[ N Y C ]
The other day I finally registered as a
member of the New York City Library.
Its been at least ten years since I have
set foot in any library, probably scarred
from university research. I was excited
to resume my studies until I actually
went to a library.
— Jefferson Library
Located on the west side of 6th Avenue, in New York City, is the Jefferson Library. Truthfully I never knew the building was a library. Its ornate tower and recent scaffolding barely make mention of the buildings purpose. But after a quick visit to nypl.org I learned it was a library. Eager to exercise my new found research capabilities I searched for a few photography titles. At the beginning of October I will be interviewing photographer Danny Lyon and wanted to look up some of his previous publications. The local book stores only had a few titles, so I figured the library would have a larger selection. He is a decorated artists who has won fellowships with the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Museum, and holds an honorary doctorate from the Art Institute of Boston. Some of his status should be fairly easy to find within the New York Public Library system, right?
Well, Yes, sort of. Why do I say sort of? Because when I looked online it listed all of his books with a note — Use In Library . Much to my dismay, this note means the book cannot leave the library. Now I understand that the original manuscripts of Thomas Jefferson would need to be reserved and never allowed outside of the library, but a readily available photo book should not be on the do not borrow list. Its no mystery kids don’t go to libraries to learn about art and photography. If they wanted to do so, they would have to go to the 42nd Street Library and they couldn’t even take any of the books home.
From an archival stand point I understand a book not leaving the library. But from a practical standpoint, is there greater value to a perfectly preserved, unused book or a well worn book that can engage people with a photographer they may not know? As an artist I believe artwork should be preserved, but books are designed to be used. In the digital age there is no reason why these books should not be more readily available. But all things considered, I can get over this hurdle.
The Jefferson Library is located in the heart of Greeenwich Village. It was once a cultural hub which housed Robert Capa, Hunter S. Thompson, and William Borroughs. It is the perfect place for an artsy library. But there is one major obstacle. There is no F-ing BATHROOM! I mean, seriously. When the girl told me there was no bathroom, I was shocked. What type of public research facility has no bathroom? This is a deal breaker. How could anyone be expected to go to a library and read, but have to run to the nearest Starbucks for a bathroom? As far as I am concerned its insane! It is no surprise that library attendance continues to fall. The library should be a haven of lounging, comforts and research.
Suggestions to bolster attendance:
- Install modern bathrooms that come equipped with TOTO toilets. Toto would probably donate the toilets as a promotion.
- Acquire a collection of Art and Photography books for local designers, photographers, and artists to utilize.
- Install a caffe that serves top quality coffee, treats from local bakeries and fresh fruit from the 14th street Farmers Market.
- Spend the money to replace the flourescent lights. Reading under green lighting makes you feel like you are in an insane asylum.
As far as I can tell, the downfall of the library is a marketing issue. The library, whether public or private, should feel more like a hotel lobby and less like the subway platform. Maybe, if going to the library was a pleasurable experience, people might actually go.
— An Alternative
Meg Parsont, over at Phaidon, offered to send me a loaner copy of Danny Lyon’s “Deep Sea Diver” in preparation for the interview. The book arrived yesterday. The spine of the book is printed in Danny’s handwriting. Once I removed the book from the sleeve, I thought there was a limited edition print inside. Turns out, it was just the cover photo. The entire book was designed to read like a scrap book. When I showed my girlfriend the book she said, “Wow that’s so cool they gave you a copy with his original handwritten notes.” I had to show her that the pencil notations were actually printed. Phaidon must have spared no expense making this book. And after handling the book, I understand why it costs $200. The book is simply breathtaking. This weekend I am looking forward to reading the text, written entirely by Danny as he travelled through China.
Phaidon may have succeeded in getting me to swallow the price tag and go for my own copy.
— Your Questions
This is kind of unconventional for a photography interview, but lets give it a whirl. What would you like me to ask Danny, when I interview him in October? Are there any questions you have about his work, his equipment (he uses Leica M4′s and M6′s/Sekonic meters/Kodak Tri-x), or his vision? If so, leave your questions below and I will try to work them into the interview.
Thanks Everyone in advance for your feedback!