THE Library

When I was at Stuyvesant one of my favorite places on the planet was the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library.  I went most Sundays.  I got on the 104 bus on the west side of Broadway between 83rd and 84th Streets and headed south toward 42nd Street and Broadway and finally turning left eventually getting off at 5th Avenue, across the avenue from the library.

It was a glorious place with the huge lions out front and the cavernous lobby.  

The research room (on three I believe) was adults only EXCEPT for students of the specialized high schools, like Stuyvesant.  Gaining entrance was a privilege I cherished.  

Photo of Rose Reading Room by John Angel on Unsplash

In the anteroom one found librarians if you needed help and rows and rows of card catalogues.  They smelled so good and led me to the treasures of the collection.  

Beyond the catalogue room was the Rose Reading Room, actually two reading rooms.  Their walls were lined with bound journals and more.  In the center space, between the reading rooms, were the pneumatic tubes that sent requests to the stacks and the dumbwaiters that brought books and periodicals up from the nether reaches.

It had all started in the card catalogue where I learned the letters and numbers that identified the library holding I was looking for; usually more than one at a time these were applied to multiple call slips that would be handed in at that center section and a call number assigned to my request.

Then you waited, watching the lighted number board avidly waiting to spy your number which meant a message or your books from below.

It was one thing I wished for that I never got to do, see the stacks.  I imagined high ceiling and rows and rows of bookcases in perfect order. And a lot of dust and a very special smell.

I did my homework and my research in those reading rooms right through college.  Although CCNY had the Morris Raphael Cohen Library I preferred the amazing 42nd Street Branch.

Much has changed since the time I used this wonderful resource.  When I went looking for something a few years ago I found that the card catalogues were no more, replaced by machines.  But there were still those helpful research librarians to guide me to what I wanted. 

7 thoughts on “THE Library

  1. Don’t forget passing Patience and Fortitude at the main entrance. I also have memories of going there, but I usually went to either the Epiphany branch on 23rd street or the Tompkins Square branch on 10th street.

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  2. The 104 bus doesn’t make that right turn down 42nd Street anymore. I found out the hard way during my last visit to NYC. Bus kept going straight down Broadway. I got off at 38th Street and walked back to 42nd and then down 42nd to First Avenue.

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  3. For a number of years, with a contribution, I joined as a “Friend” of the Library. Among other things it entitled me to a tour of the stacks beneath the library and a glimpse of what was left of the foundation of the old 42nd Street Reservoir that the present Library was built upon. It was very impressive.

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  4. I love that library so much. It’s truly a treasure trove. A library museum. I hope in these internet days it is still getting good use.

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