New York City is a big place, very big. The aggregate information out there to describe the city is also big, very big. Its vast, ubiquitous quality makes it seem unknowable and unmanageable. Much of our knowledge about the city is in small bits and pieces, mostly unrelated to other each other. Many us may generally know a thing or two about our neighborhood: we may know who lives there, we may even know something about the crime stats or the average price of a co-op. Other than the of odd pieces of knowledge we carry around with us about New York City, the real numbers of the city are essentially a blank in our heads.
Outside the fiendishly organized grid of Midtown, New York City is very hard to describe, from the attendance at the major cultural institutions to the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians between 1995-2001. The information is simply too complex for it to be easily accessed.
Many of the librarians at the reference desk consult online or bound references for statistics. A lot of the information is general in nature. For information specific to New York City there is the NYC government website but the information is not readily transparent. Not until The Almanac of New York City was published was there a source unique to New York. Answering questions about New York City was always a complicated challenge. The simplest question requires a multi-step process to get an answer. And the hope is you don’t lose the patron’s interest as you guide them through the labyrinthine process. There is the New York City website, as well the Green Book to direct people where to get further information. United States census has information and then you can even contact your local community board for information related to specific neighborhoods, but all the searches are an involved process.
The Almanac of New York City is unique because it is filled with information that is entertaining as well as informative. It is a comprehensive collection of the information on our city. For example, The Almanac lists the Gravesites of Celebrated Persons as well as the populations of the public housing projects. It also has the names all the winners of the NYC Marathon, as well as the number of seats in each Broadway theatre. It’s the type of book you want handy for a bit arcane knowledge about the city and also the type of book you want to have along side your cereal bowl in the morning to simply wander through as you dig into your oatmeal and berries.
Please join editors Kenneth T. Jackson and Fred Kameny of the Almanac of the New York City on Wednesday April 15th at 6:30 PM, at the Mid-Manhattan Library as they talk about the numbers of New York City.
Test your New York trivial knowledge in the NY Times City Room.