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Patience and Fortitude: The New York Public Library During the Great Depression and Today’s Economic Crisis


Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry) La Guardia, 1882-1947., Digital ID 1552489, New York Public LibraryFiorello H. La GuardiaToday, library hours and services are threatened in municipalities across the country. New York is not exempt, particularly with the proposed City budget cuts. Yet we also read and watch various news reports about increased use of libraries during this current economic downturn. At The New York Public Library, we're seeing substantial changes in use. Not surprisingly, attendance and circulation are up. Attendance is up by 13% in the last year, and circulation has increased to 21.1 million in 2008, up from 17.2 million in 2007. Users are seeking information to help them through tough times and are also using the Library’s collections and programs as ways to escape from it all.

Three weeks ago, we surveyed participants in public programs and training classes and found that more than one third of them were unemployed and searching for jobs. In the last four months, we have documented an increase of 38% in unique users searching for and using job information on the Library’s website. And from the front lines, Library staff members are reporting increasing questions from users about all kinds of related topics, from unemployment insurance to resumé writing.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be highlighting ways in which The New York Public Library is responding to its users' needs during the current financial crisis as well as exploring the Library’s historical role during periods of economic hardship, specifically during the Great Depression. I’ll be posting on a more-or-less weekly basis, and I invite those from the larger library community – staff and users – to contribute their experiences and thoughts, as well. In particular, I'll touch upon the impact of the economy -- then and now -- on library attendance and circulation, program offerings, reference questions, and materials purchases. I'll also share details of new programs developed in response to increased demand for certain services. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia used to conclude his colorful radio broadcasts with the words "Patience and Fortitude" to give solace and strength to his listeners, while acknowledging the hard times they faced. Mayor LaGuardia also nicknamed The New York Public Library’s lions Patience and Fortitude for the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to survive the Great Depression. Those great lions have endured, as has the Library. Let’s hope the qualities have endured, as well.

Next installment: "Open Doors, Open Minds"


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Dear Madam, I'am a librarian

Dear Madam, I'am a librarian in China. I am very intrested with you article. I want to know more infornation about changes of the public library of your country in the Great Depression and the using of library. It will be my appraciate if you could find more relevant information. By the way:I would like to quote this article. Thank you! Yours Linping Li 2009.3.11

Linping, thanks for your

<p>Linping, thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy my <a href="/node/29057">latest post</a> on the Library's hours during the Great Depression, and if you have suggestions for other specific topics I can explore, please comment again! Feel free to quote. Thanks again.</p>

Dear mam I am from Nepal

Dear mam I am from Nepal country of Mount Everest and i am a simple Librarian . We have just opened a public library in our cpital. It is very small but so effective. We have collected some books and computers from different resources. It is very hard to fulfil the demand of visitors with the limited resources. So please can you give me some idea for promoting the library of such developing country.Your little help will be a milestone for our team. With best regards Ishwari

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