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Hard lessons for libraries and all of us

Daily News by Kathy Marx – the president and CEO of The New York Public Library: “As we prepare to close the book on a cursed 2020, it is tempting to turn the page, try to forget about a year with unprecedented challenges, and hope to return to the way it all was. I get the temptation. It has been more than nine months of isolation, anxiety, anger, division and, in far too many cases, tragic loss. We are all exhausted, struggling to cope with a new normal that feels more like a dystopian novel than reality. But just as we are now inventing new holiday rituals that focus on what and those most important to us, we must also recalibrate more broadly. As part of an institution that for 125 years has preserved and made accessible the world’s history, culture and knowledge, I see firsthand, every day, the importance of learning lessons from our past, especially our most difficult chapters. We have long known that the digital divide is a key issue, and that millions of our neighbors do not have home connectivity. In 2020, the chasm came into very sharp focus. What was inequality of access became tragic exclusion from almost all educational, economic and civic life. At the height of the pandemic, the city’s public libraries, closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, still recorded over 1,000 Wi-Fi sessions a day. Our fellow citizens of the greatest city in the world had no other choice but to brave a pandemic to stand outside to get the internet bleeding from our branches. Now they will do so in the cold of winter…”

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