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Ex Libris: New York Public Library 4.0 stars

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Synopsis

Andrew Carnegie envisioned a New York City with a library within walking distance of every resident’s doorstep. Frederick Wiseman’s documentary takes us on a guided tour of several. Public libraries are neighborhood oases, some of the few safe and welcoming spaces left in the world. From an intimate reading-group discussion of Love in the Time of Cholera to performance pieces, lectures, a discussion with Elvis Costello, and even dance classes, Wiseman’s Library hosts a plethora of cultural functions. And even though there’s talk behind closed doors of fundraising and “digital inclusion,” it mostly remains a quiet space where librarians scan pages, volumes are sorted electronically, and face-checkers field phone calls. With a running time of 197 minutes, there’s a good chance that many viewers will leave having spent more time in the theater than they have inside a library — at least, since high school. Maybe one temple of learning will inspire a visit to another: see the movie, then pop into your local biblioteca.

Scott Marks

Length: 3 hours, 17 minutes

Rated: NR

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