Thursday, January 24, 2013

Libraries: both literary and libationary

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Have I told y'all about my fascination with and love for libraries? Plop me in a library and you can leave me there for hours.  My small, fold-y wallet (the kind that if you put cash in and flap it open and closed it "locks" the bills in behind an elastic band) only has room for 4 cards to be shown and 8 cards to fit, and my NYPL card with the beautiful lion is right on top.

While I tend to read e-books more than physical now, only for ease of travel and to indulge in bedtime reading after R has gone to sleep, I still check out real books from my local branch every few weeks and cover them religiously, of course. But the other day I realized I had been admiring my library from afar—it's on a charming side street in SoHo and was just recently built and added to the network, so it's gorgeous inside: all gleaming steel and warm glossy wood and light streaming in everywhere. The architect did this crazy beautiful staircase that cuts through the floors and filters light to almost every corner—and I know almost all of that from "following" the Mulberry Street Branch Library on Facebook, despite being in the neighborhood and walking through their front doors pretty regularly.  I usually just zip up to the brick building, through the front door, grab my books from the hold desk right by the checkout counter and scooch back out.

I'd never actually descended into its literary depths, which seemed ridiculous. So I made sure to change all that last week. I bypassed the hold shelf when I walked in and skipped down the broad steps to the floors beneath, the first being the children's room. How is it that the kid's area has the same scent in every library? When I spotted one of Laura Ingall Wilders' books on a nearby shelf, I wondered how much I'd be missed from the office if I sank into a pouf for a few hours with Ma and Pa and Laura and Mary.

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When I was younger I would ride my bike out of our neighborhood after swim practice and past the 7-11 to the library. I had a white metal basket attached to the front of my shiny turquoise bike that I'd fill to the brim with books for the week. I wouldn't even take the basket into the house when I rode home, I'd plop myself under "my" tree on our side yard for a few hours first.

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In college my friends knew I'd disappear to the slightly musty "stacks" of the oldest library on campus to study—no modern, cold library for me. I wanted to be near the books in my little wooden cubby with brittle maps and portfolios and scrolls at my fingertips, even if I had no need of them. I just liked knowing I could look if I wanted.

All through college I even worked for the Office of the University Librarian. Her role was to curate the University's collections, handle donations and acquisitions, and host shiny events with donors and esteemed guests—I loved it. I was being paid to putter around books and work on their behalf (plus those events with the fancy cheese and delicacies were part of the deal).

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Even as an adult with my e-books and salary from a non-libary job and not a racerback swimsuit in sight, I seek out libraries.

I had heard about the Nomad Hotel just north of Madison Square Park and its amazing dining rooms and bars. I mean seriously, just click here and look at its rooftop restaurant. Doesn't that look like Neal Caffrey's apartment on White Collar?

Anway, beautiful as that is, what I was obsessed with was the Library. A place with real books (I think the Ace Hotel has a similar set up but its books are fake—!) and a spiral staircase and elegantly-plied libations is basically my happy place.

I arranged to meet R after work last Friday, but the place is so amazingly fabulous that there was a wait for the bar which led to a wait for the Library! The bar is set up against a back wall behind the restaurant, and buffered on one side by the kitchen and the other by the Library. But, you can't reserve the Library—you have to put your name down at the bar. But the bar itself was already so packed that we had to wait in the hotel lobby! We lasted 20 minutes before we decided to come back during the week (bonus though: Michael J. Fox was waiting next to us! Well, he waited for a second in the lobby and then of course he was escorted right in).

Don't worry, cozy couches and weathered books and brandy snifters. I'll be back.
{ The Library at the Nomad Hotel via }

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