November 6, 2013
Library Lions honorees are greeted by protestors at the NYPL
by Claire Kelley
Opposition to the Central Library Plan was out in force at the annual Literary Lions 2013 gala on Monday night. As trustees, patrons, and guests climbed the steps to the New York Public Library, protesters from Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee to Save the New York Public Library greeted them with signs and flyers opposing the plans to demolish the historic book stacks, sell two Midtown libraries, and create a circulating library at 42nd Street. (Find links to previous coverage of criticism of the Central Library Plan on this blog here.)
The gala was held on the eve of the 2013 mayoral election, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg received a Library Lion medal along with composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writers Junot Diaz, Katherine Boo and Marilynne Robinson. As the battle over the future of the New York Public Library rages on, the five honorees who were named “Library Lions” at the gala event offered their reflections on the value of libraries.
“Libraries induced in me a fascination with old books. To my child mind, age in a book was venerability and wisdom. The silence and decorum that was expected in these precincts refined my belief. To this day I find myself reading old books, though usually in new elections, more often than I can justify, given all the interesting work being done now. I am loyal to a complicated pleasure that has informed and enhanced my life.”—Marilynne Robinson
“In the library, I can hear myself dream.” —Katherine Boo
“I’m not sure I would have made it as an immigrant kid if it had not been for my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Crowell. The institution and ethos of the public library absolutely gave me all the horizons on which I would build the self I am today.”—Junot Diaz
“What I love about libraries is their organization. Making order out of the chaos of so much human thought, so many stories, so many facts, the gallant attempt to categorize life the uncategorizable, gives me a feeling of home and serenity every time I enter one.”—Stephen Sondheim
“Libraries are the heart of our neighborhoods, serving not only as centers of learning, but as hubs of creativity and innovation. With nearly 40 million annual visitors across more than 200 branches, libraries are also an essential part of our city’s human capital infrastructure. Our administration has worked to sustain and enhance our libraries, helping them respond and adapt to our residents’ changing needs. New Yorkers need libraries now more than ever, and we are grateful to everyone who is helping us preserve and expand them.”—Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg, whose term will end on December 31st, has been criticized by mayor-elect Bill de Blasio for his support of the Central Library Plan. In July, de Blasio stood on the steps of the New York Public Library’s flagship asking for a cost audit of the Central Library Plan.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.