Thursday, October 16, 2008

Public Service Announcement

I realize that what I'm about to say is unusual for someone of my age, but I LOVE the New York Public Library.  And each time that I mention to a friend that I've just gotten some great book out of the library, or that I just read a wonderful book and they should pick it up at the library, my remark is met with either a raised eyebrow, an affectionate smirk or outright laughter.

People, in case you haven't noticed (and clearly the people I hang out with haven't), New York has what is probably the best public library system in the country.  And your tax dollars are paying for (part of) it!  Use it!

A tutorial:  

1)  A public library tends to have many branches.  New York has 87 branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island (Brooklyn and Queens are separate library systems).  There are 42 branches in Manhattan alone, so there is most likely one very close to either your home or office.  Thanks to some generous support from both the City and the philanthropic community, these branches are often open as late as 8 p.m., and most are open on Saturdays, so don't give me this "I'm too busy, my life is too complex to use the library" excuse.  

2)  Everything is online.  You can apply for a library card online here, you can request books to be sent to your local branch here and you can renew books online here.

3)  Any restrictions that exist are totally reasonable.  You can check out as many as 30 books at one time, request as many as 15 at one time, and keep a book out for 3 weeks without having to renew it.  If no one is waiting for the book that you have out, you can renew it up to 5 times, which means you can keep one book out for for almost 4 months!  This is great especially for items like cookbooks, which I usually want to keep long enough to try out a decent fraction of the recipes before I make the decision whether or not to buy the book.

4)  Many of the branches are quite lovely.  We all know about the stately main library at Bryant Park (or at least I hope we all do, things are worse than I thought if that is not the case), but there are many other branches that are very beautiful as well.  Now I will admit that my local branch has a bit of a junior high school library feel about it, so I avail myself of those branches serving other neighborhoods nearby.  For the longest time I would go to the Jefferson Market branch, which is the building on Sixth Avenue and 10th Street with the clock tower.  

Jefferson Market Branch

But lately I've decided that I like the exterior of that building more than I like the interior, so I've switched over to the Mulberry Street branch, which is just south of the Puck Building.  It was designed by the talented Rogers Marvel Architects, and opened just over a year ago. 

Mulberry Street Branch

For some reason, the place always smells great, sort of faintly like lavender.  Either the stylish residents of Soho somehow requested this as a condition of allowing the branch to be built, or it is simply a serendipitous side effect of being a neighbor of the delightful Santa Maria Novella store.  Either way, I love walking in the door.  If you want to browse and read magazines, there's ample window seat space for everyone, if you want to go downstairs and browse the book selection, there's lots of seating and light (considering that most of the library is below ground I think this speaks very well to the efforts of Rogers Marvel).

5)  They have lots and lots of books.  I read a lot, and I think I've only ever run across about three books that haven't been in the library's collection.  And those were relatively obscure cookbooks or design books.  Yes, you may have to wait a bit for the best sellers to come in, but if you're like me you've got 20 other books checked out to get through, and by the time you're ready, the best seller is waiting for you to pick up.

6)  You have no more room in your apartment.  If you live in Manhattan and like to read, you're probably getting run out of house and home by your book collection.  Using the library avoids this problem.

7)  Times are tough.  It's free!  Suze Orman would be very proud of your for slashing your book budget.


Jordan11803 said...

I love NYPL too! But why don't you like the inside of the Jefferson Market branch?

Laura said...

I don't know...something about the linoleum floors is a little institutional. I like the stained glass and the staircase and everything, but the fake wood tables sort of depress me.

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