There are probably still people who argue that libraries have become obsolete in the digital age, despite all the statistics indicating otherwise, like rising customer numbers, growing circulation figures, swelling event attendance … and the 13,000 people who sent in nominations this year to the second annual NYC Neighborhood Library Awards, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
The winners—who received $20,000 each—were announced Wednesday night. The Langston Hughes Library in Corona, Queens; the New Lots Library in East New York; Stapleton, Staten Island’s branch and two Bronx outlets, Parkchester and Mott Haven, took home the prize. The winners also had profile videos created about them.
Five runners up—Cambria Heights, Clinton Hill, Jefferson Market, Sunnyside and Windsor Terrace—received $10,000 apiece.
A theme that emerges from the winner’s citations is that the libraries are valued not primarily for the access they provide to digital devices, which is often the assumption of casual observers. The library itself, as a gathering place, is important. The nominations told about a young mother who found a refuge at her branch, a stay-at-home dad who soaked up activities for his son at his and a community member who saw her branch become a place where diverse groups could come together.
These are not things that a smart-phone will do for you. And they’re worth noting as the city heads into the heart of budget season with the de Blasio administration’s support for libraries in question.
City Limits reported extensively last year (with support from the Revson Foundation) on the evolving role libraries are playing and the challenges they face at reaching their potential. Read those stories, watch the videos of last night’s winners and visit your branch soon.
City Limits coverage of the Bronx is supported by the New York Community Trust.