New York Public Library President Anthony Marx Chats with Times Readers About NYPL Plan

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The Voice recently wrote about the New York Public Library's P.R. push, as its $300 million renovation plan continues to draw criticism.

So much, in fact, that NYPL President Anthony Marx said he would respond to the public's questions about proposed changes in the New York Times.

Concerned citizens could submit their questions in the ArtsBeat comment field. The Times would then pick questions for Marx.

So what did he say?

Asked whether he will hold town hall-style meetings, Marx answered that there is a website "where users can submit comments and questions" and that he will meet with various community boards, which the public can attend. So, no straight-up town hall meetings have been planned yet.

Another person wrote in asking how the library's flagship branch -- which will feature a circulating collection and maybe a cafe -- will remain quiet for researchers.

On this, Marx promised that the Rose Reading Room and other special reading rooms would remain as is. Busy areas, he said, would be on the bottom floors.

Someone wondered how funding for research and circulating libraries differs; another wanted to know whether the 42nd Street branch had already been sold; somebody inquired about the changing state of libraries -- the kind of stuff that doesn't really say all that much about the NYPL plan.

Apparently absent was a response to a key concern of scholars: How will the library make sure that materials stored off-site will be available within 24 hours, as has been promised?

One commenter, Sally, echoed another sentiment of many who have voiced concern in the past -- that curatorial staff is absent or untrained: "I have often found myself in the uncomfortable position of explaining to the NYPL specialists where this or that document I'm seeking might be, or why it won't be where they insist it is."

Says JuliaB: "Merging Asian rare books into the rare book collection has been less of a disaster, but it remains the case that most of the staff have no idea what Asian books are like."

Marx did touch on librarians somewhat, explaining their necessary role in libraries' future, saying:

"Especially in today's sea of content, NYPL's curatorial expertise is critical. Whether it's in physical libraries or through our web offerings, we serve a vital role as the trusted source people everywhere can depend on. Thus, librarians are more important than ever to help patrons find the information they seek as well as the information they didn't even know existed."

Still, he didn't give much info on how he would assure their expertise.

Overall, the NYPL prez's answers were what you would expect. So, they probably won't do much to quell controversy or make anyone feel too much better about the proposals.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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