From the New York Times:
At a time when the digital revolution has thrown the mission of libraries into question, the New York Public Library is planning to name Anthony W. Marx, the current president of Amherst College, a native New Yorker and a passionate advocate of public education, as its new president. He replaces Paul LeClerc, who announced his plan to step down in November 2009.
The choice suggests that the search committee sees the library’s future as rooted in the life of its 86 neighborhood branches, where poor families and immigrants go not only to check out books and DVDs, but also to use computers, do job searches, take English classes and seek guidance on how to search the Internet and write a résumé.
“New York is a city that has always taken immigrants and populations of great talent and given them opportunities, and the library has always been in the forefront of that,” Mr. Marx said in a phone interview. “And the need for that is even greater today, even as the technology forces us to rethink how we deliver that opportunity.”
[…] He said he saw the potential for a “great partnership” between the library and New York City’s public school system.
“I think we should be looking to create additional programs that give students pre-school and after-school opportunities,” he said, adding, “I look forward to working with Joel Klein and with my colleagues in New York to make that happen.”
Okay, first a minor complaint: I’d be willing to bet that people who think “the digital revolution has thrown the mission of libraries into question” are people who don’t often use libraries. As at least one person in the article’s comments section points out, libraries have embraced new technologies from the get-go and have used new media to support their mission of providing access to information for all who seek it. Enough with the lazy stereotyping.
Now, with that aside:
Yes! Marx absolutely seems to understand that the library should be grounded in the day-to-day life of the community and actively involved in the education of the next generation. He seems to get “the basics,” as my wife said. And he seems to have walked the walk as well, working to improve secondary school education both in the U.S. and abroad (particularly South Africa, where he also participated in the fight against apartheid).
Emphasizing the link between libraries and education is key. If Marx can deliver on this promise, then more power to him.
(Update: Here’s the NYPL’s press release.)