March 5, 2014

Jonathan Lethem and Gary Panter speak out against the NYPL plan


Gary Panter's illustration against the NYPL Central Library Plan.

Gary Panter’s illustration against the NYPL Central Library Plan.

Library advocacy groups like Library Lovers League and Citizens Defending Libraries or ordinary humans of New York like Matthew Zadrozny aren’t the only ones who are rallying to prevent the NYPL’s Central Library Plan from moving forward—famous writers and artists are too.

This week, Jonathan Lethem issued a statement expressing his support for the protesters and calling on New York City’s new mayor to preserve and protect the libraries in Manhattan:

The humans of New York seem to be rousing themselves to a collective understanding: that the great public institutions they boast of and rely upon can’t be entrusted to the stewardship of real-estate developers, corporate synergists, media barons, and other ostensibly well-intentioned, deal-drunk one-percenters. Instead we need to tend our own commons, large and small — individual libraries, and the city itself. The election of De Blasio and the current outcry against the disastrous NYPL ‘renovation’ (scare quotes essential) represent two expressions of the same urgencies. Now it waits for De Blasio himself to close the circuit.

Artist, illustrator, and cartoonist Gary Panter added his voice to the chorus, describing his personal experiences doing research at the New York Public Library:

The New York Public Library is a treasure that needs to be protected, a store house of amazing treasures. A world of items that do not google. I spent last year exploring the library from the sanctum of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in the Stephen Schwarzman building—one of the most amazing adventures of my life, as an artist and reader. Having quick access to illuminated manuscripts, obscure and handmade books, Ukiyo-e woodcuts, hand colored engraving of Cruikshank, rare Blake intaglios and any other artifact I could wish to study first hand was a privilege and joy for me and essential to all lovers of beauty, intellect and information in this city. Please do not dandify or cripple this incredible resource.

The fight to preserve libraries heated up at a Brooklyn Heights Association meeting last Thursday when Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, jousted with BHA president Alexandra Bowie over the group’s stance not to oppose redevelopment plans for the Cadman Plaza location which will be demolished in order to built a new branch.



Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.