About Us

Annual Report June 2007 - May 2008


Trustees & Staff


Byron Bell
Laurence Bergreen
Charles G. Berry
Ralph S. Brown Jr.
Robert A. Caro
Lyn Chase
Henry S.F. Cooper Jr.
William J. Dean
George Frelinghuysen
James Q. Griffin
Shirley Hazzard
John K. Howat
Ellen Iseman
Anthony D. Knerr
Jenny Lawrence
Linn Cary Mehta
Jean Parker Phifer
Susan L. Robbins
Theodore C. Rogers
Constance Rogers Roosevelt
Daniel M. Rossner
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Barbara H. Stanton


Mark Bartlett
Susan Chan
Keren Fleshler
Jane Goldstein
Endang Hertanto
Janet Howard
Steven McGuirl
John McKeown
Laura OíKeefe
Patrick Rayner
Ingrid Richter
Diane Srebnick
Brandi Tambasco
Carolyn Waters

Harry Abarca
Ingrid Abrams
Joel Blaha
Arevig Caprielian
Timothy Conley
Andrea A. Griffith
Matthew C. Haugen
Sara Elliott Holliday
Marie Honan
Michael P. Hyziak
Randi Levy
George Muñoz
Peri Pignetti
Lucy Ross
Linnea Holman Savapoulas
Harriet Shapiro
Carrie Silberman
Paulina M. Valdez
Stanley Weinman
Lawrence R. Yates
Joan U. Zimmett

Jules Cohn
Florence Ercolano
Nancy Newcomb
Benjamin Platt
EdmÈe Reit
Paula Webster


Library Committees

(June 2006 - May 2007)

Executive Committee

Charles G. Berry, Chair
George L.K. Frelinghuysen, Treasurer
Daniel M. Rossner, Secretary
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.
Barbara H. Stanton

Audit Committee

Ralph S. Brown, Jr., Chair
George L.K. Frelinghuysen
Daniel M. Rossner

Finance Committee

George L.K. Frelinghuysen, Chair
Mark Bartlett
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.
James Q. Griffin
Anthony D. Knerr
Daniel Rossner
Barbara H. Stanton

Nominating Committee

Linn Cary Mehta, Chair
Lyn Chase
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
George L.K. Frelinghuysen
Jenny Lawrence
Jean Parker Phifer
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Barbara H. Stanton

Development Committee

Charles G. Berry, Chair
Mark Bartlett
Lyn Chase
William J. Dean
George L.K. Frelinghuysen
John K. Howat
Edward C. Lord
Roger Pasquier
Susan Robbins
Theodore C. Rogers
Daniel M. Rossner
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Barbara H. Stanton

Building and Renovation Committee

Jean Parker Phifer, Chair
Mark Bartlett
Byron Bell
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
William J. Dean
Jane Goldstein
Barbara H. Stanton

Lecture and Exhibition Committee

Jeannette Watson Sanger, Chair
Mark Bartlett
Lyn Chase
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
William J. Dean
Sara Elliott Holliday
Ellen M. Iseman
Jenny Lawrence
Ada Peluso

Book Committee

Daniel M. Rossner, Chair
Marilyn Bender Altschul
Richard Aspinwall
Mark Bartlett
Lucienne Bloch
Peter Cannon
Lyn Chase
Jules Cohn
Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.
Peggy Edsall
Benita Eisler
Helen Evarts
Linda Fritzinger
Malcolm Goldstein
Shirley Hazzard
Steven McGuirl
Sarah Plimpton
Cynthia Saltzman

Children's Library Committee

Susan Robbins, Chair
Andrea Labov Clark
Peggy Ellis
Carolyn Goodrich
Jan Grossman
Helen Klebnikov
Pat Langer
Randi Levy
Louise Monjo
Jenny Price
Jeannette Watson Sanger
Carrie Silberman
Edra Ziesk

New York City Book Awards Committee

Constance Rogers Roosevelt, Chair
Lucienne Bloch
Barbara Cohen
Jules Cohn
Ellen Feldman
Martin Filler
Roger Pasquier
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Daniel M. Rossner
Susan Weber Soros
Meg Wolitzer

Member Relations

Linn Cary Mehta, Co-Chair
Jane Goldstein, Co-Chair
Mark Bartlett
Ralph S. Brown, Jr.
Jules Cohn
Peggy Edsall
J.S. Ellenberger
Ellen Feldman
Sara Elliott Holliday
Maggie Jackson
Edward C. Lord
Daniel M. Rossner
Kenneth Wang

Writers Council Planning Group

Jenny Lawrence, Chair
Mark Bartlett
Laurence Bergreen
Charles G. Berry
Robert A. Caro
Henry S.F. Cooper Jr.
Shirley Hazzard
Sara Elliott Holliday
Linn Cary Mehta
Jean Parker Phifer

Project Cicero Organizing Committee

Laureine Greenbaum, Co-Chair
Susan L. Robbins, Co-Chair
Silda Wall, Co-Chair
Lynn Abraham
Rona Berg
Liz DeSario
DeDe Brown
Andrea Labov Clark
Kimberly David
Roz Edelman
Tory Edelman
Emma Edelson
Peggy Ellis
Claudia Gelfond
Linda Gelfond
Taylor Goodspeed
Pat Langer
JoAnn Goodspeed
Penny Gorman
Carolyn McGown
Ellen Hay Newman
Lily Newman
Samantha Norden
Cynthia Rothman
Jeryl Rothschild
Carrie Silberman
Elyssa Spitzer


Library Awards

(June 2006-May 2007)

The Twelfth Annual New York City Book Awards, 2007

The New York City Book Awards, established in 1995-96, honor books of literary quality or historical importance that, in the opinion of the selection committee, evoke the spirit or enhance appreciation of New York City.

  • Award for Photography:
    New York Rises: Photographs by Eugene de Salignac
    Michael Lorenzini and Kevin Moore, edited by Nancy Grubb
    (Aperture Foundation/The New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives)


  • Award for History:
    Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature
    D. Graham Burnett
    (Princeton University Press)

The Sixth Annual Young Writers Awards, 2008

The Young Writers Awards honor excellent writing by young Library members. Entries this year included essays, short stories, and poems on a variety of topics.

  • Third and Fourth Grade Prose, Winner:
    Sydney Jennison, "Catch a Memory, Catch a Moon"
    Third and Fourth Grade Poetry, Winner:
    Olivia Keane, "Cherry Tree"
    Third and Fourth Grade Poetry, Honorable Mention:
    Alexis Kushner, "Chocolate"


  • Fifth and Sixth Grade Prose, Winner:
    Babe Howard, "Lifeless"
    Fifth and Sixth Grade Prose, Honorable Mention:
    Allie Blankenhorn, "Madame's Umbrella"
    Fifth and Sixth Grade Poetry, Winner:
    Lucia Ryan, "Pleading Novels"
    Fifth and Sixth Grade Poetry, Honorable Mention:
    Sara Weintrob, "The End"


  • Seventh and Eighth Grade Poetry, Winner:
    Theo Naylor, "One String Short"
    Seventh and Eighth Grade Poetry, Honorable Mention:
    David Schwerdt, "Hell on Earth"
    Seventh and Eighth Grade Poetry, Honorable Mention:
    Jennifer Yeoh-Wang, "Lady on a Vase"


Report of the Chairman

Charles G. Berry

(June 2007 - May 2008)

This has been a year of gratifying progress and stability for the Library. It has also been a year of important firsts.

In November 2007 we had the first retreat ever of our board of directors and senior staff. We met for six hours in a room at the New York Public Library's SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library) in the old B. Altman and Company building on 34th and Madison. Thoughtful presentations by department heads and Head Librarian Mark Bartlett stimulated probing discussion about what we value in the Library and where we would like to see it progress.

Important features of the Library's strengths and challenges came into sharper focus from this interesting and enjoyable exercise. The skill, dedication and accomplishment of our staff were abundantly apparent. So were the joy and commitment of our trustees. I have always found service on the Library's board to be an exceptional pleasure: it is a serious-minded but consistently good-natured group with a common bond of interest in reading and books and the preservation of a remarkable heritage in our great city. Our board retreat underscored these traits.

The retreat also highlighted the significant challenges we face and, in particular, our need to develop and maintain a more concerted approach to fundraising and philanthropy. Although we enjoy a comfortable endowment, it is not sufficient to meet the Library's needs and goals. We are fortunate to own a handsome building with generally well-maintained rooms. But we are running out of space for books, members and staff. Clearly, we need to concentrate our efforts on realizing our long-time goal of expanding our space through the construction of an additional floor at the top of our building, filling in the lightwell, and expanding stack space in the rear yard - a project for which we have the necessary plans and permits but lack the monetary resources.

This need has become increasingly acute. It is often hard to find a seat or desk in our beautifully renovated Members' Room or in our fifth floor study and writing rooms. The work areas for our staff are cramped, both in the circulation department on the ground floor and in the fourth-floor space dedicated to acquisitions, cataloging and other services. Space for books is also in short supply. We acquire about 4,000 new titles each year, and at that rate of collection expansion we will run out of shelf space in another two years. Offsite storage will provide some relief, but we are reluctant to weed from our shelves too many of our seldom-circulated volumes, because we recognize that one of the great benefits of the access to our open stacks that our members enjoy is the pleasure of serendipitous discovery of relevant titles.

In recognition of our significant financial needs and goals, we hired this year our first-ever Director of Development, Joan Zimmett. A longtime member with extensive experience at the 92nd Street Y and other non-profit institutions, Joan brings a thoughtful and tasteful approach to fundraising, as well as a thorough knowledge of and love for the Library. We are fortunate to count among our members many significant philanthropists and to enjoy the support of many members at a wide range of levels of support. A big part of our challenge is to communicate our needs and convey to our members, who understandably love us as we are, a sense of how we must grow and develop to address their needs, interests and expectations. Joan, together with Diane Srebnick, has helped guide our efforts in an efficient, imaginative and effective way.

We have been most fortunate even before Joan's arrival to have increasing success and good fortune on the fundraising front. Last year was a banner year for philanthropy. Not only did our annual appeal surpass all records, but we received gifts of unprecedented scope and significance. Through the good offices of board member Jenny Hornblower Lawrence, a trust funded by her father, Marshall Hornblower, donated $1 million, and an ad hoc committee was established to study the possibility of endowing a fellowship for writers, an important constituency of our members. The gift of $500,000 announced last year from Ada and Romano Peluso was recognized by the naming of the Peluso Family Exhibition Gallery in the hall at the top of the main stairs, leading to the Members' Room, where many excellent exhibitions have been held. The Peluso Family Gallery is now for the first time accessible to members of the public. We also received a significant gift of $100,000 from Deborah S. Pease, for which we are most grateful. Finally, generous bequests came from the Estates of June Teufel and Robert C. Kennedy. This gratifying philanthropy is crucial to our future success.

Also vital to our success is the Library's staff. It is through their efforts that we continue to develop and maintain such a remarkably deep and thoughtfully selected collection. With 275,000 volumes acquired over two and a half centuries, we do not attempt to be all things for all readers. But particularly our collections of fiction, literature, biography and history (with an emphasis on New York City history) continue to be recognized for their depth and breadth. Researchers continue to marvel at the availability of material in our stacks that cannot be readily found at many of the country's leading academic libraries, and rarely at any library that matches the services and civilized calm of ours.

As a repository of hundreds of years of popular reading by an intelligent and well-educated membership, the Society Library continues to expand its offerings to meet the demands and diverse reading interests of our members. A steady resource for popular fiction and mysteries, we have carefully expanded our reference materials and online subscriptions. We continually update and refine our website, which has increased its use to almost 100,000 hits per month. We recognize the need both to preserve books and to stay abreast of important developments in electronic resources.

We continue to take particular pride and pleasure in our writer members, who have always been important users of the Library and participants on our board and committees. Many books each year are researched and written in our rooms on 79th Street, and our writers add vitality and insight to our programs of lectures, reading groups and other events. We are eager to engage our writer members increasingly in our growth and development - physical, intellectual, programmatic, financial, and otherwise.

We have also continued our public outreach through support of the important work of Project Cicero, which since its incubation at the Library has brought over one million books to the classrooms of New York City public schools. The Society Library is, I believe, unique among the 16 or so membership libraries remaining in the United States (which numbered over 3,000 in the middle of the 19th century) in being open to the public for reference and research. Our name, so often misunderstood as a moniker of exclusivity, has perversely inhibited broad recognition of what we are: a truly democratic institution devoted to reading and intellectual pursuits, a gem among New York's finest cultural offerings.

We cannot sustain our success and unique character unless we grow as the city has grown with us for two and a half centuries. We need to enhance our physical space, our financial resources, and the scope and diversity of our membership and board. We welcome the support of our members in meeting these goals and the other challenges that come with measured growth.

I would like to take this occasion to express my special thanks to the chairs of the board committees (some of which have member representatives), who have done such yeoman service. These include: Finance - George Frelinghuysen; Lecture & Exhibitions - Jeannette Sanger; Audit - Ralph Brown; Member Relations - Linn Mehta and Assistant Head Librarian Jane Goldstein; Children's Library and Project Cicero - Susan Robbins (with Project Cicero co-chairs Laureine Greenbaum and Silda Wall); Building and Renovations - Jean Parker Phifer; Book Committee - Dan Rossner; and NYC Book Awards - Connie Roosevelt. I also want to express my special thanks to Barbara Stanton, who continues to serve as a key advisor and brings diplomacy, good judgment and a steady historical perspective to her always welcome advice. And finally, a special thanks to Mark Bartlett, our Head Librarian, whose effective leadership has kept the Library on an even keel and who has always been a pleasure to work with.

With best wishes and thanks to all our members,

Charles G. Berry,


Report of the Librarian

Mark Bartlett

(June 2007 - May 2008)

English poet, novelist and jazz critic Philip Larkin wrote a lovely ode to a library; it reads:

New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books, too, 
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.

Larkin was also the librarian at the University of Hull, and though he had college students in mind as the "new coin," I will borrow his words to describe those who walk the stacks and mine the treasures of our Library's collection. We all know that this Library stimulates the intellect and soothes the spirit of Library members of all ages.

Books and Collections

Our collection continues to grow. In the last year we added 55 audiobooks, including works by Virgil, Edith Wharton, Upton Sinclair, Toni Morrison, James Joyce, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, Joan Didion and James - both Henry James and mystery writer P.D. James. The Library's policy is to choose from cassettes and compact discs and to be selective rather than comprehensive in our purchasing. Many of the heavily used books on cassette are going out of print, and as cassettes break or are lost they cannot be replaced. The vast majority of our 55 new audiobooks were on compact disc this year, and we now have a collection of 169 titles in this format. Anthony Trollope continues to be the favorite with members.

Head of Acquisitions Steven McGuirl and his department staff Janet Howard and Carolyn Waters continue to add major sets to the Library's permanent collection. This year we added Johns Hopkins University Press' definitive Works of Edmund Spenser, the New Dictionary of Scientific Biography, the Oxford History of Australia, the Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, the Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science, the Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, and the ten volumes of the University of California's History of American Cinema. Some sets of books in our stacks are like a growing family - new children appear every few years. In 2007 we added volumes to The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad and The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Members are enjoying new subscriptions to the periodicals The Believer, Mystery Scene, the international edition of Art Newspaper, Travel and Leisure, Gourmet, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The South Carolina Review (donated by member Jeanne Frank), and Poetry (donated by members Helen and Michael Goodkin).

Book donations totaled 797 last year and included some impressive rare items donated by members Jean Detre, Judah Gerstein, Irene Schmied, and Romano Peluso. Among these were the twelfth volume of the Hexaemeron of Saint Anastasius, the 7th-century Greek ecclesiastical writer, printed in London in 1682; Gertrude Stein's Things As They Are, a limited printing from Banyan Press in Vermont, 1950; and a 1930 Golden Cockerel Press edition of Henry Fielding's A Journey From This World to the Next. The seven books that we received from Mr. Peluso included some autographed early editions of plays by Eugene O'Neill and a 1929 copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, also signed by the author.

Members have applauded the introduction of a number of new databases in the last year. The New York Review of Books (with articles back to its original publication in 1963) and WilsonWeb Readers' Guide Full Text were both very worthwhile acquisitions. One of the measures of collection depth in many types of libraries is the availability of journal and magazine collections through a computer terminal. From home and from the Library, our members can access over 1,000 scholarly journals through two services, JSTOR: Scholarly Journal Archive and Project Muse. In addition to the funds involved, the major challenge in this area is to identify databases that fit our collection, support the Library's mission, and also respond to the educational, intellectual, and recreational needs of our members. Fortunately, we are finding that most members appreciate having periodical articles on a computer screen, enjoy the searching and sorting features, and like the quick retrieval and printing of articles. As shelf space decreases in the building, we are all pleased that we can provide electronic resources like JSTOR and Project Muse without tying up even one foot of stack shelf space.

Cataloging and Systems

Laura O'Keefe, who has been with our Library since March 2007, supervises the cataloging department. I want to thank Laura for her steady hand and creativity in her role as Head of Cataloging and Bibliographic Maintenance. As Edmund Burke wrote, "Good order is the foundation of all good things, " and good order in our catalog is handled by the five members of the cataloging department, Laura O'Keefe, Arevig Caprielian, Endang Hertanto, Keren Fleshler, and bibliographic assistants Matthew Haugen and Peri Pignetti. This year the cataloging staff completed 4,540 titles.

Good order is also a strong characteristic of our Systems Department, headed by Ingrid Richter. A part-time Systems Assistant position was created in the summer of 2007 and ably filled by Lucy Ross and Joel Blaha.

Our website averaged around 39,000 hits per month in 2007, and we are constantly expanding and improving its content. Among the new things available from our website are audio and video recordings of events from April 15 onward, notes from all technology workshops offered, and, in the online catalog, images of selected beautiful or historic book covers from the collection.

In addition to their behind-the-scenes work, Systems and other staff offered a variety of technology and book workshops with their usual user-friendliness and aplomb. Classes taught by Keren Fleshler, Steve McGuirl, Patrick Rayner, Ingrid Richter, Lucy Ross, Brandi Tambasco, and Carolyn Waters included such topics as Book Reviews Online, e-Bay, and Social Networking Websites. In addition, we were pleased to offer two workshops with the Library's book appraiser, Jerry Patterson. A veteran of Antiques Roadshow, Mr. Patterson adapted its format to look at books from members and from the Library's collection and to give an insightful overview of what makes a book valuable.


Last year's annual report noted the generous financial support received for the conservation and digitization of the Library's first charging ledger. This ledger, the earliest remaining one in our archives, is a comprehensive record of the circulation transactions from 1789 to 1792. From 1774 to 1788, our Library suspended business during the Revolutionary War and the years that followed. When the Library re-opened in 1789 in its Federal Hall location, the collection had only 3,100 volumes and 239 subscribing members, including Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Nicholas Fish, Governor George Clinton, Mayor Duane, Samuel Loudon the printer, and various Roosevelts, Livingstons, De Peysters and other historic family names. The first ledger has been microfilmed, and each page has been digitally scanned. Systems staff members have transferred the 363 digital images of each page to a website. The ledger, originally one bound book but now in two volumes, has returned from the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts and will now last for generations in its restored condition. Scholars and researchers throughout the world will continue to be interested in our ledger and will be able to use it from their own desktop computers - no travel to New York City is required. I thank Ingrid Richter, George Muñoz, Arevig Caprielian, Matthew Haugen and other Library staff for their work on this milestone project.

The Library's Conservator, George Muñoz, treated 240 items from the circulating, closed and rare stacks of the Library's collection. These treatments included such things as paper repair, map lining, board reattachment, encapsulation, rebacking, rebinding and rehousing. In addition to these responsive treatments, George continues ongoing preventive care of the collection. This involves regular environmental monitoring of temperature and relative humidity in the stacks, including the rare book stacks.

Members and Member Services

Our members continue to be curious. Our members continue to be well-read. Our members continue to let us know what they want to read and what they do not want to read. Biography, history, politics and government, the environment, poetry, philosophy, art, architecture and many other subjects are represented in our new books display and on the stack shelves. Perhaps there is no better way to understand the Library's reading habits than to look at the monthly New Book List. We continue to publish the list in print and on our website. Remarkably, our Library archives have rich holdings of our book lists going back to the 1880s. Lists from the 1940s are quite interesting. Along with the usual headings - biography, history and travel, science and politics, essays, poetry and drama, fiction, and mysteries - there are books under the heading "War." The March 1943 new book list shows Thomas Mann's Listen, Germany! Twenty-Five Radio Messages to the German People Over BBC and Richard Tregaskis's Guadalcanal Diary, and the May 1944 list shows Carl Lotus Becker's How New Will the Better World Be? A Discussion of Post-War Reconstruction and Quentin Reynolds' The Curtain Rises. As now, Society Library members were reading books that went beyond the headlines.

Our members also come into our lobby with varied and sometimes surprising questions. Besides such frequent questions as "do you own this book?", "where are the travel guides for Italy?", or "give me another good crime novel, but not as bloody as that last one I took out," we have been asked for photographs of Ingersoll, Ontario from the decade 1900-1910; information about former congressman and current jail resident James Traficant, explorer Christopher Columbus, and Iranian president Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials; how much Americans spend on exercise each year; books about the Weimar Republic and art; information on the U.S. Sanitary Commission from the Civil War; images and the use of New York City in the movies (a question that is certainly asked at many city reference desks); information on getting poetry published in literary magazines; resources for starting a nanny business; information about the appearance of trees in mythology; children's books with a picture of a princess; a list of book-discussion groups in New York City; and anything and everything published about the Hudson Valley. Our reference desk is now staffed by a complement of library assistants and librarians, including Mark Bartlett, Keren Fleshler, Jane Goldstein, Janet Howard, Endang Hertanto, Randi Levy, Steve McGuirl, Laura O'Keefe, Patrick Rayner, Carrie Silberman, Diane Srebnick, Brandi Tambasco, and Carolyn Waters.

This year we initiated the single membership category. As Circulation Supervisor Patrick Rayner noted in his department's annual report, many longtime members were able to reduce their annual fee and many told us how much they appreciated it. We also increased the book limit to twenty for our household members. This is a big help to families with several voracious readers. Our total number of memberships as of May 2008 is 3,095, with 654 of them single members. At any one time, forty percent of the members have at least one book checked out. Circulation activity has increased twelve percent in the last eight years.

Even as we expand our offerings, we gain new patrons and appreciation for long-term services such as Interlibrary Loan, which we have provided since the mid-nineteenth century. This service allows members to obtain items that are not available in our collection or from any New York Public Library branch or research library. In 2007 we borrowed 189 items from 91 libraries in 23 states, and lent 148 items to 109 libraries in 26 states.

Events and Exhibitions

Events and exhibitions are integral to the Library. While preparing this annual report, I reviewed an inventory list of all Library events between Spring 1994 and Fall 2008. It is quite a stunning list. I am happy to report that we have had over 4,000 people attend our programs over these years.

Library Lectures this year covered a range of historical topics in both fiction and nonfiction. Speakers included Peter Behrens on his novel of the Irish famine, The Law of Dreams; Virginia Budny on her study of art and artists around Washington Square, New York's Left Bank; Martha Frick Symington Sanger about her distinguished ancestor Helen Clay Frick; Mary Tavener Holmes on the eighteenth-century European tour of Clara the rhinoceros; Victoria Redel on her novel of Holocaust escape and modern memory, The Border of Truth; Susan Nagel on Marie Antoinette's daughter Marie-Thérèse; and Ellen Feldman on her novel about the Scottsboro trials. Heading into the contemporary world, a conversation between New Yorker writers Mark Singer and Nick Paumgarten capped the season delightfully.

In partnership with Thirteen/WNET, we continue to draw notable speakers and solid audiences to our Author Series lectures. In the fall members from the Library and Thirteen enjoyed food writer Molly O'Neill speaking on American Food Writing and Library trustee Laurence Bergreen on his acclaimed recent book Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu. February saw Viacom founder Ralph Baruch discussing his tumultuous career and his book Television Tightrope, and Walter Isaacson clarified the life and work of Albert Einstein to a large audience in May.

In November 2007, we had close to a hundred people packed into the Members' Room to hear Broadway and film veterans Kathleen Chalfant and Harris Yulin read Chère Maître (a play by Peter Eyre based on the correspondence between Gustave Flaubert and George Sand, translated by Francis Steegmuller and Barbara Bray). Dramatic and musical presentations have been our most consistently successful and praised events for some years. We want to have an ongoing series combining great creative talent with programming that makes the most of our Members' Room.

We started a new tradition by celebrating National Library Week with events April April 15-19: a lecture by Brian Jay Jones about our historic trustee Washington Irving, an appearance by children's authors Jules and Kate Feiffer, and most notably a panel discussion, "The Book Is Dead! Long Live the Book!" with ALA president emeritus Michael Gorman, Columbia University Librarian James G. Neal, and writer Maggie Jackson.

I must also mention our reading groups, which continue to be a source of learning and fellowship. This year Carol Rial brought us discussion of books from three continents and of genre-crossing authors. Member Donald McDonough, professor emeritus of English at Central Connecticut State University, started his reading groups in 2004 with a class on Paradise Lost. This past year he has had great success with the Iliad and the Odyssey. As I have witnessed a number of times outside the Whitridge Room, members leaving his classes are extremely enthusiastic and appreciative. Playwright Rob Ackerman again shared his talents, leading a series of hilarious and insightful readings of plays by Moliere and Noel Coward, among others. A member who participated in Rob's group last spring has now brought us into an exciting new partnership with Primary Stages theater company, where members have the opportunity to discuss the new plays the company will be presenting in their fall 2008 season.

Another notable event this year celebrated the publication of America's Membership Libraries, the first book to profile sixteen of the country's membership libraries. Facilitated by the Boston Athenaeum, who coordinated the book's writing and publication, we hosted a lecture by eminent bibliophile Nicolas Barker in November, and another by Athenaeum director Richard Wendorf in January. Our members were glad to be introduced to our sister institutions with this elegant book and with Mr. Wendorf's words and slides.

The New York City Book Awards observed their twelfth year of honoring the best books about New York City with their annual awards ceremony on May 14. The winners for 2007 are Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature by D. Graham Burnett, published by Princeton University Press, and New York Rises by Eugene de Salignac, Michael Lorenzini, and Kevin Moore, edited and published by Nancy Grubb, the Aperture Foundation, and the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives.

The exhibition The Library Moves Uptown: A Celebration of 70 Years at 79th Street 1937-2007 was launched on December 15 to run through October 2008. It was curated by Harriet Shapiro with support work from George Muñoz, Arevig Caprielian, and Sara Elliott Holiday. The exhibition showcases the Library's move from University Place to 79th Street in 1937, after the Library paid $175,000 for the spacious former townhouse of Mrs. John Shillito Rogers. The collection was moved from University Place at a cost of $8,100. The Library's collection then included 150,000 volumes. (It now numbers close to 300,000.) The exhibition is enriched by historic photographs, records and loans from several individuals with important connections to the building. Bard Rogers Hamlen, granddaughter of the former owners, John and Catherine Rogers, kindly lent us a photograph of her grandparents taken during their honeymoon in Italy, circa 1906. We also received, courtesy of member Lorna Livingston, a portrait of her grandfather Goodhue Livingston. Livingston was the architect of the building, constructed in 1916-17 on the site of two former brownstones at 53 and 55 East 79th Street. The exhibition also features books published in 1937, including two by Library members, Djuna Barnes and Stephen Vincent Benét (who served briefly as a Library trustee, 1942-43). Barnes' Nightwood has survived as a cult novel of the 1930s. Benét's The Devil and Daniel Webster is one of the great short stories of the 20th century.

We are also honored to lend our books to exhibitions at other institutions. This year the Library's copy of Frans Masereel's 1928 Mein Stundenbuch: 165 Holzschnitte was part of the Norman Rockwell Museum's exhibition LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, November 2007-May 2008. Masereel (1889-1972), a visionary graphic artist and twentieth-century master of the woodcut, was deeply troubled by the horrors of World War I. He illustrated books by Zola, Wilde and Tolstoy, but his most admired works are his romans in beelden or novels in pictures, which he published himself.


Joan Zimmett, Director of Development since January, has opened a new era in the Library's fundraising and development operations. Earlier in the season, three major gifts were received that will have a lasting impact on the Library's future. The first was a $500,000 gift from Ada Peluso and Romano I. Peluso in honor of their parents, the late Ignazio and Assunta Peluso. In recognition of this generous gift, the Library named the gallery outside the Members' Room the Assunta, Ignazio, Ada and Romano Peluso Exhibition Gallery (the Peluso Family Exhibition Gallery for short) and formally dedicated it with a festive reception for Ada, Romano, friends, members, trustees and staff. Chair of the Board of Trustees Charles Berry and Jeannette Watson Sanger of the Lecture and Exhibition Committee made remarks. The second gift was one of the largest in the Library's history, a $1 million bequest from the trust of George Marshall Hornblower, father of trustee Jenny Lawrence. It is anticipated that funds from this bequest will endow fellowships for writers, a vital Library constituency. The third major gift this year was from our benefactor Deborah Pease, former publisher of The Paris Review, who continues to be a good friend to the Library from her residence in Boston.

Staff News

As usual, the Library staff was busy this year attending a number of workshops, events, and professional conferences. Randi Levy and Keren Fleshler attended the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.; Carrie Silberman attended the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards at the Boston Athenaeum; Steve McGuirl attended Book Expo; a handful of staff attended workshops here in New York, including "It's All About the Book" and "Google and Libraries"; conservator George Muñoz attended a disaster-preparedness workshop in Andover, Massachusetts; Assistant Head Librarian Jane Goldstein visited the San Francisco Mechanics Institute Library in California and the Charleston Library Society in South Carolina; and I attended a festive and productive Membership Libraries Group meeting in La Jolla, California. Before Christmas I also visited the Library Company of Philadelphia (founded in 1731) and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia (founded in 1814). I came back from two days in Philadelphia with a stronger sense of how we are similar to but also very different than these two sister institutions.

New staff members since last year's annual meeting include Joan Zimmett, Director of Development; Harriet Shapiro, Exhibitions Coordinator; Carolyn Waters, Acquisitions and Reference Librarian; and Mike Hyziak, Circulation Assistant.

Visitors to the Library in the last year included students from Queens College and Pratt University; trustees and staff from the La Jolla Athenaeum, the Charleston Library Society, and the Boston Athenaeum; and travelers from Copenhagen, England (particularly speaker Nicolas Barker), Canada, Germany, and various corners of the United States.

Member Writers

Another area gaining new attention is service to our population of authors among the membership. In the past year, trustee Laurence Bergreen published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, trustee Jenny Lawrence edited The Centennial History of the St. Urban: 285 Central Park West, 1906-2006, and Sara Elliott Holiday and I contributed the chapter on the Society Library to America's Membership Libraries, edited by Richard Wendorf, Stanford Calderwood Director and Librarian of the Boston Athenaeum. As of this writing, the Library's list of member writers includes 360 people - fiction writers, biographers, historians, playwrights, screenwriters, poets, librettists, journalists, children's and young adult authors, and others. We know of 35 titles published by member writers in the calendar year 2007.

  • Barasch, Lynne, Hiromi's Hands
  • Brashares, Ann , The Last Summer (of You and Me)
  • Bergreen, Laurence, Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu
  • Cushman, Paul, Soldiers, Civil Servants and a Silverman
  • Dalzell, Robert F. and Lee B., The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America


  • Darling, Lynn, Necessary Sins
  • Davis, Jill, Ask Again Later
  • Durante, Dianne, Outdoor Monuments in Manhattan: A Historical Guide
  • Feiffer, Jules (illustrator), Henry, the Dog With No Tail
  • Feldman, Benjamin, Butchery on Bond Street: Sexual Politics and the Burdell-Cunningham Case in Ante-Bellum New York


  • Gaunt, Carole O'Malley, Hungry Hill: A Memoir
  • Halberstam, David, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
  • Heckman, Emily, Please Don't Label My Child
  • Kiernan, Frances, The Last Mrs. Astor: A New York Story
  • Lawrence, Jenny (editor), A Centennial History of the St. Urban: 285 Central Park West 1906-2006


  • Lewis, Mary Tompkins (editor), Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: An Anthology
  • Lloyd-Jones, Sally, How to be a Baby - By Me, the Big Sister
  • Marcus, Cora, Today's Botanical Artists
  • Marx, Trish, Steel Drumming at the Apollo: The Road to Super Top Dog
  • Mehta, Ved, "Haunted by Harvard (Parts I and II)" in the Literary Journal Raritan


  • Muhlstein, Anka, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart: The Perils of Marriage
  • Murphy, Cait, Crazy'08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History
  • Nissenson, Marilyn, The Lady Upstairs
  • Oberbeck, Elizabeth, The Dressmaker
  • Peck, Richard, On the Wings of Heroes


  • Phillips, Louis, The Death of the Siamese Twins and Other Plays
  • Pinneo, Sarah (co-author), The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun
  • Raschka, Chris (illustrator), Purple Balloon; Good Sports
  • Redel, Victoria, The Border of Truth
  • Rich, Simon, Ant Farm: and Other Desperate Situations


  • Sanger, Martha Frick Symington, Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress
  • Schiffrin, Andre, A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York
  • Shapiro, Laura, Julia Child
  • Sonne, Christian (editor), Tuxedo Park: The Historic Homes
  • Swett, Benjamin, Route 22
  • Wolitzer, Hilma, Summer Reading

Looking Ahead

This report has surveyed the last year. I also want to share with you, from the Head Librarian's perspective, how I think we will grow in the next two years. I believe we will continue to address the serious problem of our bursting collection. As of November 2007, there is two years' worth of growth room for the collection. After 70 years of building the Library collection at 53 East 79th Street, our once-ample stacks are no longer ample. Options now include storing Library materials offsite, replacing selected print periodicals and indexes with electronic versions, and selective and careful deaccessioning. An important option, as many will agree, is eventually to create additional stack space in our current building.

Second, we will continue digital audio and video recordings of all major events held in the Members' Room, in particular readings, lectures, and panel discussions, and programs by the Children's Library. With the speakers' permission, we will make these available as streaming audio and video on the Library's website and as audio CDs for loan at the Circulation desk. We believe that current and prospective Library members and the outside world will be interested in these recordings.

We will work diligently to fill the seats at all Library events. We will strive for a balance of subject areas and program formats (readings, lectures, panels, interviews, music, plays) that appeal to all our members.

Third, we will continually improve our publications and promotions, including the newsletter Library Notes, individual event announcements, posters in the building, and the website. We will take advantage of appropriate computer technology to get the word out, including the various options of email, listservs, social networking sites like Facebook, and possibly a Library blog. A practical reason for all of this is cost savings, too. Our design, printing, mailing and postage costs are increasing every year.

Four, we will continue to listen to the concerns of members and do our best to respond to their needs. We are very aware that increased use of member spaces, including the fifth-floor writing rooms, is a pressing concern of current members. I also believe that we should complete a member survey in the next two years.

Five, the Library's annual appeal is traditionally held each fall, though contributions are received throughout the year. This traditional appeal will grow. At the same time, we are making progress in building a culture of philanthopy by seeking increased individual and foundation support to fund existing Library operations, special projects, and the much-needed renovation and building expansion. Underwriting an event or exhibition, helping to conserve our archives, and supporting the expansion of our electronic resources are all opportunities for donors to support vibrant areas of the Library's services to its members and the community. In turn, the Library can publicly recognize their generous philanthropy. Additionally, in the months ahead, we plan to honor those who have provided for the Library in their estate plans. Some who have done so have already informed us of their intention, and we are most grateful for their generosity.

Though this may read like a great deal of change in just two years, be assured that some of these advances are already underway or are being discussed by the trustees and staff.

Gratitude and Closing Thoughts

There are many people to thank in this report, but I must begin by thanking the 35 members of the Library staff, archives volunteer EdmÈe Reit and acquisitions volunteer Jules Cohn. I believe that the collaboration and communication of staff and volunteers continues to be quite healthy and dynamic. At this April's annual meeting, ten-year service awards were given to Susan Chan (Circulation Assistant), Endang Hertanto (Cataloging Librarian), and Ingrid Richter (Head of Systems). I heartily thank the Board of Trustees for their ongoing stewardship of the Library, as well as the chairs and members of the twelve committees. Outgoing members of Library committees are to be thanked for their years of service: Peter Cannon (Book Committee) and Ellen Feldman (Member Relations Committee). I also thank Carrie Silberman, Randi Levy and Ingrid Abrams of the Children's Library and Susan L. Robbins, Chair of the Children's Library Committee, for their many efforts. This year the annual report features a special report with photos of this very successful part of the Library.

In his 1935 report at the annual general meeting, Chairman Lewis Morris wrote "the Library has pursued its quiet policy of selective educational service rather than bigness. Its aim is to do things in a different and better way." I hope you agree that whether we satisfy the intellectual, educational, cultural, social, or recreational needs of our members, we should continue to do things in our different and better way.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark Bartlett,
Head Librarian


Report of the Treasurer

George L.K. Frelinghuysen

(January - December 2007)

The 2007 Financial Condition of the New York Society Library continues to be strong. Subscription revenues were comparable to the prior year. At year-end, there were 3,057 subscribers of which there were 2,232 household memberships. Most significantly, the generosity of the members continues to be reflected in higher gifts to the Annual Appeal. The 2007 figure of approximately $2.0 million reflects several large one-time gifts totaling $1.7 million. Excluding these generous donations so as to compare apples to apples, year-end contributions were $341,904, 14% above the 2007 budget. Annual Appeal constitutes 40% of our core revenues and its importance cannot be emphasized enough as it allows us to offer to you additional services to meet your needs and to reduce the amount that we withdraw from the endowment, whose growth we depend upon to safeguard our future against the rising costs of doing business. Along those lines, expenses increased 9.5% as the Library added staff to fill positions that became vacant during the course of the year. The Library also experienced higher costs in other areas, such as utilities and program services.

The Library's endowment outperformed a difficult market in 2007. The investment return of the total endowment was 8.3% against 5.5% for the S&P 500 index. Our international portfolio performed very well consistent with the strength in the overseas markets. At year-end, our domestic investments represented 87% of the endowment with the balance in international The financial policy of the Library is to limit the endowment draw to 4.5% to ensure sufficient growth in the portfolio to offset the effects of inflation.

Respectfully submitted,

George L.K. Frelinghuysen,

December 31, 2007 with comparative totals for 2007

TOTAL REVENUE$2,588,800$868,184
STAFF EXPENSES1,249,6621,184,280
LIBRARY SERVICES127,171115,517
BUILDING (excluding depreciation)294,578258,354
TOTAL EXPENSES$2,067,309$1,888,238
INCREASE IN NET ASSETS$1,813,491$161,946

The approximate market value of investments on December 31, 2007 was $36,480,000.
Note: This statement includes unrestricted revenue and expenses only. All other funds are accounted for separately. Fully audited financial statements are available at the library.


Special Report: 

The Children's Library

The Children's Library is a dynamic and vital part of the Library, offering a variety of books, services, and programs appropriate for the tastes of our member families, from traditional to contemporary.

Collection and Services

The Children's Library contains more than 9,000 titles including fiction, nonfiction, reference, biographies, audio books, periodicals and electronic resources. The Children's Library staff takes great care in preserving treasured classics, as well as recommending a variety of current materials. The Children's Library also includes a growing Young Adult collection enjoyed by older students. More than 10,000 children's books circulate each year, and many more are enjoyed in our inviting third floor location.

The Children's staff regularly assists young patrons with Reference and Readers' Advisory services. When recommending books to children and their families, the Children's staff take into account important factors such as the age, reading level and interests of each child to offer appealing choices.

The Children's Library offers service seven days per week. In 2007-2008, it was staffed by Librarians Carrie Silberman and Randi Levy, who hold Masters Degrees in Library Science with specialties in Youth Services. Graduate student Ingrid Abrams served as the Children's Assistant.

Members and Programs

In the last decade the Library has welcomed more than 1,000 families to its membership.

Each year, hundreds of families enjoy a wide array of programs led by the Children's Library staff, as well as guest performers. Story Time Programs for younger children are designed for both enjoyment and the development of early literacy skills - what children know about reading and writing before they know how to read and write. The use of rhymes, songs and games in the Children's Library's literature based programs helps lay the foundation for literacy.

Older students take pleasure in meeting writers and artists through special author and illustrator programs, including hands-on opportunities to create their own works of writing or art.

Special events in 2007 included programs with author-members Elizabeth Winthrop, who shared her highly acclaimed historic novel, Counting on Grace; Caldecott Award winner Chris Raschka, who shared his art techniques; and Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock, who presented their newest book, Kids Make History. The Children's Library also welcomed accomplished author/illustrators Daniel Kirk and Brett Helquist, who shared their recent works and engaged young members in the creative process.

Children's Committee and Outreach

The Children's Library Committee is comprised of parents and member educators and serves as an advisory committee to the Children's staff. The committee also plays a key role in planning and implementing special events for the Children's Library. Chaired by trustee Susan Robbins, 2007-2008 committee members include Andrea Labov Clark, Peggy Ellis, Carolyn Goodrich, Jan Grossman, Patricia Langer, Louise Monjo, Jenny Price and Edra Ziesk.

Each year, the committee sponsors the Young Writers Awards, which honor excellent writing by young Library members. Writers in grades 3 through 12 are invited to submit a short story, essay, or poem, and prizes are presented by notable authors.

Many members of our Children's Committee also serve on a joint committee for Project Cicero, an annual non-profit book drive to benefit under-resourced schools in New York City. To date, Project Cicero has distributed more than 1,000,000 books to 6,500 classrooms, reaching an estimated 250,000 students. The Library's partners for this meaningful project are the Children for Children Foundation and Vornado Realty Trust.

The Children's Library extends it commitment to community outreach through its relationship with the Abraham House After-School Program in the South Bronx.

The goal of the After-School Program is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and crime. The Children's Library staff has worked with the After-School Program to organize a lending library and to offer storytelling and crafts to its students. Students from Abraham House visited the Library this past year to participate in the Kids Make History program where each student received an autographed copy of the book.

Since its revitalization in 2000, the Children's Library has grown into its role as a beloved resource for member families and an indispensable part of the Library. Through thoughtful collection development and staffing, vibrant programming and meaningful outreach, the Children's Library will continue to thrive within our institution and in the greater New York City community.

Respectfully submitted,

Carrie Silberman,
Head of the Children's Library