This has been an important year for The New York Public Library (N.Y.P.L.). It received millions of dollars in donations from rich patrons, a grant from a foundation, and larger municipal appropriations.
On March 13, 2014 the N.Y.P.L. announced it was the largest beneficiary of the $6,000,000 estate of Lotte Fields. As she requested, the N.Y.P.L. split the funds between its branch libraries and the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, with each receiving half.
“Her donation shows just how much Lotte loved books and how important she felt it was to support her fellow book lovers,” noted Irwin Cantor, the executor of her will.
“To be honest the Library was astounded to receive Ms. Fields’ gift, but we are deeply honored to pick up her mantle and promote the joy of reading. It’s a responsibility we look forward to honoring, along with her life and her bequest,” said Dr. Anthony W. (“Tony”) Marx, President of The New York Public Library.
Ms. Fields, of German Jewish descent, inherited her wealth from her husband’s family. They were successful wool merchants. The N.Y.P.L. had already received $3,600,000 in January.
Her bequest is surely the largest The New York Public Library has received since Mary McConnell Bailey left the N.Y.P.L. and the Central Park Conservancy each a $10,000,000 bequest, a story Beth DeFalco broke in the New York Post. This bequest of Lotte Fields is also comparable to an $8,000,000 donation from N.Y.P.L. Trustee Abby S. Milstein and her husband, the real estate developer, financier, and philanthropist Howard P. Milstein made a few years ago, as I mentioned in Part X.
A widow whose husband died during World War II, Mary McConnell Bailey never remarried, never had children, and lived quietly considering she was an heiress to a family who owned stock in the Roaring Spring Blank Book Company. She died in 2011 at the age of eighty-eight and the N.Y.P.L. and Central Park Conservancy received their bequests in 2013.
On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the N.Y.P.L. announced the single largest individual gift ever made to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The $2,500,000 gift from Ruth and Sid Lapidus was for the establishment and endowment of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Trans-Atlantic Slavery, the only facility of its kind based in a public research library.
The Lapidus Center – which will be housed within the Schomburg Center’s Scholars in Residence program – will focus on the interdisciplinary and transnational study of the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery pertaining to people of the Atlantic World. The historic gift will support a position to staff the Lapidus Center, as well as fellowships on the topic. The Lapidus donation also includes a wealth of material, such as rare books and other printed materials, on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.
“Ruth and I are so pleased and gratified to be able to make this gift to the Schomburg of such an important part of my collection,” said Sid Lapidus. “After much reflection and consideration of other deserving alternatives, we decided that the Schomburg is the most appropriate place for these books and other materials on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We hope and anticipate that this gift will make the Schomburg a most significant resource for scholars and others interested in studying the early years of the horrific slave trade and the beginnings of its abolition around the world.”
“This is a history-making moment for the Schomburg Center,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center. “Ruth and Sid Lapidus’s unprecedented gift will allow scholars from around the globe access to one of the richest collections of Trans-Atlantic slavery materials, including a gift of hundreds of rare books and printed material on the abolition of the slave trade.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, Professor of Law and Professor of History at Harvard University, stated, “The slave trade, slavery, and abolition movements were global phenomena, and they must be studied that way. This gift, and the new center, make this point perfectly. In addition, the material Mr. Lapidus has donated to the Library will be of incalculable use to scholars and, very importantly, to members of the public who wish to learn about an institution that continues to shape our world even to this day.”
“The Library is immensely grateful to Ruth and Sid Lapidus for this historic gift, which will establish a world-class center for the study of Trans Atlantic slavery,” said Dr. Marx. “The center will generate and support scholarly work on this critically important subject, and make an incredibly rich collection of rare materials available to researchers. We are proud that the Schomburg will be the first public research library to offer these services, and look forward to opening the Lapidus Center.”
On Thursday, June 26, 2014, the N.Y.P.L. announced it would receive a $4,400,000 increase in city operating funds for Fiscal Year 2015, according to the new city budget, unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the New York City Council. This was the first increase in the appropriation for the N.Y.P.L. since Fiscal Year 2008, and brought the N.Y.P.L.’s total city operating budget to about $144,000,000. It is part of a $10,000,000 increase in funding to all three of New York City’s library systems, including the Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Borough Library.
“It is extremely satisfying that the Mayor and City Council see the value in the city’s libraries, and understand that New Yorkers desperately need the services that we provide, from internet access to technology training to job search resources to English language classes,” said Dr. Marx. “The funding increase will certainly help us continue to provide free education, knowledge and opportunity to all New Yorkers. We are thankful to city officials for their dedication to and investment in libraries, a critical and irreplaceable city resource, and hope that this is a first step towards restoring our funding to Fiscal Year 2008 levels.”
The public wrote about 130,000 letters at branches and online to support the N.Y.P.L. The new city budget went into effect on July 1, 2014, the start of Fiscal Year 2015.
On Wednesday, September 10, 2014, the N.Y.P.L. announced it had received a $200,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation to support its after-school programming for middle school students. Trained educators work directly with students in grades one through eight at the N.Y.P.L.’s Enrichment Zones.
“After-school programming is a vital service for New York students and parents. The generous support of the New York Life Foundation will help us expand and provide even more students with the critical resources, inspiring spaces, and dedicated teachers they need to overcome obstacles,” said Maggie Jacobs, the N.Y.P.L.’s Director of Educational Programs. “Over the past year, the Library has instituted a number of education programs that address students’ challenges and open new doors of opportunity. Enrichment Zones, along with other programs at library branches throughout the city, are giving students and their families the services they deserve.”
“The NYPL’s Enrichment Zones help students during their crucial middle school years, which often determine whether or not they stay in school in the future,” said Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation. “We are pleased to support the NYPL’s vital academic programming, which reaches students in underserved communities across the city.”