tv Interview with Anthony Marx CSPAN September 7, 2014 7:15am-8:01am EDT
>> on a recent trip to new york city, booktv visited the new york public library where we spoke with the library's president and ceo, anthony marx, but the history of the institution as well as its current operations and future. >> let's start with some numbers. how big is the new york public library? how many employees, budget, et cetera? >> new york public library combines the largest circulating branch library system in america, 88 branches, in every neighborhood in the boroughs we serve, as well as for important research libraries. this one being the crown jewel at the center of the system but also the schomburg center and harlem, the library for performing arts, the lincoln said, science industry and business library. have about 2100 employees. we have a budget of about
$280 million a year operating about half comes from the city of new york. largely to pay for the circulating library system in all the neighborhoods. the other half comes from a return on a billion dollar endowment of the private foundation that employs me, the trust. and then we raced them are between 80-$100 million a year. there's also someone in the vicinity of 40 or $50 million a year of capital improvements, again mostly comes from the city but can also can come from private sources. it's an amazing system. almost unique in the world, and combined a great research library system like the library of congress and the public library, neighborhood system, and washington, d.c. the library of congress and the washington public library have nothing to do with each other
organizationally. here we are all within the new york public library system and its -- we have close to 18, 19 million physical visits a year. we have 55 million items. it's really one of the great treasures of new york and of the world. people come from all over the world to use our system. >> when you say items, is that about? >> so books is more probably in the city of 20 million. and then its archives, prints, maps, manuscripts. this building, for instance, and the sister of the research library, so schaumburg library for performing arts and civil as well, had unique items. we have the archive for manuscript of great authors, walt whitman, charles dickens, and just recently added tom wolfe. and you can walk in to this building, going to one of those special collections, show no
documentation, need to have no fancy job, ask to see anything and we will make it available to you. rather quickly. >> everybody can see that? >> anybody. >> how many of those 20 million books are available to check out and take on? >> so the majority of the books, something in the vicinity of 14 million books circulate. and then there's again six or 7 million books that are the core of the research collection, of course add to that is all this other material. we have one of the world's great map collections year, a genealogy collection, but it doesn't stop and we've been collecting for over 100 years. >> what would the new york public library system mean to an average new yorker? >> so i think something like a third of new yorkers depend on
the library to be able to read. because they can't or don't afford books. something like a third of new yorkers depend on the new york public library for having computer access because they don't have broadband or computers at home. he can even apply for job in this day and age without having that kind of access. so there's a core of folks, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, who absolutely depend on us to read, to go online, or to have a quiet place to sit, to read, to think, to write, to great. so that's very powerful stuff. and it's also true in the better off neighborhoods of new york at every seat is filled. the new york public library has never seen more traffic, meaning people coming in, more books circulating, more computers, more educational programs in our 100 your history. we are at our peak. that's incredible, at some
budget cuts because of financial difficulties since 2008 obviously, and city finances. we haven't got our branches but, in fact, we have more branches family have ever had because every neighborhood wants one. we haven't cut our hours and we have more use than ever. that's the way it's experienced for most new yorkers. i grew up using my local neighborhneighborh ood library in a part of new york called inwood. 20-30,000 kids come into our branches after school every day. it's safe. they do homework. they use the computer can actually we have now launched for the first time in our history after school programs. we aim to become the largest afterschool program possibly in the nation because we have the kids coming in and because everybody needs more help on education. all that is part of the experience of the library. people don't know this, we are
the leading free provider in new york of english-language construction. new york is have immigrant. we teach citizenship. we are the leading free provider in your cup basic computer skills training. we will be at 150,000 people enjoying those programs. wwe're also now starting to teah coding so that kids and the south bronx or harlem the want to get jobs in the information technology industry can come to the library. we are the leading nonuniversity partner with the online education university program so that people can come into the libraries and have group sessions and will find instructions for them so that they are not trying to learn only online. we're doing the same thing with khan academy. so educational programs, quiet places, opportunities to read, to take out books and to use
computers. that's just in the circlet hybrid which is the majority of where our people are coming into. and then there's the research library where people come from all over the world who are writing books doing research to use up archives, are mature would also instead of -- incredible most beautiful spaces in new york. you'll find every seat is filled. >> why do you think the new public library is at its apex because i think there are a bunch of reasons. one, i think after the economy had its difficulties in 2008, more people are becoming particularly to the branches because they couldn't afford an extra room or quiet at home or air conditioning or computers or books. so there's partly uneconomic driver. i think that's not all that's going on. i think as it is increasingly possible to do more of the work
of the mind alone in front of the screen, the more people actually want to come in and be with each other. we are human beings. we don't want to just sit in a cave by ourselves and even a cave with a screen. we want to actually be inspired by beautiful spaces, by seeing other people who are working, inaccurate if we do our job right we want you to find the other people who were in the room working on the same thing and you may not know they are there. community is still part, a powerful part of human nature. and the library is the centerpiece, the foundation of that in the world of ideas and information, in any city or town, and certainly in this one. which happens to be the capital of the information age. >> do you serve all of new york city? >> so this system is three boroughs. i didn't even notice when i took this job. so this is manhattan, staten island and the bronx.
brooklyn and queens which were once separate cities have separate public library systems. we cooperate very closely with them and coordinate and try to do things together as it should be. so for instance, we became recently in effect the circulating library to support the public school system of new york. so for 100 years we lived side-by-side but didn't actually with the cooperate. and for 100 years the public schools depended for their libraries in a room the size with maybe 10,000 books, increasingly out of date, and a card catalog. a sweet idea, one i grew up with, but in the 21st century that can't possibly work. now we're at about 600 schools. we aim to be at all of them with computers in the library or a teacher can order up to 100
bucks at a time from our 17 million books. the three systems together, and we will deliver right to the school. so you get the efficiency of these huge system spreading around the city, and that's an example of how ultimately 1.2 million schoolkids will be using the library on a daily basis. teachers to assign a paper will be able to construct their own great library on that topic in the classroom for the month at the paper is being worked on, and then send it back to another classroom doing that paper topic later. so we are increasingly serving all new yorkers, and doing it across all five boroughs in cooperation with our peers and friends at brooklyn and queens. >> what's the history of the new york public labor? >> the new public library began in 1895, as the coming together
of three private libraries created by wealthy new yorkers, astor, lenox and killing. they of private library. they said let's make it a double to the public. they came together and ultimately constructed this building to house the research libraries that were their libraries coming put together. fast-forward 15 years and along comes the richest man in the world at the time, andrew carnegie. andrew carnegie had grown up poor and had grown up depending on the library as really is school, and so many people all around the world, and certainly new yorkers have. and he said let's create a great public certainly library in new york. he gave a gift for the three libraries i think was about $5 million or thereabouts to great 60 libraries, the
beginning of the public library system. it was and remains the largest single gift in the history of philanthropy in today's libraries, billions. so because of his generosity he made a deal with the city where he said look, i will build you libraries. the city needs to pay to operate them as a public service, the branch libraries, and i will ask, carnegie will ask the new york public library and brooklyn and queens to operate them as private agencies funded by the city to do so, but with some independence. it's a complicated public-private partnership. in our case it means literally half of our budget comes from the city and have comes from private sources. but it think it actually serves the public will. it creates interesting checks and balances. makes my life a little more complicated but that's a good
thing. since that history, so what started with 60 branch libraries in the city of new york, the three systems together now, all the city, we are at i think 205 branches plus the four research libraries. >> what's the history of this building we're in? >> this building is 103 years old. it was constructed with the support of the citizens of new york as well as private dollars but it was built to be the new public library. i think it's fair to say it's the most famous library building in the world. those lines out front, everybody knows. it was built in wrestling on -- patience and fortitude. it was built on the original reservoir of nuke city. so before the library was built, a little over 100 years ago, there was on this whole anywhere the library and the park behind it, so all that every in midtown
was the reservoir. it was built to because it was the highest point in the town. so as you can imagine that helps with gravity sending water around t wherever it needs to go from the reservoir. they took the reservoir down. they built the library and build the park and then actually about 25 years ago, we excavated under the park down to the foundation, 37 feet down of the reservoir and build their the largest basement in the island of manhattan, which we've used half of for the last 25 years, and our plans are in the coming months to put 3 million more votes under that space. it's a sort of amazing gift of history, that the reservoir was here that created the basement and the foresight of the trustees of the library to create that space.
imagine being able to find storage for 3 million more books at 42nd street and fifth avenue. probably the place of the most expensive and demanded real estate in the world. libraries are always looking for more space, and we haven't because of that amazing history and that reservoir. >> walking through this library, so many of the rooms in areas are named after people. >> sure. look, as i said we are very grateful to our private donors. last year we raised about $100 million just in that year of coming and. that makes the library work. it pays in large part for the research side of the library, and increasingly private dollars are also going to add education programs in the branches, which is great. but we're happy to recognize the generosity of our donors. i was a college president before this. we certainly did at amherst, and
that most colleges and universities i know. not only is it a way to say thank you, it's also a way to encourage other people to think about becoming more serious philanthropists. interestingly, mr. carnegie is one of things you don't find even though historically he was our largest benefactor. that was just who he was. >> who is on the board of directors of the foundation? is there a separate board of directors for the labor? >> know. so for the library board is the astor, lenox, tilden foundation board as it is known as, the trustees of the new public library. the chairman of the board current is neil rubenstein, president of harvard, provost of princeton. vice-chairman includes evan chesser, champion of one of the great law firms in your. abby milstein is the of the vice chair from the great new york
family. we've got toni morrison and david remnick, editor of "the new yorker," skip gates from harvard, and people who come from all different industries and academics. george stephanopoulos and anthony of higher, previously of princeton, major scholar coming in, and why you, when the most recent additions to the board. i mean, it's a great mix which is what you wanted to be. let's put it this way. what makes new york amazing? what makes america amazing? it's the mix of people. the mix of background, talent, experience us. the library is the place where the mix of people comes together with all the information and ideas of the world. it has always been the most
explosive of combinations. it's where creativity comes from. a library is the foundation of that. it's where everyone can do that and does do that. in new york as an elsewhere in the country, and the trustees similarly are this great mix of experience and bring their ideas to provide the stewardship and leadership of this institution. >> you talked about nuke city being the apex for use consider. and was it not? when was it at its lowest? >> we have some very rough days. so one of my predecessors came here as president in 1981. much of this building was closed. beautiful rooms that are not open to the public used as back offices and storage. bryant park was best known as a drug den. it was not a safe place to be. under his 12 year presidency,
brooke astor, major society figure, joined with them, the high school chairman of the board, had been ceo of time life, the dominant corporation in the media world. today, together, and with gregorian's incredible leadership really turned the place around, opened the space as backup, found more resources for this building, for all the other buildings, ma did the renovation of bryant park and turn into what is now i think per square inch the most incredible urban park in the world. on a sunny day and now in the summer, it's chockablock, just like the labor is chockablock. so there were dark days and we turned it around. i'm sure that been other dark days but that's the one i remember because i lived through it. i remember when my branch libraries were closed too many days of the week.
we have still had some rough times but this library system, the libraries of new york have seen a 17% reduction in city funding over the last six years. we're just coming out of that. working with the mayor, with the city council to see if we can restore more of that city funding so we can do more for new yorkers and again for people who, from all over the world. out to you an example of something we hope to do. so this building, this collection of some of the most amazing things in the world, in my opinion. we have the original declaration of independence in jefferson's hand with the slave trade paragraph crossed out. we have one of the original copies george washington had drawn up of the bill of rights to get it ratified. we have the only copy in the world of the original, the oldest copy of the letter from christopher columbus to king
ferdinand in 1492 saying, i think i found something. we have winnie the pooh. we have the book but we actually have that mayor. and most -- we have the bare. most of this has been kept safety for an lock and key for the occasional skull and research and very rarely shown to the public. we want to put all of our treasures out on public display intimate exhibition gallery right off fifth avenue. you walked up between the lines into the door, pay nothing because we do not charge for anything. and see some of the most amazing material you'll ever see, and use that to introduce people to the library to say, oh, you think this columbus letter is interesting? let us tell you how you can read more. let us to you about other programs on the. let us show you some computer apps. have scholars talking about it.
we want to use our material to draw in more people. we want to send our material out into the world. i can, for 100 years you had to come into this building to see our special collection. now we can put it all online. that columbus letter, every school kid in america should be reading that letter. it's only four pages long. it's an amazing letter. as part of -- because what would be more interesting than actually caring columbus' words for himself at the time, rather than just reading a textbook. we can do that. we can do that for every school, classroom, in america. >> how far are you a long in that transition? >> well, we are increasingly working with teachers in getting our material online. and creating curricular units. that will help with the common core, help with the first
efforts that are great teachers across the country are engaged in. that treasures exhibit will probably take us another year or two to have it up and running. we have to plan it, get it right. i think will be the most visited per square inch room in the city of new york, but we have to get it right. we're going to open 50% more of this building to the public in the years ahead. we are going to bring business library backend. we're going to great for the first time a space for students and teachers to use the research library. we are going to double the exhibition space. this is the people's palace. we want the people to fully use it the way they use their local library. but, you know, we are a big institution but everything takes time. when i arrived we decided it was time to take the 3 million books that were stored in this building and barcodes in to you would think we would've done
that before but no, it was done with little slips of paper. just that took us a year, because it's 3 million books to actually turn out to be two and haltwo anda half million. we didn't know exactly how many books were back there. so when you are working at scale, arguably this is by some measures the largest, we like to thank the greatest, public library in the world, appropriate enough. i'm a new yorker so appropriate enough for new york. so it's not a small operation by any means, and millions of people rely on the. >> has there been controversy about changing the mission of the library? >> people of the library, and we're all scared about change. we see change around us all the time. we had some controversy of late about the renovations in this building. because we public institution, we engaged with the public.
we heard from them. we revised our plan. i think that's appropriate because we're interested in meeting the public's needs. so we're going to do things a little differently than we had thought seven years ago. the world has changed. for instance, we're going to take the largest circulating library in a system which is across the street from here and renovate it completely and add more education space and computer space. all that came out of the commentary we heard as well as our own analysis and the leadership of the board of trustees. i think everyone is uncertain about the future when it comes to books, when it comes therefore the library. i remember even my 16 year old son when i told him that we were coming to do this next after having been president of amherst college and his first comic was, dad, didn't you get the memo that libraries are going out of
business? nobody actually believes that. and the numbers also just the opposite. never been used, more books circulating, more computers, more education programs. but the world is changing. we have to get more material online, as more mature comes online, we don't want people swamped with information. so we have to help people navigate it. we need to curate it for people. libraries have always done this, but now at scale. but we also remain committed to our physical collections, the historic unique retail as well as the circulating material, and to our great spaces. this building being one of them because people love it. so there's some concern and fear built on love and admiration and need for this institution.
i think that's true in every library across america, whenever there's a debate about should we add books, should we replace computers, should we add a wing, she would buy more books instead? those should be in a democracy, usually heavily debate. this is new york so we love to party and that's again as it should be, and appropriate particularly because at least in my view, this institution is the bedrock of civil society in the city as libraries are, in every town and village and city in america. it's the only place where people can come from kids, immigrants, homeless, students, teachers, pillage prizewinnprizewinn er, nobel laureates. they're all in the building as we speak i'm sure. the complete cross-section of american, and increasingly of
the world. and this is where they come to do the life of the mind, which is not only not dead but has never been stronger based on the numbers we're seeing. that's a great thing but, of course, that means people are heavily invested in it. that's to be celebrated, right? it helps us to plan and to get it right. >> how do you gauge your books? what's the relationship? >> so we buy books through agents. we are the largest library purchaser of the books in america certainly, possibly in the world. because we speak to you by every book that is published i mean speak with we are not the library of congress which receives those pics are probably books that are published or often self-publish now that we do not have in our collection, though if people ask for it, we will buy it, right? and defy people are waiting for a book, we will buy another
copy. so we have expert library and you're talking to our patrons, who are watching the band and requests, and to making great choices about what to buy. partly those are -- those differ by neighborhood, right? to we have neighborhood in new york where most of the books are in chinese or spanish or russian, because that's where people are living to want to read in those languages. the research library is a different operation in the sense that we seek to continue to have these amazing collections of material and the books as complete as possible. and we're also buying electronically. the new york public library, because where the largest strictly library and because we're headquartered where the publishing industry is headquartered, in fact within 10 blocks of you, we are able to negotiate a fuse go for the first time all the commercial publishers would be willing to
sell electronic copies of books to libraries to lend for free. so you can now read a book from the new york public library by downloading it onto your device anytime anywhere. that's a great thing. the change of the world in terms of information technology is not a threat to the library. it is the most incredible opportunity in our history because we are in the business of providing access, free access, to all the world's information. guttenberg helped 500 years ago but actually the electronic possibilities could make the guttenberg revolution puny by comparison. a day will calm, can take exactly when, when anyone in the world will be able to read anything, anytime, potentially for free the obviously want authors and publishers to be compensated in some way so that people continue to great and are
paid for the work. that has to have been the that's what we're doing with the publishers in terms of e-books, but there is now a possibility of an access, an explosion in access to the world of ideas and information the likes of which we've never seen before. and what's so powerful about that is it means everyone should be able to read and to learn, and we hope to contribute to the world of, to create. so that shouldn't just be a few people who have access to that kind of material and can contribute to it with her own books. the world is open to creativity, and that's five years. god knows we could use more creativity. we've got problems to solve. against the library needs to be in the forefront. >> if that is all of able everywhere, does that spell an
end to circulating library? >> i don't think so. i think actually people are continuing to require and demand many more physical books that electronics. i don't think it will be going away anytime soon. these people want to read electronically, god bless. they will still need us to help make that possible, especially people at the bottom of economy who can't afford it otherwise and depend on us and after 100 years. and they will continue even more to depend on our physical spaces, places to come for educational programs, english language, computer skills, after school, coding, citizenship, what have you. and they will continue to rely on the expertise of librarians because, in fact, more information means you need more help to navigate. it's no longer the library looking in the card catalog sang these under books, this one.
that we need to do that at scale, and we can. collection that i think the future of the library couldn't be brighter. and that makes me quite optimistic about the future of our civil society. because you can't have an informed workforce, which is what carnegie was after. you can't have an informed citizenry for an effective democracy, much of the kind of foundational work that happens in america's great library. >> how did you get your? >> so, i grew up in new york using the public library, as i said. sort of part of the life of growing up in new york. i didn't come from a fancy family. my dad didn't go to college. the library, like for so many new yorkers was the lifeblood, sort of the second place in terms of access to ideas and books. those of them come we're
fortunate in that way. i ended up i guess becoming more of an academic than expected. i ended up as a professor at columbia writing books. there are probably some of my books in his library building somewhere. and then much to my surprise became president of amherst college, one of america's great liberal arts colleges, without really any background or expense i should've had for that job. it was an amazing eight years, a great college, did great things. and then it was time to think about the next thing. of course, coming back to new york was a fabulous possibility. new york has always been my home. i hadn't really thought about the library, other than as a place i grew up in and used but hadn't thought about it as something that might be a place for me. i'm not a librarian by training. but the more i've thought about
it, after they came to see if i'm interested, talking to them, the more i thought, wow, free and public access to ideas at the largest possible scale. what could be more powerful in this moment in history when we are driven by information, right? drowning in it and driven by it. what could be more powerful than that? and the very fact that the world of information is changing means that libraries have to change. we have to preserve what we've always done and that people rely on us, our collections are quiet, expertise, but we can't sit still. for someone in my line of work, make things interesting, exciting and worthwhile there doesn't make it easy. spent what is your ph.d in? >> i have a ph.d in political
science. my first work was in south african politics. i lived in south africa in the middle of the civil war in the 1980s, did some education work of their that i'm still very proud of. i set up a college and have sent about a thousand students, black students, at a time when a part-time made it almost impossible. for me that was life changing. not only because it set me off into an academic career of writing about it and teaching about it and related topics, but for me what was powerful about that was i saw for those students in south africa that just one year of quality education could reverse 12 years of purposefully bad education because that's what apartheid was providing black students. and that says to me that the power of the mind to repair the damage that can be inflicted, to open possibilities, to make it
possible for talent to be used for the individuals benefit and for society's benefit is really much more robust than anything else i can think of, and that's why i decided to become an educated and that's what i'm proud to be still a part of the educational community. >> as president of the new public library how much of a job is administrative, how much is fund-raising, how much is smooshing, how much is managerial, how much his library? >> well, luckily not so much as a librarian to we have a great libraries who are well-trained and expert at that. i'm blessed to work with a great staff, obviously the senior staff i work with most closely, but also working together with 2000 employees. a great board of trustees, donors, on the board and also not on the board.
important part of what i spend my time on, the board as governing authority, the donors making it possible for us to do what we do. i also spent a fair amount of time with the city administration, with the mayor, with the city council. again, half of our funding comes from there. they're very interested in the future of the library system because they understand how foundational it is for jobs, democracy and the civil life in new york. and i also get it is some fun things. we have amazing authors come into this building to read or discuss their works, and i get to listen to them, sometimes needed them. we have, the our party sometimes in the building. i know that shocking at the library. we have some beautiful spaces here. what's amazing about my job is it will take me on any one day from talking to a student in the
south bronx -- i remember one literally asking her about what she was doing, and she told me her name was miracle. like, oh, my god, you know? students in the south bronx, in a place of great need, and then some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in new york who want to be supportive of everything at the library stands for. and that's just, you become it means i get to live the diversity of experience that i think is the secret sauce of american success. that we are all in this together. it's one of the great privileges of my life to be able to serve in this job. >> ten years from now what are we going to have? >> in the library? i that we will have every seat filled. i bet we will have many more educational programs for free, to meet the needs in the
neighborhoods. i think we will have more of -- people will still be in this building and in schaumburg and elaborate of performing arts and the business library, but much more of that research material will be sent out into the world. at some point we will also reach what i call the holy grail, which is everything being available online to anyone, and navigable and length. imagine a world can't imagine how i don't think this'll be tenure somehow because there's lot of legal and technical issues and it will take a partnership with wikipedia and google and digital public library of america and everybody who's engaged in this, and the publishers and the authors, but imagine a world in which you could start looking up something you're interested in and you are reading about tables, and then you're interested in the word and where does it come from and
who, you know, what the history of slavery therefore this person, and you could chart your own course of creativity through all the world's knowledge. that would be amazing. and to do it with a touch of the screen, even easier, even better, even more explosive. the library will always be in the centerpiece of that world, and beating the educational needs, the curating needs of the public at large. and my guess is that we will always be a place where the full array of new yorkers, and people from around the world, all different economic, racial, ethnic, religious backgrounds come together. that doesn't happen very much in our society at this point, which is sad and worrisome. it happens in the library. and even more incredibly they come together to think, to read,
to write, to create. you know, sometimes we think those days are gone. they are not gone. they're happening here. what could be more powerful than that? >> as booktv continued its two of the newark public library we are now joined by isaac gewirtz. mr. gewirtz, ma what do you do hear speakers on the curator of the henry w. and albert a. berg collection of english and american literature. >> how did you get to that position? >> i work in the libra, the new public library in the past. i was in the rare books division, later a curator at southern methodist university and downtown at a general theological seminary, st. mark's library. and got a doctorate and renaissance history at columbia and all that led to my being
here. >> how long have you been with the new public library? >> as a curator since september 2000. >> you brought some things out to show us that you have in the collection. >> i have. this is an enormous collection of about 2000 linear feet and tens of thousands of printed items, 400,000 office but this is what i like to call the tip of the berg, thursday. do we have the only manuscript of john times sonnets and paradoxes of done in his own lifetime. it's not in his hand but it's in hand of these secretary and personal assistant. and this has the highest authority deriving directly from his own manuscripts. you can see changes, or differences between the text as represented here and mistakes in
transcriptions that were made in the first edition, and they were perpetuated throughout the centuries. for instance, in this sonnet all through, war, dearth, tyrannies, all these have been destroyed by this will be resurrected on the day of judgment, and this word dearth was transcribed as the death and is only in the 20th century that it was ready correctly and corrected. ..