Ex Libris: The New York Public Library is veteran filmmaker Frederick Wiseman's 43rd film in 50 years. With the patience of a skilled creator and the curiosity of a child, this 87-year-old documentarian provides an impressive portrait of this venerable institution as not only a repository of books but as a rich supplier of resources, workshops, lectures, and community outreach programs.
For three hours we visit the library's Main Branch on Fifth Ave. at 42 St. and 11 other locations. The sheer number and variety of offerings is mind-boggling: interviews with Richard Dawkins and Elvis Costello; an overview of the vast picture collection; lectures on job interview tips; special events for the blind and those with disabilities; math workshops and programs for kids building robots; presentations on using laptops; and glimpses of a handful of directors' meetings where the discussion revolves around funding for the future and using municipal funds to increase internet access and digitalization across the city.
Although Wiseman celebrates community, collaboration, and the values of lifelong learning, he also demonstrates a playfulness in his look at patrons of the library who are snoozing, doodling in notebooks, or amusing themselves with video games.
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library is another appealing masterwork in the astonishing career of Frederick Wiseman!