New York Public Library

www.nypl.org

New York Public Library Reviews

Updated January 19, 2015
Updated January 19, 2015
80 Reviews
2.3
80 Reviews
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Recommend to a friend
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New York Public Library President Anthony Marx
Anthony Marx
26 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Good benefits, lots of lateral and upward moving potential (in 5 reviews)

  • A great place to work and improve customer service skills within a non-sales role (in 4 reviews)


Cons
  • Very low pay, management is reluctant to offer raises but the keep promising raises to keep you around (in 6 reviews)

  • But when you look at some of the people the library has let go compared to those they've kept on, the way they're going about it becomes questionable (in 3 reviews)

More Highlights

17 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1. 2 people found this helpful  

    Not Worth The Aggravation

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Branch Manager
    Current Employee - Branch Manager

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    I began my career with the library in the mid 1990s. I love what I do. Every day, someone new walks through the door looking for help that I’ve been trained to provide. Over the years, the library has offered some excellent training opportunities to supplement my MLS and academic background. We have over 90 locations, many of which are in unique pockets of NYC. Branches in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Branches in storefronts, subway stations, Lincoln Center, Harlem, midtown Manhattan, converted churches. Old branches, brand new locations. And of course, our flagship location on 5th Avenue. We have research centers that deal exclusively with the performing arts, with black history and culture, with science, industry, business and law (well, the clock is ticking on that one).

    We introduced a model for collection sharing that most public libraries now utilize, where material floats from one library to another, depending on where it’s checked in. While it had a rocky start and still has some issues, this keeps collections consistently fresh and keeps staff actively busy weeding.

    There really is never not enough to do. This job can be challenging, but it’s a challenge that the best of us rise to, as we’ve been asked to wear a great many hats over the years. The sad thing is, there used to be so many more good people. That hasn’t been the case for some time.

    Cons

    Continuing with the metaphor of “many hats,” unfortunately this library system has for the last several years been overburdened by leadership with profoundly swelled heads, and in many ways has been riding the coattails of its own diminishing reputation for the better part of two decades now. Given its size, resources, and location, logic should dictate that the New York Public Library be a consistent leader in its field. The reality is something different. Certain pockets of management are directionless, vindictive & fickle. Last year, we were shocked to see some talented, longtime staff laid off on Valentine’s Day and we are still feeling the impact from the absence of at least one of them. Since then, others who have been with the library as long or longer have been let go in dribs and drabs, some of whom have been classlessly and needlessly escorted from the building they’ve considered a second home, likely for far longer than anyone who may have had anything to do with their dismissal. Although, you wouldn’t know it from looking at our web site, which is ridiculously out of date, for all of our posturing as “The Library of Record.”

    Nearly the entire HR department is cold and detached, so don’t expect a good relationship with them, let alone any level of support, if you find yourself in anyone’s crosshairs. Their bias toward management is sickening. They’re neither Human nor much of a Resource, if you have any kind of issue with a supervisor.

    While we do try and try very hard, our resources are spread so thin, while we should be focusing on excelling at a select few things, we're struggling across the board. Our partnership with the Department of Education is laudable in theory, but laughable in execution. Hardly the first of its kind and better executed in other libraries. Our outreach programs to other agencies make staff feel like we are lagging behind trends when we should be setting them. Our efforts in technology-based innovation are stymied by abysmal leadership and a seeming ignorance on the part of that division of what sort of field they’re in.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Management has generally brought in people who may have any number of accomplishments in their respected fields, sadly none of which are librarianship. They may be attorneys, MBAs, digitization wizards. They may have some gobbledegook job that they made up themselves and convinced someone they'd be a fool not to hire them. Tasked with implementing one new strategic vision or another, these people surround themselves with the proverbial yes men and anyone who does not willfully assimilate, no matter their skill set, no matter their tenure, had better watch their back. And their front. And their sides, top and bottom.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  2.  

    Page

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at New York Public Library

    Pros

    flexible work schedule convenient while going to school

    Cons

    No raises and room for opportunity

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  3. 4 people found this helpful  

    Sailing On A Ship Of Fools

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Branch Manager in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Branch Manager in New York, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Nearly every day, there is a line of people waiting to enter my library before we open. Whatever their reason, whether it’s to borrow a book or a DVD, spend time on the Internet, meet with friends, find a quiet corner and study, or come in out of the cold winter weather, the library is an essential and welcome resource for the people of New York and one that is cherished by all who truly understand its value. In the span of a single hour on the desk, I can help a student with her homework assignment, connect an unemployed man with a potential job opportunity, put someone interested in genealogy on track to learning more about their family’s roots and welcome 100 people to a program on the history of the neighborhood.

    I don’t have a bun in my hair and I hate cats. Suck it, stereotypes! I just love what I do and I can do it here, for the most part....

    Cons

    "For the most part," I guess, is the key element. Kind of like how a soldier might like defending his or her country, if the enemy wasn’t shooting back? But what if they enemy is supposed to be your friend? Or if not your friend, someone who should, in theory, have your back?

    The atmosphere here is disturbingly political. A new administration comes in, makes changes that basically undo any progress (good or bad) of the previous one. You get the sense that every move made is in the interest of saving their own neck until a more lucrative offer comes along and that it's best for your own career to not trust any of these people. They'll lay off key staff, like a manager of circulation in one department, then realize that "Hey, we are a public library, maybe circulation does matter?" reorganize things and put someone else less qualified in the role almost a year later. They'll pretend that they take the opinions and concerns of staff into consideration, but ultimately display the most ignorant, narrow and destructive focus you can imagine for people who are in charge of a public library, let alone one as major as ours.

    Public libraries in NYC seem to almost rival soap operas in the sort of scandals they generate. In Queens, $40,000 was spent on a corporate credit card for expensive trips, a rooftop smoking deck and what were hopefully some really yummy cookies. At NYPL, the IT department threw a $3000 farewell lunch for a departing manager that no one liked and staff are gifted with Kindles for Christmas, while in other departments staff are being forced to be mindful of how much printer paper we use. In Brooklyn, staff are in constant fear of another round of layoffs. For too long, there has been no oversight and only now, are eyebrows beginning to be raised. If it plays out like it usually has, there will be a series of audits and maybe they’ll bring in an overpaid consultant who will come up with a report that will be shared with our strategy team, who will share it with senior managers and politicians. Frontline staff will be kept in the dark until certain staff are quietly let go or things start appearing in The New York Daily News or The New York Post. Library management will pat itself on the back for averting another crisis and then it will be back to business as usual until the next scandal hits, because the culture here is just that damaged. There’s no reason that people who choose to work in a public library, who want to devote their careers to so noble a profession, should have to deal with this sort of thing, but we do. Petty managers are driven by a culture of fear and performance, big wins and the bottom line and they have no connection to the mission and goals of a public library.

    This is not a library system for anyone who does. I don’t think that the Brooklyn or Queens libraries are either. As different as we are in some ways, there are too many disturbing similarities because of our proximity.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I mentioned above that the library is something to be cherished by those who understand its value. It’s very sad when that does not include its own staff - especially those charged with managing, guiding & protecting their staff & the library's reputation & legacy.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
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  5. 6 people found this helpful  

    Could Be Worse. You Could Be Unemployed.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Librarian in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Librarian in New York, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    One Sunday morning this October, as we do every year, several staff got together as a team to represent the library in the Making Strides Walk in Central Park. This is one of the best things about the library – seeing that there are staff willing to come together outside of the office and connect for a cause that is meaningful to them. Still, this event was not without a sour note. Someone who’d walked with us for several years, and had helped rally our library team and many other walkers in a pretty special way, was missing this year. That this person was let go for reasons that were no fault of his own several months earlier is still bothersome to more than a few of us.

    I started working for the library as a page years ago. I continued through high school and came back after college to a more significant position that benefitted from my education and experience. There are a lot of opportunities for work here (not sure if that’s a pro - I guess people are leaving a lot?). Despite the many, many problems, this is one of NYC’s great cultural institutions. Millions of people visit and benefit from the library every year. Not just the one everyone knows, but my branch in the far north of Manhattan. Random branches on Staten Island and in the south Bronx. We have many dedicated frontline staff (and back office staff) who work their butts off to make the library as well as we can. Just sometimes, it feels like it’s much harder than it should be.

    Cons

    Ours is a very image-conscious institution. Much more so than you’d expect a library to be. How so? Well, when people are laid off and paid off, they are forced to sign extensive agreements that they won’t say anything negative about the library. The constantly changing strategic plan is clear as mud, which makes it impossible for our marketing and public relations staff to keep a firm handle on our trajectory. They themselves can only be protective of the library’s general image and they take that directive to a ridiculous degree – if a press release is shared with a local news blog, like gothamist.com, see how negative comments tend to disappear, as if they’re that afraid of criticism. This is not behavior that you’d expect from an institution that exists to promote concepts like information sharing and intellectual freedom.

    And the library is hardly immune to criticism. Some years ago, they decided to close the popular Donnell Library Center. Not learning from that, they made plans to gut our flagship library on 42nd Street without involving the public and that didn’t exactly happen as planned. When things go bad with these big plans, management points fingers and watching who survives is like watching gladiatorial combat mixed with a lot of dumb luck and butt kissing. Unfortunately, it’s usually not upper management that is being let go. We have a bloated structure of upper management, with so many directors and associate directors and a shortage of actual librarians, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what we do for a living. I thought about getting my library degree years ago, but realized I didn’t need it if I was going to stay here – the return on investment would be relatively minimal.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Be genuine. Engage us and be genuine. Stop getting rid of good people in the middle and below of the staff and start looking at the real problems – their bosses. Problem areas like Sites and Technology are especially in need of review.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6. 5 people found this helpful  

    Work Here At Your Peril

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    The library had to have earned its once respectable reputation somehow. Our collections are exceptional - those in the research libraries that are curated and are allowed to flourish and are in no danger of being auctioned off. Our circulating collections are typical and essentially cookie cutter. We have the full range of popular materials you'd expect from a major urban library, shaped by a largely floating collection, which has all the benefits and drawbacks commonly experienced by libraries that float.

    We have over 90 locations, spread throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Some might argue that we've spread ourselves too thin when there are branches within just a couple of blocks from each other, but in a city where there is a Subway or McDonald's on every other block, it doesn't hurt to have a library within almost the same range.

    Cons

    This institution has truly become a rudderless boat, caught in a violent storm of its own design. I hear coworkers that have been here longer than I have talk about how things used to be - the "good old days," and while I envy their memory, I can't imagine a culture that wasn't so bloated by incompetent management and misdirection, so bogged down by the weight of its own self-importance, so seemingly focused on going nowhere in particular.

    We have a strategy division that seems to make things up as they go. Efforts on multiple initiatives have failed and have even been shameful in some cases.

    Our technology staff is strong at its roots, but its leadership has been traditionally poor. Consistently, they work as if they have something to prove. They rarely succeed and they alienate and upset more staff than they win over. After the way we have seen them treat some of their own staff, we can't trust them.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    There are a few strong leaders, but it's like they're afraid to step out and do anything that might get them noticed. This is not the culture where you want to be noticed, as being noticed puts your career in jeopardy. Better to collect your paycheck, hope you don't offend anyone too much and hope you make it long enough to collect your 20 years, unlike some of your colleagues.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7. 5 people found this helpful  

    Faded Luster

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in Bronx, NY
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in Bronx, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    The library, more than the classroom, more than anything Google can provide, allows you to learn things in a truly tactile way. When done properly (which is not always the case here, but in general), libraries can offer innovative services that enrich the lives of their users, exposing them to things they may not see anywhere else. And for free. At NYPL, we do an exceptional job with programming, providing free access to computers, and the books, movies and music in our collections are virtually unrivaled, whether its something you can take home or download.

    When things are bad, which they often are, our staff do what they can to make the best of it. That's the most admirable thing about working here and it owes nothing to the library itself. It's just the people we work with.

    Cons

    Scratch the surface, however, and the luster begins to fade. Quickly. The library lost another of its more dedicated staff this week. Actually, we lost more than one, but only one was thrown a farewell party. The others were quietly dismissed through no fault of their own in what has become something of a pattern at this place. It's getting to the point where you dread checking your e-mail. Will you hear about a coworker or a friend being dismissed? Worse, will it be your turn? You can work here 10, 15 or 20 years, you can be an exceptional employee. You can work 14 hour days and on weekends. You can practically be the library's mascot, but if someone new to the table comes along and decides you're expendable, that's all it takes to send you packing.

    You can't blame the ones who want to leave. New management now has us "road mapping," which is just another phrase for buying time because they don't know what they're doing either. So far, it's just involved getting rid of a number of talented and respected staff and leaving us with no succession plan and a lot of confusion.

    To a degree, it's understandable. This is a public library and times can be tough. We're at the mercy of multiple funding sources and budgets are often tight. But when you look at some of the people the library has let go compared to those they've kept on, the way they're going about it becomes questionable. What's worse, is that some of these people actually seem to relish their role of villain - they enjoy letting staff go. It's become that kind of work environment where no one feels safe and there's no measure of job security. Those of us in the union are somewhat happy for that level of security and hope that our non union friends have their day of reckoning, but it seems less and less likely. These lousy managers continue to screw up, and just when you think they can't screw up any more, their boss leaves and they basically have a clean slate with whatever new person is on board. Since the library doesn't like keeping anyone around with any memory, since most of the memories would be bad ones, that's the way things seem to work around here.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Senior managers? There really is no such thing. They bring new people in constantly, so the most senior manager has probably been in his or her position for about 5 years. At any rate, they should all be ashamed of themselves. The best staff are either pushed out or leaving on their own and what the library is left with stay because they have no choice, want their pension or are too lazy to look elsewhere. My advice, to anyone reading this would be to not work here. Libraries are wonderful places to work and there is still a future in them as physical institutions. Find one in a place you want to live. Talk to the staff there and get a true sense of the culture. This place is contaminated. Ebola for employees.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 4 people found this helpful  

    Bleak Future

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Looking over a lot of these reviews, it is hard not to sound redundant. You will want to enjoy working here. You will really try. After all, you saw this library in the movies. Ghostbusters. Spider-Man. Sex and the City 2. But the movies are the movies and the reality is that maybe half a dozen staff here have an actual clue and the rest of them have the rank of Associate Director or higher.

    I became a librarian because I wanted to help people. I have a love of reading like most in my profession, but what I truly enjoy is helping others make that connection to the information that they need. Can I do that at NYPL? Absolutely! Is it worth the aggravation and low pay? Not really.

    I have worked at the library for a long time now. We have branches in 3 boroughs of NYC (the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island - not at all confusing to outsiders (or even most insiders) as to why Brooklyn and Queens are not included!) four research libraries, and a technical services center in Queens. Staff I have worked with over the years have come from so many different places with so many different experiences and have, until recent years, brought so much to the table.

    Things change.

    Cons

    The library used to actively recruit professional staff - newly minted librarians, fresh out of graduate school. Now, you'll be lucky to visit a neighborhood branch and find a staff member who has a library degree. It's not even a requirement of the Branch Manager to have one, let alone anyone who might staff a public service desk.

    People who excel at their jobs are dismissed by people who have no idea what they're doing to justify their own positions. It has become pretty much the norm at certain levels of the organization, especially in Technology, and all we can do is sigh and wish these people well when we lose them. It's become a hostile and vindictive atmosphere and very sad, because you will see a lot of good people leave over time, whether for better money elsewhere or because they have been laid off by some incompetent higher up.

    The situation is little better where we are in the branches. We are held accountable for everything while the patrons are given free reign. The makeup of senior management is about as stable as the fault lines in California and none of them want to make decisions, because they fear they will make the wrong one and be next to be ushered to the Exit sign.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I can't think of anything that doesn't make me upset. Management doesn't listen. Or they do, but then either because of good intentions gone to bumbling execution, or because they never really meant to do anything in the first place, nothing useful ever comes of any change initiatives. This place has been spinning its wheels for a decade. And going nowhere. My advice to anyone thinking about working here would be to steer clear.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9. 9 people found this helpful  

    The Company Way

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in New York, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Living and working in New York City offers a great deal of appeal to many people. If you are educated, culturally and artistically inclined, as most people likely to seek library employment are, that appeal might include exposure to area theater, where you'll be able to see shows like How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Contemplate these lyrics from the song The Company Way:

    When I joined this firm
    As a brash young man,
    Well, I said to myself,
    "Now, brash young man,
    Don't get any ideas."
    Well, I stuck to that,
    And I haven't had one in years.
    I play it the company way;
    Wherever the company puts me
    There I stay.
    I have no point of view.
    Supposing the company thinks . . .
    I think so too.
    Now, what would you say . . .?
    I wouldn't say.
    Your face is a company face.
    It smiles at executives
    Then goes back in place.
    The company furniture?
    Oh, it suits me fine.
    The company letterhead?
    A valentine.
    Anything you're against?
    Unemployment.
    When they want brilliant thinking
    From employees
    That is no concern of mine.
    Suppose a man of genius
    suggestions?
    Watch that genius get suggested to resign.
    So you play it the company way?
    All company policy is by me OK.
    You'll never rise up to the top.
    But there's one thing clear:
    Whoever the company fires,
    I will still be here.
    Your brain is a company brain.
    The company washed it,
    Now I can't complain.
    I will still be here.
    I will someday earn my medal:
    Twenty-five year employee.
    I'll see to it that the medal
    Is the only thing they'll ever pin on me.

    If you can resign yourself to working the company way, are comfortable working in a climate of uncertainty with the frequent threat of layoffs, budget cuts and other disruptions to your livelihood, then NYPL is the place for your. If you are interested in an opportunity where you can see the benefits of sucking of to your superiors instead of a good work ethic, then fill out that application stat. If you want a job where the pay is so low that you will learn to consider your shoe box in Washington Heights a palatial estate, then what are you waiting for?

    Years ago, the library had a "say yes" policy, aimed at accommodating patrons within reason. While some frontline staff took that to extremes, further realizing the stereotype of the library employee as the listless jellyfish, management still seems to feel that staff must have unwavering faith in even their most questionable decisions, or it's time to be shown the door. Sycophancy is valued over reason and debate.

    Cons

    You will also routinely deal with woefully incompetent management, whose approach to leadership, whether dealing with subordinates or vendors, is to huff and puff in order to assert themselves. Not only are they not setting a good example for their employees. Not only are they burning bridges with vendors at an alarming rate, they make it harder for the staff that do work with these companies on a daily basis to have comfortable working relationships.

    You want to advance in your career? See the aforementioned advice on sycophancy. There are a small number of internal staff who seem to regularly be given promotions and new titles while the rest of us break our backs for them hoping for crumbs. And they also regularly hire from the outside. When they do hire from the outside, it's often people with negligible to no library experience, who are gone within a few years.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Others have pointed this out already, but they would not listen to any advice given. They work in a vacuum where their thoughts and their thoughts alone register. Human Resources is either in their pocket or oblivious, so don't expect them to take your side, if you ever have any sort of an issue. They will periodically make an elaborate show of engaging staff, involve Strategy, HR, senior management and other departments and promise greater transparency and improved communication, but nothing ever really changes.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 5 people found this helpful  

    Very Low pay, disorganized, disgruntled employees and patrons

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Librarian in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Librarian in New York, NY

    I worked at New York Public Library full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Not much room for advancement. Job is some what secure, but if you're close to retirement there's a good chance they'll lay you off before you hit that pension level you worked so long to get to, happened to several co-workers, feel so bad for them getting screwed after giving their whole life to NYPL, we're all expendable here, and not appreciated. Horrible pension if you're not in upper management.

    Cons

    Listed in the pros. And the computer system is a devastating disaster.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Poor, slow moves, low pay, good luck, apply somewhere else and quick!

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 9 people found this helpful  

    Laughably Arrogant Leadership

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in Staten Island, NY
    Current Employee - Senior Librarian in Staten Island, NY

    I have been working at New York Public Library full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    I have worked here several years now. You see a lot of talk about how things are going to change, but nothing new really happens. Goood staff leave, bad ideas repeat themselves, every once in a while something nice happens that makes you remember why you got involved in the profession in the first place. Working in NYC is wonderful and you can always moonlight at any number of academic libraries for experience in a more stable library environment. If you are by chance granted a promotion, it will likely involve stepping over the body of a fallen colleague. Congratulations.

    Cons

    There is so much insurmountable ignorance at so many levels of the library's management that you can't blame degreed professionals for leaving. Anyone with a brain would not want to work here and would look for the first available exit. The library has chosen not to replace the majority of them with equally qualified staff, instead going with college graduates (if that), with no real inclination toward the library/information profession. Warm bodies seem the order of the day. The management structure is bloated with overpaid do-nothings, while frontline and other real support staff struggle to stay afloat.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The people at the helm of this organization should not be trusted with the stewardship of such an important public institution.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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