The New York Times (here) and the Wall Street Journal (here) have coverage of a driving while intoxicated arrest of the president of the New York Public Library, Anthony Marx. Less interesting to me than whether he was drunk driving is the car that was involved — a 2009 Audi that the newspapers say is owned by the library and that the president apparently uses to drive himself around.
The New York Public Library is a wonderful institution, one of the real jewels of New York City, and I have benefited personally from using its resources for my own research.
I'm sure the library can find some way to justify the expense of this vehicle, whether it is used for visits to far-flung branch libraries in Staten Island or to library donors in the Hamptons. And even counting the car, Mr. Marx's compensation is almost certainly less than, say, that of Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president. But the city's library system, which is supported by taxpayer funds and by charitable contributions, is so financially strapped that Queens (which has its own system) reportedly stopped buying new library books earlier this year. As a New York City taxpayer, I'd prefer the library sell the Audi and have the librarian take a taxi or the subway. More broadly, it's a mystery to me why the public anger directed at Wall Street bonuses hasn't spread more to public employee compensation or non-profit compensation. Perhaps it is because the financial industry pay seems unrelated to performance; what's getting people angry isn't just the high pay, it's the high pay combined with the need for bailouts. But in the case of the libraries or the colleges, these are institutions that get plenty of taxpayer support as well, on an ongoing basis.