My day today was spent entirely at the Central Library.
The colleagues here made time for me in sixty-minute sessions and patiently answered my questions. They all work in their "divisions", independently from the central service department which itself is responsible for developing the holdings in the borough neighborhoods.
The purpose and the profile of the Central Library are as multifaceted as its customers. For one, it accommodates a lively neighborhood that is largely home to Spanish-speaking New Yorkers. In addition, it attracts people from the whole borough and all of New York with its special collections and special programs. Their
Small Business Center Program offers, for example, valuable support for all those who --- often born of necessity --- dare to take the step into entrepreneurial independence. Even someone who has neither a computer nor Internet access at home can make the start. At one of 32 PC stations he can spend an hour every day not only using all MS Office programs, but also calling up his e-mail account and he can print for free .
An additional focus is the library’s social sciences collection. Through its quality, it reaches an academic public whose queries that often come from all over the world. A series of rare books are stored in the Central Library and can often only be viewed here. This particularly applies to the Long Island Division, whose archival material on local history encompasses all the existing boroughs on the island.
Speaking of “storage”. Planned in the 1960s as a one-story building, the Central Library is seriously suffering now from what then appeared to be the right decision: approximately two-thirds of the collections are not freely accessible to the public, but are held in two underground levels. "You always have to look twice,” says Nelson Lu, Division Manager of Business, Science and Technology.
However, whether the new construction of the children’s library will result in any structural changes for the rest of the Central Library is uncertain.
One thing though is certain: Whatever decisions are ultimately made, they will be oriented toward an international public, which is quite naturally understood at the location with the greatest ethnic diversity in the United States.