Writers, Historians, Researchers—This One’s For You

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Presumably, you care not a whit about the internal policies of the New York Public Library, particularly when it comes to how they treat the donated papers of writers and public figures. But there’s a reason this matters to all of us: preserving the research, notes, thoughts and history of significant thinkers and doers has inherent value to our civilization, as a critical research resource, and as a glimpse into people and processes that otherwise would vanish forever.

Recently, we heard from Paul Brodeur, a retired longtime New Yorker writer who thinks he is being wronged by Library officials. And figures he is almost certainly not alone.

In 1992, Brodeur donated all of his papers to the NYPL, under the impression he would leave his entire collection of work in a single place for scholars and other researchers. As he wrote in an essay for the Authors Guild Bulletin,

Among the papers were those connected to my investigations of the asbestos health hazard and its cover-up by the asbestos industry; the health risks posed by flesh-eating enzymes that had been introduced into household detergents; the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer by man-made chemicals; the dangers of exposure to microwave radiation; the ills caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines, and the land claims of the Native People of New England…..

Imagine his shock on hearing from the library, 18 years later, that they had finally finished “processing” his papers and were planning to cull them, separating the imagined wheat from the chaff. Imagine his shock at being told, unceremoniously, that he had 30 days to collect whatever the library was jettisoning, and if he didn’t, they would just dump the stuff.

The library administration has its side, and there are issues of storage space and relevancy. We’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself. You can read Brodeur’s full take on this HERE. Then, if inclined, come back and share your comments.

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7 responses to “Writers, Historians, Researchers—This One’s For You”

  1. Title

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  2. matsovani says:

    I may be experiencing a momentary attack of paranoia but the following excerpt leads me to believe politics is involved;

    “Among the papers were those connected to my investigations of the asbestos health hazard and its cover-up by the asbestos industry; the health risks posed by flesh-eating enzymes that had been introduced into household detergents; the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer by man-made chemicals; the dangers of exposure to microwave radiation; the ills caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines, and the land claims of the Native People of New England….. ”

    I’m just saying maybe there are vested interests who would prefer his research disappear.

  3. AnnieMO says:

    THe NYCL is used by researchers from all over…that’s probably why a researcher thought to donate his research there. It sounded like to me that NOW he wishes he had sent them elsewhere. Also, why couldn’t this have been downloaded on to disk?
    As for the dumpin of them, you cannot ‘re-write’ history if the facts are going to be somewhere staring you in the face! You get rid of the facts FIRST! And since there seems to be either a huge onset of Alzheimers or blatant deliberate fact distortion going on among those in the Republican hiarchy and Fox News, this is their solution to avoid ‘facing’ facts and having real recorded history bite them in the arse.

  4. russwnyc says:

    FYI: The “Share” function above is temporarily very sluggish. When you “Share” this on any platform above (Tweet, Facebook, etc), it DOES work, but may take a few days before the counters reflect the results.

  5. Brian Mcgee says:

    I see the NYPL point of view they really can’t hold everything but there is no need to lead people down an 18 year rabbit hole. What Paul didn’t make clear and i’d like to know is after they accepted or “processed” the papers just to turn around and get rid of em, can he then take those papers they didnt “process” and donate them to another institution such as smaller university’s like he mentioned? Or by his contract when donating them bar them from ever being donated anywhere else?

    Is he hell bent on NYPL and the “prestige” that comes with it(or more appropriately the circle jerk that comes with it) or is he hell bent on seeing his RESEARCH live on? which is much more noble and i believe dispersing his works to agencies with an actual vested interest in his works would keep them much more relevant as they’ll cite them much more oftenly if they have em at their finger tips.

    As i read page after page i became somewhat unsympathetic to this Paul guy. His angry seems much more out of hurt feelings and pure ego stroking then of any of substance, it would of been interesting to know FACTS how much space they have? how many donations they get? and how much their budget has shrunk? I dont have any numbers but in this day & age i’ll go out on a limb and say their funding has been cut like all social services.

    Some what off topic, sorry but i gotta say its just sad to see our nation have such off priorities. Did we not learn anything from the Library of Alexandria People!?! C’mon!

    I don’t think THIS event is a conspiracy itself BUT i do think the effort to cut education on all sides is a deliberate attempt to contain & control of the “message” aka reality. George W. would always say how he’s seeing today doesn’t matter, history will tell the truth on how great he was. That comes from Poppy Bush always being able to cover up his mistakes but also from the intelligent agencies desire to retrospectively change the past. I could easily see them interjecting the idea not have science research saved in the library with the rational that well science changes all the time & why waste time on outdated research, which has a grain of truth BUT what that policy attitude also serves as a great way of getting all the whistle blowers out of the way. They can then claim when a major environmental disaster does actually strike(again) that “nobody saw it coming.”

  6. Tawes2032 says:

    Do the Koch Brothers fund the NYPL?

  7. Paul_a_brodeur says:

    Officials of The New York Public Library have posted a response to my article in the Authors Guild Bulletin, and I have posted a response to them. Both can be found at http://blog.authorsguild.org.

    Paul Brodeur