Ambush! Watch Citizens Defending Libraries Corner Squadron At Borough Hall Rally

Citizens Defending Libraries, the Brooklyn Heights based group lead by Montague Street’s Michael DD White, attended Daniel Squadron’s Public Advocate rally at Borough Hall on Sunday (9/15).

NYS Assemblymember Joan Millman was on hand and brought up her belief that Brooklyn’s libraries, including the Brooklyn Heights branch must be saved from developers.

White asked Squadron if he intended to write the Brooklyn Public Library to ask that the not shrink or sell the Brooklyn Heights branch or send the business and career library away. Squadron refused to parrot that statement from White and his group on camera, saying “I don’t do things on command in that way.”

The video ends with Squadron promising to work with Millman and NYC Councilmember Steve Levin on the library issue.

Here’s a cleaner video of the full presser – Millman speaks at around 12 minutes in:

As for Squadron’s position on libraries his here’s a statement posted on his campaign website:

“I am opposed to the proposed plans by the city’s library systems in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

As always, I believe that meaningful community input is absolutely necessary; when it comes to these proposed plans, transparency and responsiveness have been insufficient.

I also believe that it is simply unacceptable to sell or shrink libraries for profit.

And I am deeply opposed to cuts to library funding, which put our libraries in crisis.

I’ve been proud to work on these issues in the State Senate, receiving an ‘A’ from New Yorkers for Better Libraries on my voting record last year.

I continue to be focused on protecting funding and finding solutions that ensure strong, healthy libraries across the five boroughs.”

And now we digress — this is a blog and this is our POV:

What’s missing from this dialog about libraries? No one on the preservation side is talking about what the function and mission of a library is in the 21st century. Nor have we heard (please feel free to fill us in if we’re shooting too much from the hip) about how this is a chance to INNOVATE and to DISRUPT the status quo.

Forbes recently published a piece called “Reinventing Libraries for the Future” which included this passage:

“In 2020, the public library will be a concept more than a place,” wrote Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library system in Issaquah, Wash., in Library Journal. “The library will be more about what it does for people rather than what it has for people. As society evolves and more content becomes digital, people will access information in different ways.”

And recently, internet pioneer Vint Cerf sat down with “media pundit” Jeff Jarvis and said this about libraries:

“You have no idea how eager I am to ensure that the notion of library does not disappear – it’s too important. But the thing is, it’s going to have to curate an extremely broad range of materials, and increasingly digital content,” says Cerf.

So, is it so strange for us to be more focused on that sort of forward thinking than to fight for a building with broken air conditioning, nannies on cell phones, homeless men fighting and creeps surfing for porn?

So if that makes us the jolly swagman handmaiden of the BHA’s war on whatever, then so be it.

This post was updated on 9/17/13 at 7AM with additional information regarding the rally and Squadron’s position statement.

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  • nombre

    Vote for Daniel Squadron!

  • Claude Scales

    I want a place, with books, not a concept.

  • marshasrimler

    why? He does not speak the truth and is not to be trusted.
    ask many of his original supporters who know him well

  • marshasrimler

    The library issue is bigger than the BHA and this blog. Do you think the Brooklyn Business Library should be relocated from Downtown where is has always been when we are in the middle of a wonderful downtown boom. We have a wonderful multi-university student body downtown.Should we only have a library buried in the basement for them?The Cadman Plaza branch serves many people not of the Heights. It is really a Civic Center Library and does not belong to
    the BHA

  • BrooklynBugle

    It’s more about what the primary and future function of a library is — what does it do for people? While it may no longer be a place to check out physical books, what other information based services can it provide? Also, if there aren’t physical books what are some innovative designs that would facilitate its updated mission?

  • Claude Scales

    So, you actually envision a Farenheit 450 future without physical books. This would be an unspeakable tragedy. Books are important because they are physical and, if properly cared for, practically permanent. Other “information based services” are ephemeral. One interacts with a book differently than one does with a screen.

  • HenryLoL

    ‘Buried in the basement.’ You just make things up. You are the personification of a special interest group. Give it a rest already. Most of us here cant wait for that dump to be blown up. In its place will be nice housing and a new library. Cadman Plaza West and the hood in total will be better for it.

  • HenryLoL

    You dont speak the truth either. All you do is attack progress and change. Give it up already.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Incorrect. What is the function of a library? What physical books does it carry now that could easily be carried as digital products available to anyone to check out either at the branch or online. Which physical books carry such value that they must be accessed in an analog fashion? Mr. White’s point about the business and career library is a starting point for that conversation. If he had a blank slate using both legacy and new, innovative systems what would he build? Right now, to the casual onlooker (aka EVERYONE) it just appears that their message is – DEVELOPMENT BAD, BLOOMBERG BAD, SAVE LIBRARY. GO LIBRARY NOW!!!

  • Claude Scales

    Not all development is bad; much is good and needed. But I’m dismayed by development that encroaches on what ought to be dedicated public space.

  • BrooklynBugle

    I’m sure if we were “Two Guys Thinkin’ About Liberries” we would create a simple manifesto that everyone, maybe even HenryLOL, would agree with.

  • Former PS 8 parent

    If disrupting the status quo meant thinking hard about the larger function that libraries serve in the community, I’d be all for it. But….

    The Heights library serves many functions, some of which sit uneasily with one another. Not only does it serve an affluent residential community, but it also functions as an afterschool gathering place for students who come from all around the city; it is a needed community center, especially in cooler weather, for childcare workers and their charges, and it’s a destination for people who might not have another place to go, as well as for freelance workers. It’s also a place where people go to find books–the kind that are printed on paper and bound between covers. I think one of the things that has had everyone so upset is that there really wasn’t much (or any?) engagement of the public about these community functions.

    If the library must be sold–which I’d rather not see–I’d be thrilled if the Brooklyn Public Library planners would look at the big picture and consider how to force the developers into building something that might actually be a community center for Brooklyn Heights and the various other constituents who use the library. Consider this: one of the reasons it’s so popular with nannies is that the children’s room is light-bulb shaped, with only one exit, so little ones can safely run around free. Why is there no discussion of what might replace this for the nannies and children? Of a tutoring center for afterschool help? Of a room where teens could play Magic: The Gathering and not disturb job-seekers using the computers? And the fact is that the library is a manageable size, so I often check out books there rather than getting lost in the Central library. But I don’t want it to get any smaller; if anything, I’d like to see a larger collection. Another fact: Unlike the other downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods (Dumbo, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope, etc) there is no independent bookstore in Brooklyn Heights (I’m not counting the B&N on Court, which is not a place for readers). So this makes the library doubly important, not just as a community center but as a place to engage readers. If the city has to sell it off, then let the developers give us something larger and better, not smaller.

    So, yes, I’m furious that Bloomberg is trying to make a buck by selling off our library rather than renovating it, and I’m strongly supporting Tish James for Public Advocate, because, unlike Squadron, she has a track record of library support.

  • Steven A. Levine

    When did luxury condos represent progress? Libraries are public spaces and if they need to be rethought it shouldn’t be in the context of building hi-rise buildings for the uber-wealthy.

  • marshasrimler

    no need to get nasty

  • marshasrimler

    you are nasty.. nasty

  • Lady in the Heights

    I have to disagree here. I used to spend time in the library until it was overrun with nannies IGNORING their charges. The children’s room is appalling. There are so few books. Rules like not eating and diaper changing are not followed or enforced. We stopped going all together because my kids were so put off by the experience. There is a rodent problem from all the food and there are 1-2 year olds who walk around unattended, abusing the books we would like to actually check out. We go to the Grand Army branch if we want to go to the library.

    And I’m voting for Squadron!

  • Carlotta

    In all the talk about “concept” and the future of libraries, I haven’t read exactly what that means. Are we to walk into an empty building with rooms delineated for special interests? And in those rooms, what will there be? screens? ipads? listening devices? What exactly is the public looking for in these future libraries? What is the BPL planning for this empty space the developer will ‘sell’ to the public? This Heights/Downtown area is now and will be soon more crowded than ever. Are we to add to it with another high-rise? We already have a shortage of schools and a fight to keep our only hospital. Why not have a new ‘concept’ in our already existing building – with community support. Why not have physical books and digital equipment, private rooms, lounges, meeting spaces and even a small theater? There are so many old brownstones in Brooklyn Heights that have not been torn down but have been renovated to modern beautiful homes, why not do the same to our public library? Let us have public discussions, with meaningful ideas and concepts on how to raise the money to bring our public library up to the standards that we all want. Let’s not be so anxious to tear it down, rather let’s fix it up.

  • Claude Scales

    I suspect you’re right. As for HenryLOL, I would guess there are one or two things, aside from the quality of baked goods, on which we might agree.

  • Former PS 8 parent

    The children’s room seems reasonably well-stocked to me, with a nice, basic collection. The three libraries I patronize regularly all have many nannies and charges; it’s possible that the difference is that the Heights library doesn’t seem to have a dedicated children’s librarian. But I do think there is a real need in the community for a place that young children and their caregivers can congregate, aside from the playgrounds.

    As for Central–I found it very difficult with a toddler because of the layout; that’s why I love the Heights branch for small children. (And I have seen some caregiver behavior at the Central branch that borders on child abuse.) Regardless, I think the issue is that if there is a children’s room, there will be nannies and children, just as there will be teens playing cards near the young adult books and people surfing porn on the computers. The solution is not to downsize the space and get rid of half the collection; instead, how about some thoughtful discussion about how to manage the library’s role as a community center.

    For what it is worth, I have tried e-books and found them very hard on the eyes, hence, my wish for physical books to check out. And no, I’m not all that old.

  • Lady in the Heights

    Honestly, that’s the best thing about using a Kindle! You can enlarge the font size, and it eliminates the need for reading glasses (I am not that old either, but I wear reading glasses). I haven’t ready a “book” in years and never will again.

  • elw_ny

    And if you would like to buy me and all the other people who cannot afford to buy the latest gadget a Kindle, and batteries to go with it, I will be very happy to try it out. A physical book costs nothing to check out; not so with ebooks, because of the costs of the device.

  • Lady in the Heights

    The device is $69 and has a rechargable battery that lasts for weeks. In the grand scheme of electronics it is relatively inexpensive. It is not the latest gadget. I have had it for years.

  • elw_ny

    Glad to hear that! Too many comments about libraries nowadays seem to assume that physical books can be replaced by ebooks with no impact on users. With Brooklyn’s poverty rate at over 20%, even if some of those people aren’t great readers, that would be an awful lot of people with no access to library books.

    And that’s me above (elw_ny), but I don’t seem to be able to sign in with discus.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Couldn’t library of the future would provide these devices? Libraries should be for learning as well – the talk of them being community hangouts is insane.

  • nombre

    why shouldn’t there be “physical books” in a library? I prefer to relax on the couch & read a real book than to sit at a computer table

  • BrooklynBugle

    Didn’t say there shouldn’t be but there are some that should be offered as digital only. Seriously folks IMAGINE.

  • Former PS 8 parent

    I’ve had an e-book reader for ages as well. And I do use it. But it is not nearly as satisfying as a book, and I find it gives me eyestrain. I also find it very frustrating to read anything with substance, and I have more than once taken a real book out from the library to finish something I’ve started on the e-book reader. I also agree about the barriers to access for e-book readers.

  • MonroeOrange

    Save the Clocktower…Save the Clocktower…we here at hill valley preservation society want to preserve the clocktower as it was hit by lighting in 1955!

  • marshasrimler

    thank you carlotta

  • wally

    Less Library Space = More Public Idiots.