Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Central Children's Room, Where Are You?

Back in November, New York Public Library announced the sale of the Donnell Library Branch to a hotel. The hotel will be built; the library will be closed during the building, and upon completion, the library will have a few floors and a separate entrance.

The Donnell Branch isn't just any branch; it's the home of Pooh, it's the home of the Central Children's Room Collection. It's an awesome collection; both a historical non-circulating collection, but also a real, live, used and loved collection.

And I understand the money reasons that NYPL is selling prime real estate. But so far, there's been no public word about what is going to happen to the Central Children's Room and its collection. At the time of the initial reports, NYPL said only that there would be resources at the "new" library (which will be the same location, just under a hotel) for children and teens.

Well.... "resources" being available isn't quite the same thing as the existing Children's Room and Teen Central, is it? You don't have to be a former lawyer to see how the word "resources" could mean the current excellent resources... or one computer, and the ability to interlibrary loan titles from other libraries.

I set a Google Alert to try to make sure I didn't miss any updates on the situation, but the only thing I've read is how other library positions are being sent out of Manhattan.

Manhattan is expensive; but has it gotten so expensive that it cannot have the resources needed for city kids and teens, their parents, teachers, and caregivers?

I don't have a Magic 8 ball that tells the future. If I did, I'd be on a round the world trip thanks to the money I won knowing winning lottery numbers. But I'm suspicious by nature. And I wonder... will the historical stuff be sent to some research library? And the rest of the books broken up amongst other locations, so that there is no one central location of titles? I can imagine someone thinking, huh, if the book exists at one location in NYPL, that's enough. And as long as it exists at one branch, why a Central Children's Room?

Having worked in a system with multiple branches, I can tell you that the way branches look at their collections is different from how a system does. It's the nature of the beast; not good, not bad, just the way it is. But to balance that local outlook, you need a main, central collection. When I worked at the main branch of my former workplace, my view towards collection development and weeding was much different from when I was at a branch.

Does anyone have any news on what's happening with the Donnell Library and the Children's and Teens areas?

And on a personal note: my mother grew up on the Upper West Side. She adores the New York Public Library and the memories of using its branches. So even tho I'm from NJ, I feel an emotional connection to Manhattan and the library.


wheelmaker said...

I was also sad to hear about the Donnell Library. I love the Central Children's Room and the Teen Center and think they are very important. I really hope they will continue to exist. And if they decide to put them at the Mid-Manhattan branch (right by my office), that's ok with me!

Book Calendar said...

That is strikingly odd that they would do a thing like this. It seems that more and more that the library is becoming a dvd rental agency and an internet cafe. Maybe the library should get back to its focus.

Omar Cruz said...
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Kristi(e) said...

Isn't the focus of the library to bring users in and help them as best as we can? And while being a pseudo-Blockbuster and Internet cafe is not desirable, it is what draws the crowd. Once inside the library, patrons can see our collections and programs and branch out into other services of the library. I think that, as annoying as it is, part of our focus is to make sure users know they can get those elementary services from us so they bother show up period.

I realize this comment is a bit off topic of the post itself, but more a reaction to a reaction.

Liz B said...

Kristie, I think libraries are about information & entertainment. Do users always want to be helped, or do they just want to check out a book?

So far, it's impossible to see NYPL's motivations and thoughts. One of my concerns is collection -- how can a patron see a collection that isn't there? That is scattered to branches? A person comes in, doesn't see the book/cd/game/movie they want, walks out.

Or comes in... and rather than a simple transaction, now has to decipher our catalog, hold/request/reserve/ILL system, or ask for help. When all they want is a book.

Space constraints means that a large system will have branches with partial collections; but shouldn't there be one place with a whole collection, rather than a fractured one that may not add up to a whole one?

Kristi(e) said...

I totally agree with you on the centralized collections needing to be maintained. Do you know what people or groups we can contact to try and keep it intact?