NYS Library Clearing Thousands of Items From Stacks

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TU StoryPaul Grondahl at the Albany Times Union is reporting that the New York State Library is rapidly discarding tens of thousands of items in the stacks of the old State Library beneath the State Education Building.

State Librarian Bernard Margolis, who is overseeing the reduction of the stacks, blames years of State Library budget cuts and an increase in state Education Department paperwork.  Opposition from State Library employees, who remain anonymous out of fear for their jobs, has gone unheeded.

Here are some of the details from Paul Grondahl:

The State Library, founded in 1818, moved the bulk of its 20 million books and printed items in 1978 into the newly built Cultural Education Center on Madison Avenue at the southern end of Empire State Plaza that houses the State Library, State Museum and State Archives. But acres of antiquarian books, old newspapers and arcane journals were left behind in the Education Building’s subterranean stacks….

Among the items headed to the trash bin is the entire collection of Braille books, and the college catalog collection.

The weightiest challenge is what to do with 17,000 square feet of old newspapers, including dozens from outside New York state. Many ceased publication long ago. There is the Washington Globe, a semiweekly from the 1830s, and the Washington National Observer from the 1850s. There are stacks of defunct papers from 19th-century Boston, including the New England Palladium, Boston Investigator, Boston Evening Gazette, New England Galaxy and Boston Pearl.

Limited storage and resources will result in jettisoning newspapers from outside the state if they are unable to find libraries or archives that will take them. Digitizing them is cost-prohibitive. Funding was discontinued in 2007 for the New York State Newspaper Project, which microfilmed more than 4.37 million pages from among 10,537 New York state newspapers during 20 years by State Library employees.

Head over to the Time Union to read the full story here.


14 thoughts on “NYS Library Clearing Thousands of Items From Stacks

  1. Bill Hecht

    Old newspapers were VERY POORLY microfilmed years ago and people mistakenly think they are “preserved” . Most of these old microfilm jobs were very poorly done. Many, if not all, images turned black.
    I would imagine that most of these need to be totally redone with modern digital methods.


  2. Rich Hungerford

    What are they thinking! Newspapers that may exist nowhere else to be tossed out? This is madness. Why are they throwing out such items? If they need the space–what could be more important than original items of historical significance? Shame on whoever came up with such a stupid plan.

  3. Ellen Apperson Brown

    With a little effort, volunteers could be recruited and trained to do the scanning. I’m sure there are organizations that could be approached, and asked to “adopt” a set of papers, get them scanned, and then produce a report about the contents so that others can make use of the documents. My research on John S. Apperson, for example, would be greatly enhanced if I could get access to newspapers from the 1910s-1940s, telling of various conservation battles throughout the State of New York. Preserving paper documents is as important, or more so, than preserving old buildings!

  4. Sandra WeberSandra Weber

    I am an author and researcher who has spent many hours at the NYS Library and Archives. The collections, staff, and facility are a treasure…. So now the purging has gotten public attention, which I assume was the intention of the involved parties. And many solutions have been proposed and people have offered ideas about storage space. So let’s see what the State Library does now. Will they spend another $30,000 moving law books? Will they keep complaining about the lack of funds? Or will they engage with the history/library/research/literacy/education community?
    Side point: This is exactly why anyone who wishes to donate historical items to an organization has to be extremely wary of what may eventually happen to those items. Donor beware!

  5. Susan Lewis

    As I remember, the State Library is not even allowed by law to sell their discards, but just toss. It always seems like such a stupid waste.

  6. toga

    Does anyone remember (about 18 years ago) the NYSL throwing out the 18th and 19th century NYS newspapers ? At the time, on an local preservation LISTSERVE, someone posted that the papers were being carried out and placed on the sidewalk with a guard posted nearby….several historians and archivist drove to the location and asked to if they could take the papers – the guard and the staff threatened arrest as the guard said, “I am to see that these newspapers go form point A (here) to point B (the incinerator.) I have the photos.

    If you haven’t read Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper – now is the time.


    What to do ? I called for a list of newspapers and will network with other depositories – other historians. I work with librarians and , sorry to say, I have lost faith in that profession.

  7. Arlene Niemeyer

    Please don’t throw out these items? NY State already has provided us with significant gaps to do genealogical research. I’ve been trying for 23 years to find the parents of one Ancestor who was b 1806 in NY. He was in Genesee Co NY 1830. There are many gaps in Newspapers for that area. Vital records did not exist. So far my family has come up with nothing to find his parents. Research in other states is superior to NY. Now the “powers that be” want to make NY State Research impossible. Please find a way to legibly preserve the images of these items before discarding them!

  8. Candace Millsop

    Why not give that stuff to the LDS or smaller Historical Societies etc? They could just divide it up to be fair. This is unconscionable and should be stopped before we lose it all! ASAP!!!

    1. Susan Fish

      Who can we write to in Albany in order to stop these actions? I cannot believe the wastefullness of our State. Are there any educational institutions in NYS that would be interested in receiving the donated documents? Heck, could they contact Ancestry.com or some other company, give the documents to them and let them transport and scan the stuff before it is lost forever?

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