Libraries form the centerpiece of the world for most writers and for everyone who loves to read and dream.
I was talking with the director of the White Plains Library when I spoke there the other day about how jampacked the place was during Sandy as everyone came in to charge their electronics, but also how being there then represented much more than that. Community. The library scheduled movies so people would have a warm, comforting place to hang out during the storm. There was actually a fancy benefit planned at the library and it was not cancelled, even though people had to get swelled up at home in the candlelight and dark beforehand — it was a grand success.
The White Plains Library is a handsome, modern structure on a downtown street, where anyone would want to come to a movie. How about a place like this, the Vilnius University Library in Lithuania? Does it make you want to snuggle into your sleeping bag with a box of popcorn for a showing of Ghostbusters?
Or the crisp, pristine Biblioteca do Palacio e Convento de Mafra I in Portugal.
These libraries and more beauties can be found at this terrific site for bibliofanatics.
I personally hold with the marble-sculpted halls of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, but that’s probably because I’ve spent inestimable hours there over the years. If you put me in the Rose Reading Room with a scarf tied around my eyes I would recognize it by the aroma.
I. N. Phelps Stokes managed to get his own private study on the second floor — this was just after the place opened in 1911. You can still find the room, which is now littered with someone else’s stuff but is otherwise unchanged. Stokes wanted to be in the NYPL because he’d be that much closer to the invaluable sources he was drawing upon for The Iconography of Manhattan Island. Maps, antiquarian narratives, they were all there. For the touching.
Which is what we all love about the library. We can lay our fingers on the texts, especially the ones slightly yellowed with age, and touch the history of literature.