New York public library OVERVIEW
– 125 Years of learning
As the nation's largest and most recognizable public library system, The New York Public Library (NYPL) represents New York City's cultural diversity and brilliance, with a dedication to serving its residents with free and accessible 21st century resources, and the principle that knowledge is the key to lifelong success. In 2020, NYPL will mark its 125th anniversary by renewing its commitment to improving lives, communities, and our civil society through learning, thinking, and reading. Across 92 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and with library cards available to all city residents regardless of where they live and work, NYPL's services extend to every neighborhood in New York. Just last year, the Library received over 16.3 million visits and circulated more than 21 million items to cardholders. In the coming year, NYPL will continue this critical role, opening new, inspiring spaces, serving even more readers, creators, and entrepreneurs, and providing for a more equitable and democratic society.
Highlights in the coming year include the debut of The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library's Treasures, a permanent showcase of a one-of-a-kind collection held in NYPL's vaults, previously unavailable to the general public, and the opening of the fully renovated and reconceived Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (formerly the Mid-Manhattan Library) which will provide the modern central library hub that New Yorkers need and deserve.
Despite shifts in our cultural, social, and political landscape, libraries endure, and NYPL is uniquely poised to serve the betterment of the people, provide new and accessible opportunities for learning, and act as a public forum for another 125 years.
125 Years of Supporting NYC Communities
Neighborhood branches are where New Yorkers can connect with the Library and their fellow residents, borrowing books and other materials, calling on the invaluable reference skills of NYPL's expert staff, and exploring programs that teach 21st-century literacy skills to patrons of all ages. For adults, the Library offers technology training, business courses, and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) programs, including U.S. citizenship test preparation, among many other programs. Since the creation of an in-house ESOL program in 2011, student enrollment in the Library's language classes has increased by 523 percent. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Library served nearly 39,000 adult English language learners in both its enrollment-based and drop-in classes, and an additional 1,695 students through an ESOL conversation program at Rikers Island, the only one of its kind available in New York City Department of Correction facilities. These free programs can be life-changing: last year Leonel, a student in NYPL's Rikers Island ESOL program, was able to apply for and begin an onsite Manhattan College program using the English he had learned studying with NYPL tutors, and after returning home is now attending Manhattan College full-time. When Leonel exited the justice system, he leaned on Library staff for reentry support, and continues to advocate for the program by referring his peers still at Rikers Island to NYPL's ESOL classes.
Each year, the Library receives over 2 million visits from people eager to participate in free educational and creative programming – to not only learn English, but also to pursue a degree, build a small business, or hear a favorite author speak about a new work. For younger students, NYPL offers early literacy programming in partnership with the city's 3-K for All initiative. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Library provided 20,344 early literacy programs to over 722,000 attendees. Encouraging new and existing patrons to read more and engage with NYPL collections is crucial to the Library's mission, and in the past year, NYPL embarked on an ambitious outreach plan to increase library card sign-ups by 20 percent, expanding its reach and ensuring that underserved communities see the Library as an important and relevant resource. By June 2019, the Library had exceeded its goal and discovered that these new cardholders accounted for 13 percent of circulation for the year, with a total of 1.2 million items circulated among new cardholders alone. In 2020, the Library will continue to pilot creative outreach strategies, many around its 125th anniversary celebration, with the goal of reaching more New Yorkers and exposing them to all the Library has to offer.
125 Years of Scholarship
The coming year will also bring a slate of new improvements and changes to ensure that NYPL can provide safe and engaging spaces and services while updating its branches for the future. The reopening of NYPL's busiest circulating library, located at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, as a vibrant, state-of-the-art facility will attract New Yorkers and tourists alike to this new, world-class learning center in the middle of Midtown. Renamed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, this flagship location will have capacity for over 400,000 books, spacious reading rooms, a new rooftop terrace open to the public, free after-school programs, technology training, and ESOL classes – providing for a veritable lifetime of learning. To serve neighborhoods affected by the temporary closures of other select branches undergoing renovations, NYPL launched a fleet of three bookmobiles, which offer materials for all ages and act as pick-up sites for books on hold. To build on all of this work, and harness the capacity and resources of the branches, NYPL has hired Brian Bannon, former head of the Chicago Public Library system, as its first-ever Merryl and James Tisch Director. Bannon joined the Library in fall 2019 and will oversee both NYPL's branch libraries and its education program while developing a new strategic vision of library service for the coming years.
In addition to circulating collections and public programs that speak to local, neighborhood audiences, NYPL provides patrons with free access to millions of unique or otherwise difficult-to-find research materials through its research centers, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center; the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street; and the Science, Industry, and Business Library. Patrons are able to request and review materials in these libraries' reading rooms, can discover the collections through rotating exhibitions of NYPL's collections, or browse digital versions of rare works – all free of charge. Last year, the Library offered 17 exhibitions that provide unique and thoughtful perspectives on cultural and social themes, including a photography exhibition honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a celebration of the work of famed choreographer Jerome Robbins, and Black Power! at the Schomburg Center, which explored the Black Power movement.
125 Years of Engaging New Yorkers
In the coming year, NYPL will open two exhibitions in the Schwarzman Building that will both showcase the breadth and depth of NYPL's rare and unique materials and celebrate the important works of scholarship and creativity that have been inspired by these collections. A highlight of the 125th anniversary year, The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library's Treasures, will feature some of NYPL's most treasured items in a way that allows the public to consider both their historical importance and contemporary relevance. Made at The New York Public Library: 125 Years of Inspiration– currently showing – celebrates some of the important and diverse creators-including Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning author Colson Whitehead and many more-who have been inspired by the Library's collections. Public programs in the landmark building on Fifth Avenue and branches across the NYPL system will supplement the exhibition with book displays, multimedia content, and educational activities. Other exhibitions include A Ballad for Harlem, the Schomburg Center's examination of Harlem's role in shaping politics, art, and education in the 20th century, on view through 2019; and In the Company of Harold Prince, a retrospective of one of Broadway's most influential directors, producers, and collaborators on view at the Library for the Performing Arts.
NYPL's 125th anniversary year coincides with the 2020 Census and November 2020 presidential election, two events that are foundational for a thriving democracy and for which libraries will play a critically important role. NYPL will work to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted in the Census and that all who are eligible to vote are both registered and informed about the voting process.
In the past year, NYPL has prepared for these events by collaborating with New York City government agencies as well as the Brooklyn and Queens library systems, to develop plans that capitalize on the libraries' strengths as effective partners, community conveners, digital access points, and trusted messengers. In the coming months, key neighborhood libraries will roll out intensive support and outreach activities, including translation services, special Census-related events, and one-on-one support. NYPL and its partners will engage with vulnerable populations, provide access to computers and high-speed internet, and teach people how to complete digital forms. The libraries will also provide forums here New York City residents will be encouraged to share their values and needs with their communities and their representatives. Staff are leveraging the momentum of local partnerships, programs, and community engagement to focus on civics-related program development and outreach in the lead-up to the November election, including voter registration drives and programs that engage communities with local government.
Looking Ahead: The Next 125 Years
The Library remains as relevant and revolutionary now as it was in 1895. Free access to university-caliber research resources, life-changing literacy classes, and support for everything from building a business to applying for citizenship is unique to this irreplaceable institution. With the understanding that reading and literacy are strongly correlated with positive economic and social outcomes, NYPL remains committed to supporting its communities and affirming the vital role of libraries in the digital age.
Candidates should contact a member of the search team to apply:
GERARD F. CATTIE, JR.
Practice Leader – Development & Philanthropy
MANUEL A. GONGON, JR.
Vice President and Senior Associate
Executive Assistant | Project Manager