About Us

Annual Report June 1998 - May 1999

Trustees & Staff


Charles G. Berry
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.
Margaret Mather Byard
Robert A. Caro
Lyn Chase
Margaret Cook
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
William J. Dean
Benita Eisler
Barbara Goldsmith
Christopher Gray
James Q. Griffin
Mark Hampton (deceased)
Shirley Hazzard
Anthony Knerr
Jenny Lawrence
Walter Lord
Jean Parker Phifer
Theodore C. Rogers
Constance R. Roosevelt
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Barbara H. Stanton
Fawn White


Stephanie-Ann Bahr
Steven Baumholtz
Susan Chan
Sian Chen
Doris Glick
Jane Goldstein
Endang Hertanto
John McKeown
Susan O'Brien
Mark Piel
Ingrid Richter
Diane Srebnick
Jianmin Wang

Arevig Caprielian
Elizabeth Denlinger
Fred Charles
Janet Howard
Anne Masterson
Nancy McCartney
Jennifer Pascoe
Linnea Savapoulas
Howard Stein
Christopher Vargas
Stanley Weinman
Sharlene Williams


Library Committees

(June 1998-May 1999)

Executive Committee

William J. Dean, Chair
James Q. Griffin Treasurer
Charles G. Berry Secretary
Barbara H. Stanton

Audit Committee

Charles G. Berry
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.

Book Committee

Henry S. F. Cooper, Jr., Chair
Marylin Bender Altschul
Richard Aspinwall
Lawrence Bergreen
Lucienne Bloch
Margaret Mather Byard
Lyn Chase
Margaret Edsall
Benita Eisler
Helen Evarts
Linda Fritzinger
Sarah Plimpton
Theodore C. Rogers
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Barbara Wriston

Building Committee

Jean Parker Phifer, Chair
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
Benita Eisler
Christopher Gray
Mark Hampton (deceased)
Theodore C. Rogers
Barbara H. Stanton

Development Committee

Barbara H. Stanton, Chair
Lyn Chase
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
Jenny Lawrence
Constance R. Roosevelt
Fawn White

Education & Outreach Committee

Fawn White, Chair
Mary Allen
Barbara Ann Barker
Katherine Berkowitz
Carolyn Goodrich
June Feldman
Louise Monjo
Nancy Parker
Jean Parker Phifer
Susan Robbins
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Katherine Swett
Abigail Wender Weerasinghe

Finance Committee

James Q. Griffin, Chair
Charles G. Berry
Anthony D. Knerr
Thedore C. Rogers
Barbara H. Stanton

Library Committee

Ralph S. Brown, Jr., Chair
Margaret Mather Byard
Lyn Chase
Margaret Cook
Henry S.F. Cooper Jr.
Barbara Goldsmith
Christopher Gray
Shirley Hazzard
Jenny Lawrence
Walter Lord
Jean Parker Phifer
Theodore C. Rogers
Constance R. Roosevelt
Jeannette Watson Sanger

Nominating Committee

Barbara H. Stanton, Chair
Henry S.F. Cooper Jr.
Barbara Goldsmith
Jenny Lawrence
Walter Lord
Jean Parker Phifer
Jeannette Watson Sanger

Personnel Committee

James Q. Griffin, Chair
Charles G. Berry
Ralph S. Brown Jr.
Benita Eisler
Barbara H. Stanton

Visitor's Committee

Lucienne Bloch, Chair
and its members


Charles G. Berry,
Library Attorney

Jenny Lawrence,
Editor, Library Notes


Report of the Chairman

William J. Dean
(June 1998 -May 1999)

Founded in 1754, now in our 245th year, the Library is in sound financial condition. This enviable state has been achieved through the generosity of library members, past and present, and through wise stewardship of our resources over the years.

Much of our building work is behind the scenes, not observed by members as in last year's roofing repairs and installation of a new boiler. This year the changes and improvements within the building were both visible and put to good use by members.

The Children's Room, which was running short of book space, had shelving added to accommodate new books, as well as another window seat and additional lighting fixtures. New carpeting and a fresh coat of paint have brightened the whole area.

The Catalog Room on the fourth floor now has six instead of four workstations. Each staff member enjoys access to the Library's computer system as well as to the Internet. Both projects were ably overseen by trustee Jean Parker Phifer.

There was also the installation of three computer terminals, each with a printer, in the Reference Room on the ground floor. The terminals are a great convenience to members. This work was supervised by trustee Christopher Gray who agreed to serve as the chair of the Building Committee, succeeding Jean Parker Phifer, who continues her service on the Board.

The Library continues its exciting programs for members. Among them is the series, "Conversations on Great Books," where challenging books are discussed. There are certain masterpieces that become more accessible to readers when we are able to join with others in the undertaking. The three evening sessions on a single author or work are conversations, not lectures. Members have read the work and actively participate in the discussion. The series is held in the Members' Room.

This past winter, Ellen Chances, a professor of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet literature at Princeton University, who is also a poet, essayist and fiction writer, led three discussions on Pushkin. This year is the 200th anniversary of Pushkin's birth. He is regarded as the father of Russian literature. In his writings can be found the seeds of the magnificent nineteenth-century works of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Dostoevsky.

The "Author Series" is sponsored by the Library and Thirteen/WNET, with the underwriting support of the Chase Manhattan Bank. The series is held a few blocks away from the library at Temple Israel.

This year the participants in the series were Amanda Vail, author of Inventing a Life: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Biographer's Perspective; Jane Scovell, author of Oona O'Neill Chaplin: Living in Shadows; Deborah Grace Winer who spoke on the topic, "Broadway's Broadway: the Comeback of the American Musical"; and Library Trustee Benita Eisler, author of Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame.

We are grateful to trustee Fawn White, chair of the Library's Education and Community Outreach Committee, for organizing the series.

These other presentations took place at the library. Abbe Blum, Professor of English literature at Swarthmore College, discussed Paradise Lost, with readings from the work by actor Simon Prebble. David Norris, literary scholar and Irish parliamentarian, returned to perform his Joycean program, "Do You Hear What I'm Seeing?" J.D. McClatchy, editor of The Yale Review, read his poems and the works of other poets, and discussed how poetry both draws and enriches our lives.

In the spring, the Members' Room was the site of a musical evening by the Elsner String Quartet. These talented musicians played works of Haydn and Shubert. This room, with its beautiful dark walnut walls, originally served as the townhouse library of Mr. and Mrs. John Shillito Rogers. Musicians tell us that the room has marvelous acoustics.

The Library awards an annual prize for the best book about New York City. It seems appropriate that New York's oldest library should honor new books that celebrate the city. The members of the book award jury for this year, all of whom are members of the Library, are Barbara Cohen, former proprietor of New York Bound bookshop; Joan K. Davidson, civic leader and a former commissioner of the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Christopher Gray, architectural historian and author of the "Streetscapes" column for The New York Times; Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, executive director of Cityscape Institute; and Pulitzer Prize-winner playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Mr. Gray chaired the panel with great energy.

These awards were presented in June at a lively reception held at the Library:

  • The New York City Book Award:
    Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace
    Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
    (Oxford University Press)
    Professor Wallace, in December had spoken at the Library on the topic, "Literary New York," where he drew upon materials from his book. 
  • Special Award for a Work on an Unusual Topic:
    Maureen E. Montgomery
    Displaying Women: Spectacles of Leisure in Edith Wharton's New York
  • Special Award for a Work of Fiction:
    Philip Lopate, editor
    Writing New York: A Literary Anthology
    (The Library of America)
  • Special Award for a Photographic Work:
    Allon Schoener
    New York: An Illustrated History of the People
    (W.W. Norton & Company)

The Library has formed two reading groups. Novelist Ellen Feldman leads a group in contemporary fiction and a reading group in biography is led by urban historian and author Hope Cooke. Both reading group leaders are devoted Library members. Both groups meet monthly at 11:00 A.M. at the Library and are very popular with members.

The Book Committee, under the chairmanship of Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., working closely with Mr. Piel, continues to suggest book acquisition priorities as well as specific purchases.

The Library Visitors evaluate specific subject areas of our collection. Library member Lucienne Bloch heads the Library Visitors. New reports contributed this year were a report on our Islamic arts holdings, a travel piece on James Joyce's Dublin and a review of our holdings in American and English poets.

Many of our members have young children. Activities in the Children's Library included storytelling by Eleni Constantelos; a poetry workshop with Kathleen O'Donnell; and a visit from the class we sponsor at P.S. 107.

The Library participated for a second time in the "New York is Book Country" fair with a booth on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. Member-authors at the booth greeting passersby and signing books were James Atlas, Barbara Goldsmith and Erica Jong. Howard Stein, the Library's book binder, demonstrated his skills to the interest of many.

Trustee Jenny Lawrence has been the editor and inspiration of our deservedly popular "Library Notes." Many things are happening at the Library and this is our vehicle, along with our web site at www.nysoclib.org for conveying the information to members.

Special thanks are due to the trustees who serve as chairs of Board committees. In addition to those already mentioned, they are: James Q. Griffin, who serves as the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee and Personnel Committee; Barbara H. Stanton, chair of the Nominating Committee as well as the Development Committee; Ralph S. Brown, Jr., chair of the Library Committee; and Mr. Brown and Charles G. Berry, members of the Audit Committee. Mr. Berry also serves as our legal advisor.

In all undertakings concerning the Library, the Board of Trustees has the good fortune to work closely with our librarian, Mark Piel. "At his desk at the base of our tower of books," the Board last year stated in a citation honoring Mr. Piel on his twentieth year of service, "Mark Piel - himself a cultural resource and walking catalogue - has presided with high professionalism and good humor." And we are privileged to work with members of the Library staff.

A word about the Library's outreach activities. We are a membership library on East 79th Street, but we are also part of a larger community. In our comfortable surroundings we try to remember this.

Some trustees are participating in a project to have book publishers donate books to New York state prison libraries. The Library has donated no longer needed books to a state prison in the city.

Through our Education and Community Outreach Committee, we sponsor education programs at Public School 107 in Queens. At the suggestion of Fawn White, chair of this committee, the Library last year co-sponsored, with WNYC, a citywide poetry contest for children in grades 3 through 6. Contest information went to twenty-three thousand teachers in public, private and parochial schools in New York City and the surrounding area. Nearly three thousand entries were received. The indefatigable judges included poet Sam Swope and Helen Houghton, Board Secretary of the Academy of American Poets. Twelve winners were selected.

The winners read their poems on WNYC. Three of the poems were published in The New York Times.

I would like to close this report with these lines from one of the winning poems: "My New York Dream", by Kristin McMurrer, a fifth grader who is 10 and lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn:

In my dream
I see the Verrazano Bridge
Bright red light forms 
a shimmering swing
I am drawn
Drawn by the light's welcome,
"Come Swing!"

Above me, twinkling stars
like little flashlights
Wink at me
The full moon casts a pathway shadow
on the water below.
In the distance a tiny tug boat
Tugs a cruise liner under the bridge.

This is my freedom.
This is my city.
This is my bridge.
This is my dream.
This is my New York.

Respectfully submitted,
William J. Dean, Chairman


Report of the Librarian

Mark Piel
(June 1998 - May 1999)

Following is a review of some of the innovations in Library operations and services for this period.

Staff Changes

There were a number of department changes. After twenty-one years of dedicated service, Sharon Brown elected to leave for the Librarian position at HealthCare Chaplaincy. Her organizational skills were invaluable during a period when the Library's operations and collections underwent many changes. Sharon maintained the highest standard of performance for herself and for those who worked with her. Jane Goldstein, who herself has worked here on and off over a period of two decades, succeeded Sharon as Head of Circulation. Two full time additions to the Cataloging and Systems department are Endang Hertanto, Cataloger, and Ingrid Richter, Systems Analyst. We welcomed to the Circulation department Stephanie-Ann Bahr, Susan Chan and Diane Srebnick.

Use of the Library

As of December, 1998 memberships totaled 3,256, the highest ever. This increased membership contributed to the number of researchers and writers about ten in constant attendance- who daily brought their laptops to the spacious tables on the fifth floor.

Some published books by author/members with acknowledgements to the Library in 1998 included: Gotham: A History of New York to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace; Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fortune by Benita Eisler; Beaux Arts New York by David Garrard Lowe; Morgan: American Financier by Jean Strouse; A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K. Mack; and Science in Medieval Islam by Howard Turner.

Library Services

At the core of all of the Library's activities is the collection itself. In a period when one reads of reduced library purchase funds, it is a matter of pride that our Library has not only maintained but increased its acquisitions budget, enabling us to purchase, for example, the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade editions of French authors, new translations of the Loeb classics and publications in the new Oxford Library of Latin America series. Use of the Internet has strengthened our ordering service. We have been able to get speedier responses from book dealers here and in Europe in ordering current books and searching for out of print titles.

In keeping with the Library's wish to read, the interlibrary loan program was created in 1992 to obtain material not available in our Library, nor any New York Public Library branch. This year Susan O'Brien, Acquisitions Librarian, received 138 requests and was able to fulfill 97% of them. Just as we bring outside resources to our readers we make our own books available to readers all over the country. Ms. O'Brien filled 100 requests from 78 libraries.


We have always welcomed gifts of worthy books. This year donors brought to us some special publications. One is The Atlas of the City of New York by G. W. Bromley & Co. from 1922 to 1931, primarily for the use of realtors. We received four of the five volumes which offer a block by block presentation based on surveys and official plans of real property in Manhattan. These volumes were periodically brought up to date with pasted in overlays indicating new structures. The volume depicting our neighborhood was corrected up to 1952. Another cartographic work given us is Gallery of Maps in the Vatican. We also received the report in eleven volumes on the work of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis from 1958 to 1971. We are grateful for the donation of the reference set American National Biography given by friends of the Mark Hampton. Additionally, we are especially thankful for the Sound Craft Systems podium given anonymously in response to an appeal in Library Notes.


While we have long been regarded as a venerable New York cultural institution, this does not preclude our coming to terms of computerization. Expansion equipment in the Cataloging and Systems department affords all cataloging staff a measure of privacy and functionality. Each station allows communication with OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and access to an international bibliographic database that provides us with most of our catalog records as well as the catalog cards.

The computerized public catalog was at last unveiled May, 1998; and the response was unexpected. We had thought that a schedule for docents to teach computer use would be needed; but many of our readers proved to be already familiar with the system so that instruction, while gladly given, was, and continues to be, infrequently needed. In the first three months of use the average number of searches was 1,675; but by the end of the year 1998 the number was 3,193, a number that has greatly increased in 1999. And so in late December two more Reference Room terminals with inkjet printers were added in response to demand.

The possibility of allowing remote access to our on line catalog depends on a future upgrading of our in-house hardware technology and will entail significant expenditures to create a true library network.

A major service event took place in November when we introduced a new means of storing circulation data by switching over to the long planned online circulation system. The benefits of this system were enumerated in last year's Annual Report. Evaluating the system's use in broad terms for this report, Jane Goldstein wrote, "It's a wonderful relief to have many tedious tasks now performed automatically. While the computer sits in the basement happily filing away, the circulation staff has more time to help members select books or to assist with a computer search of the catalog."

Continuation of retrospective conversion.

The Cataloging and Systems Department has begun to retrospectively catalog the Rare Book collections in stack 10. The materials in this stack are titles of interest mostly to scholars. The creation of electronic records for this aspect of our catalog will serve to expand our reputation as a Library with unique materials, and encourage use of long-underused materials.

Library website

Information about the Library is now accessible and viewable at www.nysoclib.org. Anyone with a computer and modem will find recent acquisitions, an announcement of Library programs, and the entire content of Library Notes at this website. Additionally, the site includes illustrated articles, including a scholarly essay on the Winthrop Collection and its main progenitor John Winthrop the Younger, written by Dr. Margaret Mather Byard, a library trustee. New entries will be added from time to time. Website page views jumped from 83 in January to 2,073 in July of 1999.

Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the trustees for their judicious leadership; and to the Library staff and volunteers for their commitment to the evolving services and programs of this fine Library.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark Piel, Librarian


Report of the Treasurer

James Q. Griffin
(January - December 1998)

The basic financial policies governing the Library are: a balanced budget, a 5% spending rule from endowment funds (based on the average of the prior three years), a fairly compensated staff and our building properly maintained. If all of these occur, the institution is thought to be in financial equilibrium. Over the past decade we clearly have been in equilibrium as we have been last year. Our objective is to stay that way.

Respectfully submitted,
James Q. Griffin, Treasurer

The New York Society Library
Statement of Revenue and Expenses Unrestricted Net Assets
December 31, 1998 With Comparative Totals For 1997

Membership subscriptions$389,542$344,405
Donations and bequests188,361188,609
Books replaced and sold7,1665551
Copier fees and books fines10,21811,822
Miscellaneous income5,2646,961
TOTAL REVENUE600,551557,348
Staff expenses758,780694,806
Library materials128,553117,860
Library services114,870115,374
Building (excluding depreciation)197,635187,696
Professional fees24,68523,506
TOTAL EXPENSES1,280,3461,177,139
Increase (decrease) in net assets
before allocation of five percent 
(5%) from endowment
Allocation of five percent 
(5%) from endowment
INCREASE IN NET ASSETS$265,205$190,209

This statement includes unrestricted revenue and expenses only. All other funds are accounted for separately. Note: The approximate market value of investments on December 31, 1998 was $25,900,000. Full audited financial statements are available at the Library.

Statement of Revenue and Expenses Capital Campaign
From Inception Through December 31, 1998

Donations, bequests and special events$680,753
Interest income66,289
Special events65,275
Building improvements173,934
Retrospective conversion &
circulation automation
Binding and conservation21,867

The December 31, 1998 excess of revenue over expenses will meet projected 1999 expenditures for circulation automation, building improvements and conservation.