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PostRemembering Vartan Gregorian, Savior of NY Public Library (Edward Jajko, USA, 04/18/21 4:04 am)
Yet another passing of an important figure. Dr. Vartan Gregorian was a multilingual historian who served as a university professor and administrator, but most significantly as president of and savior of the New York Public Library, for which I honor his memory.
I heard Dr. Gregorian give a lecture once at Stanford, and in that lecture he confirmed something that a Hoover colleague had told me. Dr. Gregorian was indeed multilingual but had never grasped the use of the English definite article, "the." His childhood and schooling in Tabriz, Iran, then under Russian occupation, was spent in an atmosphere of Armenian, Russian, Azeri Turkish, and Persian. Armenian seems to have an infixed definite article. Russian, Turkish, and Persian have no article, definite or indefinite. I don't know how he handled things when he moved to Beirut and picked up Arabic, which has the definite article al--and strict rules about its use. Nor do I know how he handled gender: no grammatical or other gender in Armenian, Turkish, or Persian, but three in Russian and two in Arabic. In the Stanford lecture, "the" was noticeably and almost charmingly missing. R.i.p.
See Vartan Gregorian, Savior of the New York Public Library, Dies at 87
JE comments: The NYT obituary reminds us of the NY Public Library's insolvency and decay when Dr Gregorian arrived in the early 1980s. He was a tireless fundraiser and cheerleader for the central role of libraries in society.
In 1991 I spent a couple of weeks doing doctoral research in the NYPL. Already by that time, it was an extremely welcoming and well-functioning place.
Ed, I fear we've reached a new crossroads for public libraries, the double-whammy of Covid and the Digital Age. As WAISdom's Librarian-at-Large, what are your thoughts? The comforting images of endless stacks and the lone scholar working at a table--are they doomed?