"Once upon a time there was a living, breathing Library, a most rare building, one with a . This, in the center of the richest and poorest city in the world…”


The rain started just after four.

"RALLY RAIN OR SHINE!" the portentous flyer had insisted. So when the clouds cracked open the heavens over Midtown, the bibliophiles were not deterred. They converged on the slick steps of the Steven Schwartzman building chanting "Save our stacks! Save our stacks!"  Softly at first, shaking the dust off their "library voices," before swelling to a robust "HEY HO!" riff on "books n’ crooks." Two NYPD gazed down at it all, dry beneath library’s hooded porch, authority twins symbolically protecting the trustees meeting inside while rain streaked down "RESEARCH IS A HUMAN RIGHT" signs like tears.

A writer-type in a blue suit shielded a cardboard cutout of Bill de Blasio with an umbrella: the rally’s guest of honor, posted out front like a two-dimensional challenge to make 3D-solid the progressive promises that won him the city’s stewardship. “Dear Mayor Bloomberg,” wrote the then-Public Advocate on July 12, 2013. “I am writing to express my deep concern over the proposed changes to the City’s library systems in Manhattan and Brooklyn…The ‘Central Library Plan,’ which involves a $150 million in dedicated City funds, would close and sell off the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry, and Business Library, consolidating operations at the crown jewel of the New York library system – the Fifth Avenue Central Library of the New York Public Library. The plan involves a dramatic alteration by architect Norman Foster and the relocation of a substantial portion of the site’s distinguished research stacks.”

What politicians deem “dramatic alteration,” yesterday’s ralliers kindly glossed into Librarian as “dev·as·tat·ing ob·lit·er·a·tion" noun. Synonyms: “demolition of the seven-story book stacks at taxpayer expense.” Yes you read that right, at least 1.5 million books are to be banished to a fate worse than limbo: storage in New Jersey.

"The Library was closed to visitors with huge soundproof screens covered with beautiful images and descriptions of the new buildings so that nobody could hear the suffering creature as they cut out all her working parts," mournfully narrates The Library of Libraries, a Simon Verity illustrated $5-for-the-cause booklet sold by a sadly smiling gent in a “First Edition” folded paper-hat.

It is indeed the First Edition of the Last Volume of Final Gasps about to be inflicted on a city impervious to the faltering beats of its own aching ♥. 

As with all martyrs-in-the-making, it is not the innocent sigh sent up from the protestors, but the cry carved deep into the marble bones of the Library’s grand atrium that conveys the most chilling wisdom of all: “On the diffusion of education among the people rests the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions.” Diffuse the diffusion, watch common good crumble and simply wait for the dire prophecy of the Library of Libraries to come true: “this is the of the whole City, and without it, the City will die.”


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