Brodskied: past part. to brodsky frm. Dan Brodsky, rl-est. spcltr., Chrmn., Met. Mus. of Art: To be a victim of a scam in which a priceless cultural resource of New York City is sold off to benefit a handful of developers. Ex.: Four years ago the New York Public Library traded its Donnell Building for a share of basement ticky-tack. Next comes the Mid-Manhattan Library, and the stacks in the Astor Foundation are planned to be moved to Jersey.


Morgue: fr. the Fr.: condescending arrogance. Common designation in the years preceding the French Revolution: attitude of the political appointee, the incompetent, overpaid CEO and MBA who, after leaving a long lunch with his stomach distended [...] signs an order that would take the bread from a whole province. [La Bruyère, 1688.]





Librarians: Years ago, on a summer afternoon when I was a high-school dropout living hand-to-mouth, I went to the Astor building to learn Chinese; also, it was summer and I didn't have air-conditioning. I never did learn Chinese, actually, but I found out that if there was something in the book I'd asked for that was worth following up, I could go ask for another book, and then another, and they were all there. Eventually I learned that there are people called librarians who believe you should have access to the books you want, and will do their best to help you. Then I got my PhD.


Productivity: For the CEO, the concept is to make the place "productive," and the first step is, to make the place unproductive in some other way. In Capital I, Part VII, section 5, Marx wonders idly why capitalist have a one-track view of social utility: art criticism, for instance, is never "useful," because it deprives others of pleasure. Books, likewise, can never be allowed to give pleasure so long as they deprive the CEOs of productive capital. A few years ago I walked into the Rare Book Room to arrange for my students to have the experience of handling a real medieval manuscript, and the sub-librarian explained to me that these books "are tired and need to rest." Lady, I wrote the goddamn book on the preparation of parchment, you've got it in your own collection. So now you're telling me the widdle bookies need their rest? You gonna tuck 'em in at night and tell 'em a bedtime story?


Creative Destruction. Ada Louise Huxtable put this so much more elegantly than I could: "The rationale of the plan is a "41% decrease in the use of the collections in the past 15 years." So let me put it so much the more bluntly: the 41% decrease was created in order to rationalize gutting the place. In any well-run corporation, a CEO who lost 41% of clientele would be fired—unless losing clientele was intentional.


Attitude. I'd just stepped out a minute from the Print Room at the Bibliothèque Nationale when a gentleman came up to me: I looked upset, was anything wrong? Not at all, I said, I was focused on some information I'd just uncovered. He introduced himself as the Branch Director. Internet access is not something you can play off against in-person access: if you treat either as Fafnir treats his gold, you're not doing your job. Unless your job is being Fafnir.


Top of the World! Ada adds: "The New York Public Library [is] one of the world's greatest research institutions." Not any more, it's not. It's virtually impossible to do research in person at the New York Public Library; and the online systems are far superior, far more inclusive, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, where I do most of my research these days, because I have no other choice. I feel bad for the kid who wants to learn Chinese.


Books not Crooks


William Cullen Bryant. Remember him? He wrote:

Our republic… is the richest nation in the world… if quietly to allow itself to be annually plundered of immense sums by men who seek public stations for their individual profit be a token of prosperity.


Hearing: On June 27, 2013, State Assemblyman Micah Kellner's held a hearing on the topic of the planned selloff of the New York Public Library, and I couldn't be there but I hope you were.





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6/18/2013. Last revised 3/11/2014.

Paul Werner