Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library (Paperback)
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A riveting investigation of a beloved library caught in the crosshairs of real estate, power, and the people’s interests—by the reporter who broke the story
In a series of cover stories for The Nation magazine, journalist Scott Sherman uncovered the ways in which Wall Street logic almost took down one of New York City’s most beloved and iconic institutions: the New York Public Library.
In the years preceding the 2008 financial crisis, the library’s leaders forged an audacious plan to sell off multiple branch libraries, mutilate a historic building, and send millions of books to a storage facility in New Jersey. Scholars, researchers, and readers would be out of luck, but real estate developers and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg would get what they wanted.
But when the story broke, the people fought back, as famous writers, professors, and citizens’ groups came together to defend a national treasure.
Rich with revealing interviews with key figures, Patience and Fortitude is at once a hugely readable history of the library’s secret plans, and a stirring account of a rare triumph against the forces of money and power.
About the Author
SCOTT SHERMAN is a contributing writer for The Nation. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the London Review of Books, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Dissent, Lingua Franca, and other publications.
“Gripping...a slim, smart book packed with a colorful cast of moguls, celebrities, intellectuals and Internet crusaders... Patience and Fortitude not only tells a classic 'New York story' about real estate and money, but also shines a light on why libraries, as physical repositories for books, are still crucial, even in an age when all knowledge seems just a mouse-click away."
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air"
"[Sherman] passionately pursues the story...makes a convincing argument."
—Sam Roberts, New York Times
A "Fresh Read" in the New York Times
“A major feat of reporting and a must-read for New Yorkers."
—Vanity Fair, Must-Read June Books
“A pair of marble lions guards the Fifth Avenue entrance of the 42nd Street library; their names are the two virtues cited in the title of Patience and Fortitude… Scott Sherman has earned a place in their company. His reporting and analysis have helped to protect the New York Public Library from its adversaries within."
“To the names Astor, Lenox, and Tilden engraved atop the main branch of the New York Public Library, should we now add Sherman?... His fascinating story of library politics in the digital age is now a hardcover from Melville House called Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library."
“Deeply researched but swiftly paced... Sherman’s book is certain to find appreciative readers, because it is one for readers, who desperately need an advocate once the money starts talking."
—Inside Higher Ed
“Patience and Fortitude, Sherman’s debut book, is a detailed and impassioned account...and a cautionary tale of what can happen when public-spirited institutions are funded by mostly private revenue."
“The fate of one of the world’s foremost research libraries is at the center of Sherman’s rippingly-good Patience & Fortitude. The machinations of what goes on behind closed library doors, and the underdog activists who fought on behalf of literary lions, might not sound riveting. Trust an NYPL regular, at under 200 pages, Sherman’s book reads like the best of intrigue-filled political thrillers. All the Librarian’s Men."
“Chronicles the unraveling of the library's unholy deal… Sherman's most shocking revelation is how little the trustees understood the mission of the institution they claimed to be saving."
“Its lesson...resonates beyond those closed doors and the city they're a part of."
“Sherman writes battlefield reportage, not history calmly studied from afar, and in this slim, quick-paced volume he paints a fascinating, but often unlovely, picture of politics, people, power, and protest in today’s New York City."
“[A] real-life trhiller... This cautionary tale is of interest to library professionals...bibliophiles, and citizens who want to preserve the civic and cultural life of their community."
—Library Journal, starred review
“Journalist Sherman meticulously re-creates the controversy, which appeared to many a clash between corporate greed and the world of high culture."
“The battle over the New York Public Library was such an important fight to win, and Scott Sherman’s reporting was an essential part of that victory."
—Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight's Children
“It’s very hard to produce a specific, inarguable example of the power of the press—but here’s one. Scott Sherman’s pathbreaking 2011 article in The Nation about the New York Public Library’s plans to demolish much of its headquarters building and substantially change its purpose led directly to that misguided plan’s being abandoned three years later. Now Sherman lays out the entire story, from conception to cancellation, of the Central Library Plan. It is an absorbing narrative, and more; it also gets to the heart of an urgent broader issue, the danger our most precious institutions face in the age of disruption."
—Nicholas Lemann, author of The Big Test
“A copy of Patience and Fortitude should be issued with every library card. Scott Sherman is the lion the NYPL needs—a fair reporter turned fierce advocate, who has chronicled the attempted dismantling of a beloved institution with his title's attributes, grace, and smarts."
—Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers
“With cool acuity, Scott Sherman details the insidious threat to one of the world’s greatest cultural institutions, and the gritty resistance that saved it. Anyone who cares about the future of books should read Patience and Fortitude.”
—Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire
“One can read Scott Sherman's engrossing book as a critique of the New York Public Library's stumbles, or as a love letter to a priceless institution. This is a love letter, and one that assails those the author believes would have violated the library's legacy. Even those who disagree with Sherman should tip their hats to him, for his passion and rigorous reporting, as this book reveals, has aided a great and priceless institution.”
—Ken Auletta, author of Googled
“Scott Sherman’s fast-paced story is a nuanced, disturbing account of what happens when the age of hedge funds, metrics and management consultants meets one of our country’s great institutions of learning. Patience and Fortitude is all the more fascinating because Sherman’s journalism played a significant role in preventing a cultural atrocity.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
“When civic vandals masquerading as visionaries attempted to gut the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman's intrepid reporting in The Nation shut them down. Now he gives us the full story, a riveting activist adventure yarn written with the elegance of a cultural romantic and the gimlet eye of an investigative journalist. What I learned is that a civilization traduces its libraries—especially this library—at its peril.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of The Invisible Bridge
“With reportorial doggedness, narrative elan, and an unfailing eye for the lancing detail, Scott Sherman masterfully tells the story, by turns enraging and heartening, of the plight of New York’s most storied institution in an uncertain age.”
—Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic
“Scott Sherman’s Patience and Fortitude is a gripping, meticulously reported account of the plan to gut a world-famous research library—and the movement that sprung up to preserve it. Like Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold, another provocative story about a debacle in the stacks, this riveting book shows just how bloody the fight over our cultural treasures can get."
—Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!
“Sherman has unearthed convincing evidence that the CLP was misguided . . . A compelling exploration of the battle over 'a world-class library that lost its way in the digital age.'"
“Sounds like a rollicking good story."
—Liz French, Library Journal's Editors' Spring Picks