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Nyack Library: Dewey Decimal Debated (3 of 3)

Dear Mr. Mahoney,

I’ve read your defense of the Library’s current configuration and couldn’t disagree more with your arguments.

I’ve lived in Nyack for more than 40 years and have used the the Library since I got my first library card there as a second grader.  At no time in that period has the Library been as difficult to navigate as it is now.

Neither the introduction of new signage, tweaking your ill-considered experiment, or offeringing a GPS to all Nyack patrons will change this fact.

As to the issue of library’s and change…I have been, and am currently, intimately involved with libraries large and small.  At one time or another I have been a cataloger for the Museum of Modern Art’s library (6 1/2) years) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of the main research libraries of the New York Public Library.  I have also been an active user of both research and smaller public libraries for more than two and a half decades as an independent scholar and professional bibliographer.  I am the author of ten books and the founder of a scholarly imprint, African Diaspora Press.

I have dealt with all of the changes that have taken place in the library world during that time and continue to do so.  Your comments seem to indicate a belief that my critique stems from an understandable, but misplaced, aversion to “change” and a reluctance to embrace the “21st century” library you are introducing.

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However, I would respond that nothing could be farther from the truth.   I am no Luddite and my issues stem not from an aversion to “change” but to changes that make no intellectual or practical sense.

You cannot convince me, no matter how many arguments you present, that patrons are offered an enhanced user experience by having to go to the reference librarian for each item they need or that splitting up a serials collection into 13 separate locations is an “innovation” or that, by now putting the locations for each of these disparate locations in one place, you have actually addressed the issue.

The only “change” that seems to have actually come to the library is a complete lack of responsiveness on your part as director to respond in an open and proactive way to reasoned and legitimate critiques from the Nyack community.  Instead of offering a plan on how you will actually address our complaints you pass them off in a blizzard of library speak and say that your vision of “the marketplace” must be kept in place and that only tweaking is possible.

My question to you is at what point did you consult with the public about your plans to divide the collection up in this fashion?  Where was our opportunity to weigh in on whether this was actually (a) a visionary plan or (b) a retrograde experiment that has diminished the usability of the Library and its collections.

As a library patron my desire is for a clean, well-organized space in which I can quickly and efficiently access the types of materials I need and want.  The Nyack Libary is no longer that place and your rigid adherence to models such as “the marketplace” and organizational plans from other library districts and parts of the country do not address one fundamental question: What kind of library plan does the Nyack Library patron want?  And, will the Library’s director help to create that library or will his “21st century” vision of the new library trump all critiques.

I think these are issues that should be put in a more open forum than a Library Board meeting.  Thus I would propose having a Town Hall meeting to air these and other concerns.  Perhaps in September when people are back from vacations and have had a chance to read my Open Letter to the Board.

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