Saturday, May 23, 2020

Happy 125th Birthday New York Public Library

Happy 125th birthday to the New York Public Library!

Libraries.

No, I'm not doing a post about all the books in my house, although I should.  My son once joked I had a better selection than some book sales. Well, I think it was a joke.

Rather, I decided to blog about the place I'd rather be than anywhere in the world.  A public library.
Courtesy NYPL Digital Collections, free to use
Growing up in a city housing project in the Bronx (a borough of New York City) of the late 1950's and early 1960's, I wanted to be a librarian.  But not just any librarian.  A bookmobile librarian.

Every Thursday except during the summer, I would visit the bookmobile that stopped by my city housing project.  On the last visit before summer vacation, they would allow us to take out as many books as we wanted, and they were not due until September.

For me, Heaven!

Libraries were a haven to me.  They helped me become who I am today.   They've done that for thousands and thousands of people, perhaps millions, all over the world.

The library I grew up with was the New York Public Library.  I need to explain here that New York City, when I was growing up,  had three public library systems (actually, it still does).  Where I lived was New York Public Library territory.  There were branch libraries in various neighborhoods, and if heavy duty research was needed, I would travel downtown into Manhattan on the subway.

I moved from New York City over 45 years ago, so I haven't had a New York City library card in many, many years.

Until now.

The New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th birthday today.  Happy birthday!  Like many other milestone birthdays, the NYPL can not celebrate in person - all its libraries are closed.  But no one says we can't do it online.

A couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend told me that, for the duration of the closing, any New York State resident could get a virtual card and take out e-books.  using an Android or iOS app.  So, for the last two weeks, I have been a New York City Library cardholder.  It was simple - I downloaded the app, and the app used my phone's GPS to verify that the phone was located in New York State.  Voila!

So far, I've read The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and am partway through Educated, by Tara Westover.  I was permitted to "take out" both for 14 days.

It's my understanding that this will end when the library system reopens.  I would have to go into a branch to validate and get a physical card.  I don't live in, work in, or own property in, New York City.  Elsewhere on the site, it talks about being able to send in proof of New York STATE residency.  I'm a bit confused, but I won't let that bother me.

I'm once again a proud card-carrying member of the library of my youth.

We all take local buildings and institutions for granted.  After all, they are there, we pass them every day, and we take them for granted. Even I do, sometimes.   But now, they are closed (at least in New York State) "until further notice".  Just when we need them more than ever.

Local public libraries face many challenges today.  Their funds are constantly being cut.  People are loathe to vote in the tax increases they need to survive.  But these libraries are, increasingly, so much more than a place where you can walk in with a card and walk out with one or more books to read.  They provide internet access, wi-fi,  computers for those who don't own one, job hunting services, e books, CDs and DVDs, magazines, free tax preparation done by volunteers, free databases, and so much more. One of our local libraries even features yoga classes and a knitting group.  At least, in better times, it did.

In fact, the photo I started this post with is from a digital collection of the New York (City) Public Library, and anyone can down load it, free of charge.

As I used to say in the 60's, "isn't that awesome?"

Thank you, libraries, and again, Happy 125th, NYPL.

12 comments:

  1. Hi Alana - libraries are so important aren't they ... I don't remember any growing up - but we had books at home, and there were the school libraries and then finding books out and about, before I went off and found books of my own. I must make more use of our local library when we can access again - glad you're enjoying your lock-down ecard. All the best Hilary

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    1. All the best to you too, HIlary; thank you for your readership!

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  2. If I remember correctly, if you have a card with your local library, you’ll be able to access the ebook collection of the NY Public Library as well. I started the process months ago but never completed it ...

    What did you think of The Testaments? I thought she wrapped things up very nicely. I liked Aunt Lydia’s back story.

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    1. I thought the Aunt Lydia POV was the best of the three by far. I have to admit I wasn't crazy about the other two women in the book, especially the teen Baby Nicole. I wanted to slap her more than once! I thought the book started slow, but maybe 1/3 of the way, it caught fire. Overall, I don't think it was as good as The Handmaid's Tale, but what could have been?

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  3. It was wonderful to get a library card when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. My friend and I were able to walk to our town's library. The librarians remembered the kinds of books we liked and would make recommendations. Heaven!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your library memories, and that your library had such wonderful childrens' librarians.

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  4. I do love ebooks, and I'm thrilled that libraries carry them. But they are still expensive for them, as they're only allowed to have those checked out a certain number of times before they have to pay for the ebook again. (Like with physical books that wear out over time, the library has to re up it's ebook collection.)

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    1. Liz, I did not know that. Thank you for educating me. I had taken a couple of eBooks out of the NY Public Library but returned them when I realized I wouldn't have time to read them - I will be a lot more careful in the future.

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  5. Our Library is closed and I do miss it. I might as brag up our small library it got an award for being the best small library.

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    1. A best small library? They are some of the best. I sometimes visit libraries when I am in a new town. You never know what you will find. Some treasures out there!

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  6. The library. My happy place! Our library system has a huge ebook 'lending' program. All the time. I have been absolutely revelling in it!

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  7. The last time I moved I had to give away almost all of my books but have a few in storage. I gave them to a charity organization so I don't feel too bad about it. Since I tend to move often, I think the library is a better alternative (once they're open again) Nothing heavy to lug around and you can always bring it back.

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