There are Closings and There are Closings

Last Wednesday, I sat in a boardroom in Midtown, waiting for the attorneys to finalize the details for transferring the title of a property, which I’d recently sold.  Now, one such as me (a real estate broker) never really knows how long to budget for a closing here in NYC—it may take an hour or four; but it is part of my job to be there and for the most part, to be very silent at the closing table. Identifying that everything had been taken care of on my end, I knew that I would be silent awhile.  Also knowing that the seller had a mortgage and my buyer was financing the $1m+ property with a mortgage, I assumed that I would be sitting there for a little more than awhile.   So I brought a book to read, thinking this would occupy my mind during the closing-of-silence.  During my cerebral affair, reading the dialogue between Levin and Kitty, I was interrupted by the seller’s attorney to pass some “official” paperwork to the other side of the long closing table, which I was in the middle of.  I had no problem helping out, handing paperwork back and forth between the two parties; so I closed Anna Karenina, telling myself, “Tolstoy can wait.”

I handed “official” paperwork back and forth, for awhile.

Nearing the end of my duty of paper-messenger, the seller’s attorney brought up his Kindle, announcing how much he liked it, and then he asked me why I didn’t have one.  “I just like to feel the pages, as I turn them, feeling the weight of the book in my hands,” I replied.  The buyer’s mother-in-law (also at the closing table and who wasn’t really part of the paperwork) then joined in, exalting the benefits of e-readers and how they save space and so on.  The thing is I like books:  I like to see them on my shelves, remembering where I was in my life when I read them (and how much they have helped me); I like the way they feel; I like the way my small (very small) collection of first editions smell; and I’m romanced by the way words look on paper—not in a digital format.

The seller’s attorney reminded me, “Books [as we know them] are dying,” adding, “Libraries are going to die too—if they don’t get on board…Many are closing…”

This opened up more conversations involving a different kind of closing at our real estate closing: The Public Libraries across America.

I mentioned to the attorney that I donate a portion of my commission to  public libraries in order to help them keep their doors open—to survive—and to grow in a digital age.  The mother-in-law voiced that it was a strange for real estate broker to be keen on books and libraries; and I must be an old soul who wasn’t meant for a career in real estate.  Really? I wondered.  Not wanting to banter anymore about it all, I decided to go back to being a nun of silence, in order to keep the focus on the real reason we were all there: Close the deal; transfer funds, title, hand over the keys to the new owner, etc. (and receive my commission check!)

So, for the past few days, I’ve had her words of “strange” ringing in my head, wondering if it was “strange.”  And no, it’s not, I have concluded.

The Public Library is a great gift: They are the holiest, non-secular buildings, which host a surplus knowledge, and at times are marvelous monuments of architecture found within the communities across the United States that I sell real estate in (and those I don’t). They are free to all—and this is wonderful.   Many of my clients, awe out loud of their exterior beauty, as we stroll by them on the way to see potential new homes for them. I always hope they will walk-in one day, on their own to marvel and take advantage of the beauty within the structure.  I know books are dying (as I’ve known them and prefer them—paper bound).  I know I will have to eventually turn to an e-reader and I’m fine with that.  But I’m not fine with the idea that Libraries will die as a result of books going digital—and the world turning completely digital.  Many libraries are now struggling to keep up with the digital world, and  like everyone else has in this past recession, being forced reduce the hours, which they are open to the public, and unfortunately a few have closed—forever due to the lack of government assistance. This is a tragedy to me.

Many Public Libraries have saved my life from childhood to adulthood with their books, bringing a resurrection for me, and for that, I’m committed to aid in their survival with a mission that they will and can save others, as they have so generously saved me.

So accordingly, with the happy closing of last Wednesday, I whipped out my checkbook, donating a portion of the deal to the Brooklyn Public Library, hoping that I will never have to witness the tragedy of a not so happy closing…

Will my donation(s) save Public Libraries greatly in the end? Probably not, but at least I know that I made an effort.

As an independent system, separate from the New York City and Queens libraries, Brooklyn Public Library serves the borough's 2.5 million residents, offering thousands of public programs, millions of books and use of more than 1,100 free Internet-accessible computers.
NOTE on BPL Architecture:
Shaped to look like an open book, the library exterior is made primarily of Indiana limestone. The entrance facade is concaved to reflect the curve of Grand Army Plaza. The library’s most distinguished feature is the 50-foot-high entry portico. It is flanked by two enormous pylons highlighted with gilded relief sculptures. The renowned artist Carl Paul Jennewin designed the relief with the evolution of art and science as its theme. The bronze gateway displays the work of sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, and features fifteen different literary characters and luminaries, including Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and Brooklyn’s own Walt Whitman. Writing about the state of library architecture, critic Lewis Mumford declared “Brooklyn’s new one is tops.”  Check-out more history here
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