November 6, 2014
New York Public Library Library Lions Gala honors Atwood, Eggers, Ishiguro, Robert B. Silvers, and Anna Deavere Smith
by Claire Kelley
The New York Public Library held its annual Library Lions gala on Monday night, presenting honors to Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Kazuo Ishiguro, Robert B. Silvers, and Anna Deavere Smith.
New York Public Library CEO and President Anthony Marx welcomed guests with a video showing initiatives to provide English language instruction and internet access to library patrons at branches across the city.
“This building [the main New York Public Library] and the research centers are the foundation of so much scholarship, so much freelance work, so much creativity that draws upon the amazing collections and the curators here,” he said. “Anyone from anywhere in the world can ask to see anything. You need no credentials. There is no place in the world like this. And then there are the branches that so many New Yorkers depend upon.”
A second video showed the honorees describing themselves and answering questions. Anna Deavere Smith said, “A public library is one of the few public places that we have anymore. So the fact that people can walk into these buildings and not pay an admission fee means something.”
Asked to describe himself in seven words, Bob Silvers said “An editor obsessed with the next issue.”
“Books are one of the most democratic art forms there are and libraries are also a democratic institution. They allow people access to information and everything that’s in books,” Margaret Atwood said, adding “I own every conceivable device known to mankind and I try out every conceivable website and online thing because I like to know what’s going on.”
The worst advice she has ever been given? “Give up this writing stuff. Catch a good man and settle down. That was my senior adviser.”
A dinner is typically held in the Rose Main Reading Room, but since the ceiling is being repaired, tables were scattered on the second and third floors among trees and twinkling light decorations. At the end of the evening, the honorees signed books for attendees.
The New York Public Library has yet to announce logistics and developments that will replace the controversial Central Library Plan—the subject of Patience and Fortitude by Scott Sherman, which will be published by Melville House next summer.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.