launch of the current construction overhaul as a mere afterthought.

Meanwhile, the observable bent of the “Master Plan” is to commercialize the building, focusing on tourists, not researchers or traditional library patrons.  It proposes to convert Map Room and map reading space into an apparently fancy wine-serving wait staff-equipped café.  Rather than being alarmed by this NYPL trustees wanted to make sure officials were considering expanding and opening up the café to absorb some of Bryant Park’s public space.  (As if there weren’t already enough pricey cafés and restaurants already girding the library in the public space of Bryant Parks.)    Also proposed is new entrance/exit with the intent of renovations to have the NYPL gift shop (“exit through the gift shop"?) abut it.

Some massive amounts would be spent on added elevators and still more staircase space although the need to add these features to and already well designed, well equipped building is inexplicable.   The building has done very well without these features for more than one hundred years.  This alteration to circulation plan is being proposed when theoretically it is unknown what will be done with one huge and key portion of the building: The research stacks.

As you can see from the video presentation, the architects for the plan say they have now clue about how much expense insertions of the new stairs and elevator would cost, either percentage-wise of dollar-wise.  The “Master Plan” was presented to the public for comment, sprung on the library users, only after the NYPL trustees approved its launch (another “done deal’).  It is supposed to a huge amount of additional funding ($144 million before cost overruns).

The huge cost of the plan is being used by the NYPL as an excuse to sell SIBL, New York City’s biggest Science library. . .  . . . The Science Library will go out of existence.  The NYPL says you can do your science research on the internet instead. . . .
                  
SIBL, needs NO renovation.  It was built in 1996 for $100 million and the state-of-the-art library was pronounced the “library of the future.”

While the federal government is eliminating net neutrality and information about climate change from federal websites . . . . .  NYPL officials are explaining the elimination of its science library (housed in 34th Street’s SIBL- The Science, Industry and Business Library) and its collection of science books by saying that people can get their science information from the internet instead.

We want the books brought back to the research stacks where they belong.  We do not want the science library sold and closed.  We do not want to see the 42nd Street Central Reference Library turned into a commercialized tourist spot.

The Committee to Save the New York Public Library has weighed in with a sober and withering assessment.
Committee to Save the New York Public Library: Response to the NYPL Master Plan - Improving A Research Library For The 21st Century
Here is some of the Committee’s sober assessment:
There is little in this plan that advances the goal of providing researchers with faster and better access to NYPL’s collections; in fact, the plan to relocate the maps does exactly the opposite. Instead, NYPL concentrates on commercializing the first floor with a larger café and retail store. The questionable need for a third stairway in the south side of the building may also be driven by commercial considerations—the needs of caterers. Smaller second floor rooms once housed expert curators and special collections. The Mecanoo/BBB proposal substitutes unspecified uses for these rooms, but without books and curators, their utility is diminished, and collections remain remote from readers. This grand building can accommodate many uses, but changes should serve the needs of readers and researchers above shoppers and diners.

NYPL’s promise of an open, transparent, participatory planning process has a hollow ring when its trustees approve a master plan based on a video and a few renderings without public consent. Where are the actual plans? Why was approval given before any public comment? . . .

* * * *

Finally, a master plan that ignores the stacks is no master plan at all. Returning the collections to this great unused asset should be the central feature of any sensible plan.
 * * * *

The video below is the NYPL's first presentation of the "Master Plan."  Public comment and reaction in in the latter part of the video.

NYPL Presentation of Master Plan For 42nd Street Library (Monday, November 20, 2017)

 

NYPL 2nd Presentation of "Master Plan" Part 1, Dec 7, 2017


   
NYPL 2nd Presentation of "Master Plan" Dec 7, 2017 Part2

In the video below you cans see questions about the staircase and elevators with the architect disavowing knowledge of how expensive those alterations would be.   You can see questions about the "Stephen A. Schwarzman" name being on the building while the NYPL gift shop displays "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer recounting Schwarzman's participation working with the Kochs to hijack American democracy.

You can also see the hedge-funders holiday party after the "Master Plan" presentation, and a demonstration just outside on 42nd Street protesting the elimination of net neutrality, elimination of another information commons.  Listen to the NYPL tell us we can get our science information over the internet rather than collect books in the science library. 

   

Library Defender Testimony at City Council Dec18, 2017 Hearing
 Below is testimony of Inwood Library defenders and CDL's Michael D. D. White against the plan.
  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed

We were recently telling our library defenders about film maker activist Michael Moore and the connections he makes between libraries and the political freedoms essential to the underpinnings of Democracy.  One of the stories we told was about how his own censorious publisher was going to suppress and pulp unpublished a book he wrote that was critical of George W. Bush.
   
The happy ending to that story was that Moore’s book, “Stupid White Men: ...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!,” was rescued by a courageous librarian who mobilized her comrades and the book went on to top the best seller lists and may be helped people start thinking more circumspectly about the George W. Bush off-to-America’s-longest-ever-war administration when it was critical for Americans to do so.  See:  Michael Moore’s Anti-George Bush Book Was Saved From The Censorious 9/11 Tyranny by A Courageous Librarian Mobilizing Comrades, December 4, 2017.

In world where information and points of view get suppressed books can be a catalytic part of the media ecosystem that should never be underestimated . . .  even when it appears they are on the ropes losing the fight to pummeling suppression.

Another book suppressed by its own publisher was “JFK and Vietnam,” by Dr. John Newman, a retired U.S. Army Intelligence Officer and historian.  The book broke ground in documenting how president John F. Kennedy was engaged in significant preparatory steps to withdraw the United States from Vietnam just before he was assassinated.  The book has since been championed by James K. Galbraith, son of economist and writer John Kenneth Galbraith who served Kennedy as Ambassador to India and from whom Kennedy sought help to steer toward withdrawal from that war.  The book received praise from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and former CIA head William Colby.

The National Security Agency didn't have a basis and couldn’t stop publication, but the publisher cooperatively pulled it from the book store shelves anyway.  The public lost access to it for 26 years.  See: National Notice- As The Kochs Acquire Ownership of Time Inc.- More About Where On The Spectrum Of Left/Right Politics That Publishing Organization Was Once To Be Found Plus More About What Once Did and Didn’t Get Said/Published In The U.S. Media, December 31, 2017.

But here’s what is odd to relate about the book’s sort of round about victory as it wended its way around to republication.  According to it’s author, Dr. Newman, the book became the catalyst for much of the content of Oliver Stone’s film “JFK.”  That led to the Congress acting to get documents declassified, which then helped Dr. Newman to be able do his research for his next book and that helped his original book finally get published.

Another example of a book being a catalyst for the publication of suppressed news was described recently by former New York Times reporter James Risen who now works for The Intercept.  He and another Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, wrote a story about the  secret illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of the American public by the George W. Bush administration that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in 2006.  But that story was published by the New York Times only because Risen was about to publish a book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” that would disclose the story (the story that ultimately unfolded even further with the Snowden disclosures).  The Times, even though it didn’t want him to publish the book, wanted even less to be scooped.

Before that, in 2004 in the months running up to the Bush/Kerry presidential election and up until Risen’s move to publish his book, the Times was cooperating with the Bush administration to suppress the story that ultimately won it the Pulitzer Prize.  That cooperative suppression of information no doubt affected the course, if not the final outcome, of the Bush/Kerry election.  The saga of how Risen was threatened with prison by the Obama administration for not revealing his source became the basis for his next book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.”

Risen says that, in the very end the Times actually accelerated the publication of the story because there was word that the Bush administration was considering going to court to seek prior restraint on the story, the first time the government would have been doing so since the Pentagon Papers.

Right now there is a movie about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, “The Post,” that is vigorously contending for Oscars.  That film arguably has its catalytic genesis in a book that was pulped unpublished by its publisher, “Katharine the Great : Katharine Graham and the Washington Post,” a biography of Washington Post publisher written by Deborah Davis for publication in 1979.  The film is not based on that biography, which Graham considered unflattering and had a hand in keeping away from the public when first written.  The film began with a script by Liz Hannah, who “fell in love with” reading Graham’s autobiography “Personal History” that came out in 1997 not long before Graham died in 2001.

It’s easy to argue that one thing that compelled Graham to write the much more flattering official version of her life (and it won a Pulitzer Prize too) was her wanting to overwrite the version of facts in the Deborah Davis book.

Liz Hannah also reportedly read and relied on other sources flattering to the main characters in her film like the autobiography of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, “A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures.”  Ben Bradlee also worked to prevent the publication of Deborah Davis’ book.  There are quite a few very interesting, not easy to explain, things about things about Bradlee’s life that Davis and others have inquired curiously about that are far less flattering than the Bradlee of Hannah’s script of that of the earlier Washington Post film, “All The President’s Men.”  Fascinatingly, Hannah intends her next script to be a 9/11 story: “Only Plane in the Sky,*” about some of the strangest aspects of the panoply of very strange and bizarre things that happened that day, what was going on with George W. Bush.  Much of the content that would need to be used as her source must be material that is widely considered unflattering.  Hannah is readingThe Pet Goat.”  It’s a children’s book, the famous one.  Hannah says she empathizes with Bush that day.
(* There was a previous 9/11 film made about an airplane, an -accurately?- theorized docudrama?: “United 93.”  “Come From Away” is a Broadway 9/11 airplane musical.)
Hannah says that although she grew up in a household that was worshipful of figures like JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, (all of them assassinated) her script still “calls out John F. Kennedy” for his responsibility for the Vietnam War.  ("Lying is bipartisan," says Hannah.)  If she had been paying attention to Dr. Newman’s book about JFK’s plans to pull out of Vietnam that were overturned by Johnson or the fact that the Pentagon Papers contain a 60 page chapter devoted to those plans maybe her script needn’t have been so hard on JFK.  (Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were all opposed to the war.)

In Hannah’s script Katherine Graham comes across as opposed to the war as the Pentagon Papers came out.  Davis’ book says that is not the case and that government deception of that kind didn't necessarily bother her either.
 
Davis, who reviewed Katherine Graham’s autobiography says that it is “in many ways, a remarkable book—startlingly honest in some places and profoundly dishonest in others” revealing some of the same things that made Graham “furious” when Davis was writing about them.  That includes, among the more difficult, discussion of the strange and odd story of her husband Phil’s mental illness and August 3, 1963 suicide, “which must have been a very difficult thing for her to relive while she worked on the book, is quite thorough in some ways, and takes up a good hundred pages.”  Indeed those hundred pages include out takes from quite a few letters between her husband and others plus lots of long contemporaneous quotes of what Graham says her friends said at the time indicating that Graham, writing well over thirty years later either kept a crushingly detailed diary (or legal notes) or has a prodigious memory.  (Or did she, like Nixon, her one time antagonist, have her environs wired to provide posterity with a recorded history?)

Deborah Davis sued her publisher for shredding her biography of Graham and won an out of court settlement.  In addition to financial compensation it involved reacquiring full rights to her book.  Her book has since been published in two more editions, in 1987 and 1991, each adding to the tales Deborah Davis has to tell with additional events of major consequence transpiring in the ensuing years.

Graham’s book was finally published so that public could read it by National Press, “a small Washington publisher.”  Davis includes an introduction to the version of her 1991 edition titled: “How This Book Was Censored.”  At the end of that introduction she explains that before her 1987 edition went to press Graham and Bradlee were “asked to notify the new publisher of any changes they would like to have made to the original text” and that they “responded by reiterating their general disapproval of the book, and declined the request.”  Davis notes that since publication “neither Bradlee nor Graham made any public comment” about the book and that “no one has ever sued for libel.”

Nevertheless, that introduction tells a harrowing story about how her Graham and Bradlee put pressure on her original publisher successfully blocking publication of her book and disparaging her own reputation in the process.  Much like what happened to Michael Moore, her publisher suspended publicity tour plans intended to make it a major book with hopes it would win or be nominated for the American Book Award.   David writes that her lawyers “thought the CIA might have something to do with the books destruction.”  Documents obtained by Davis in the lawsuit showed how much Bradlee and Graham had to do with the suppression efforts, but did not show any involvement of the CIA, unless you might consider Bradlee or Graham an extension of the secret agency.

Part of Davis’ book, and part of what has been subsequently revealed was about things that Bradlee did for the secret agency.   Bradlee came out of Naval Intelligence as did Bob Woodward, who he hired.  Woodward’s name, also a reporter for the Wall Street Journal was invoked in the tactics to stop publication of her book.  Davis’s lawyers counseled her that so long as Bradlee and Graham were acting as private citizens, not the government, they had protected free speech rights when trying to attack her book.  The personal appeals Bradlee and Graham made to the publisher to achieve their censorship read like coded messages about how the publisher and they are all in the same club.

At the end of the first chapter of her book introducing Katherine Graham Davis writes that, “One who writes about Katherine Graham’s life is led unavoidable to a study of the political uses of  information.”  A big topic for Davis in writing about this subject is the news that Graham, cooperating with high government officials, didn’t want to share with the public.  That was despite her popularized Watergate scandal coverage persona. 

Davis said that one theory of her lawyers was that:
publishing companies control information as a public trust, and so have an implicate First Amendment responsibility to make controversial ideas available to the public.
And that her lawyer planned to argue:
the publisher must publish it “in its full sense,” which involved “placing and keeping the book before the public” and letting it enjoy its full life.”
We at Citizens Defending Libraries would like to think that essentially that same “public trust” and “implicate First Amendment responsibility” applies to libraries too, and that just as librarians came forward to rescue Michael Moore’s book from suppression, librarians will stand as guardians to our access to controversial ideas, especially those that make the powerful in government (and their handmaidens) uncomfortable.

We thought it would be a good time to spot check the relative availability in our New York City Libraries of some books that present such ideas.

Here is the result of some spot checking:
•    “Katharine the Great : Katharine Graham and the Washington Post,” by Deborah Davis is available as follows: The NYPL has a copy of the 1987 edition and a copy of the 1991 edition in its 42nd Street Central Reference Library.  It has no circulating copies available and neither do the other two NYC library systems.  The Brooklyn Public Library has one non-circulating copy indicated to be the 1979 suppressed edition as does the Queens Library.

•    “Personal History,” the flattering Katherine Graham autobiography, albeit a Pulitzer-Prize winner, is amply available.   The 42nd Street Central Reference Library has two copes and the NYPL has 29 circulating print copies.  The BPL has two print copies and 5 ebook copies.  The Queens Library has 7 print copies.  Which is to say that if you wander into the stacks of a city library looking for a biography of Katherine Graham you may well find a copy of “Personal History,” but don’t expect any serendipitous discoveries of   Deborah Davis’s biography of Ms. Graham sitting beside it.

•    “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” by James Risen, that got he Times moving to publish his article and collect their Pulitzer has one copy in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library.  The NYPL has another three circulating print copies.  It has about 20 ebook copies that practically nobody seems interested in reading, perhaps with good reason given that this book is about secret surveillance and the reading of electronic books is not a private affair.  The BPL has one circulating copy.  The Queens library has 17.

•     “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and the Endless War,” James Risen’s follow-up book has one copy in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and the NYPL has another sixteen circulating copies.  The BPL has twelve.  The Queens Library has twelve.

•    “JFK and Vietnam,” by Dr. John Newman is pretty scarce.  There is one copy in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and the NYPL has no circulating copies.  The BPL and the Queens Library have one copy apiece.

•    “Stupid White Men: ...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!,” Michael Moore’s almost suppressed nest seller fares only a little better.  There is one copy in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and the NYPL has no circulating copies, but the BPL and the Queens Library have two copies each.

•    “Understanding Power : the Indispensable Chomsky,” by Noam Chomsky is the book that Aaron Swartz  wrote was “The Book That Changed My Life.”  He said it was “completely shocking, at odds with everything you know, turning the way you see things upside-down.”  Swartz was a proponent of libraries who died while being persecuted for his efforts to get information out more broadly and shared with the public.  He said he read this book when he picked it up “at the library.”  There is no copy of the book in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library, but the NYPL has seven circulating copies.  The BPL has no copy of it at all (apparently it's not "indispensable" to them).  The Queens Library has two.

•    “Timber Wars,” by Judi Bari is a book very important to the activist history of the northern California yet it was inexplicably part of a massive book purge from the California's Berkley Public Library (along with other books on social issues and activism).   Judi Bari was an environmental activist importantly active in that Northern California region who paid a price when Bari, apparently under federal surveillance, was severely disabled by a suspicious, unsolved car bombing that was probably inadequately investigated by the FBI.  There is one copy in the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and, other than that there are no circulating copies at the NYPL, BPL or the Queens Library.

•    “Red Alert” aka “Two Hours To Doom” by Peter Bryant (a pseudonym for Peter George) is the book from which Stanley Kubrick made “Dr. Strangelove.”  It was published in 1958 in the United Kingdom and preceded the more popular “Fail-Safe” published in the United States.  Terry Southern, screenwriter for “Strangelove,” asserts that because “national security regulations in England, concerning what could and could not be published, were extremely lax by American standards” George was able to “reveal details concerning the `fail-safe’ aspect of nuclear deterrence . . . that, in the spy-crazy U.S.A. of the Cold War era, would have been downright treasonous” and thus give all the “complicated technology of nuclear deterrence in Dr Strangelove” a base “on a bedrock of authenticity” that gave the satirical film the strength of credibility.  This one is interesting: The only copies available in the New York City libraries are ebook copies (if you want to risk reading them), 2 at the NYPL and one at the BPL.  Those copies may evanesce when the libraries’ lease of them expires.