Volume 75, Number 35 | January 18 - 24, 200


Why must we choose outside vs. inside at Jefferson Library?

One of Greenwich Village’s most distinctive and beautiful buildings, the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Ave. has stood with its exterior shrouded in scaffolding for nearly three years. Last year the community got wind of a New York Public Library proposal to do an extensive interior renovation and also add a new teen lounge to the library — this even as the exterior is sorely needing of repairs.

The overwhelming sentiment of local residents at public meetings on the library is that they don’t want a separate teen lounge to bump the research room out of the library’s basement floor or shrink the research area’s space. Many Villagers and others value this downstairs space as a quiet spot to do research, look at microfilm or just read undisturbed in peace. The library’s research facilities are valuable to writers and other researchers and the quiet is appreciated by those who are searching for some tranquility in a cacophonous, always-bustling city. This basement with its Gothic archways has its aesthetic charm too.

Since The Villager first reported the teen lounge plans eight months ago, the plans have evolved somewhat. Initially, library officials said the lounge might have more comfortable furniture, times when music is played and a television set that plays music videos. Teen lounges are a national trend to attract youth to libraries, they said. They are popular in Los Angeles and there is already one in the Donnell Library on W. 53rd St.

However, at a Village Independent Democrats meeting last week, a library official described the prospective Jefferson Market Library teen lounge as a space with books and computers that while designated for young adults will be open to all users.

At times, the debate has resembled an intergenerational conflict, with some residents saying the youth don’t need a segregated area but should integrate with “the population” and that a separate youth space will create a racket.

While discussion of the teen lounge continues, the fact remains that the library’s exterior, its limestone trim and gargoyles, desperately needs repair and that pieces of it are at risk of falling — hence the scaffolding.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn is looking into whether the $2.1 million the Council allocated for the interior renovations — about two-thirds of the total cost — can be switched to the exterior renovation.

It seems absurd, though, that we must choose between interior or exterior. Why can’t we do both? Clearly, this landmarked 1877 building’s exterior must be renovated and that unsightly shed removed as quickly as possible. As for the teen lounge, we’d like to hear more about it, in terms of programming and staffing, for example. Will this prospective lounge be a hangout or a place teenagers can fill their minds with knowledge and sharpen literacy skills?

Villagers rallied to save this historic building and convert it to a library in 1967. Let’s not let it crumble now. The funding has to be there somewhere.

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