Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library ★★★½

All of my favorite Wiseman films have understood the value of our time and our work, judging our institutions based on how our society has directed it. In our successes, In Jackson Heights shows us engaged with our communities, listening to constituents' issues, counseling each other, and arguing for the rights and freedoms of our neighbors. At our worst, we stumble thoughtlessly through professional routines: the casually choreographed judicial process in Juvenile Court or the petty discipline of High School.

Ex Libris somehow seems to lose track of some of the library's actual employees. It's wonderfully entertaining to see that NYPL has Elvis Costello share a clip of his dad or interviews Patti Smith about the influence of Jean Genet (who's currently racking up $0.30 in late fees from my own library). But there's a huge chasm between these public events and the board meetings where staff discuss how to raise and allocate funds. They mention hiring new employees, but we don't see much of their training or participation, aside from observations on which learning sets are in demand (baby animals!). It's a minor objection to be sure, but it makes Ex Libris less humanist than I normally hope from Wiseman.