Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the main branch of the New York Public Library, a landmark which was officially opened on May 23, 1911. This is the iconic library building on 5th Avenue, with an entrance guarded by two stone lions (Patience and Fortitude) and a grand reading room that is a wonder to behold.
“Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0”
The room is 77 feet wide and 295 feet long – longer than a Boeing 747 and able to take people more places. It is a shrine to knowledge, a temple of learning, and is lined with thousands of books – exactly the type of place where it would be impossible for me to read a book.
As a child, teenager and even as an adult, I am almost unengrossable. Oh, I love to read, but no matter what I’m doing, my head keeps lifting up to gaze around the room. It takes me twice as long as most people to read a book because of all the necessary daydreaming that has to happen at the end of chapters, after significant paragraphs, and often in between words.
The New York Public Library is magnificent. But if you’re building a reading room, give me something with the grandeur removed – a shabby closet, some pillows and a desk lamp.
Any place without a lot of stuff to look at.
Where do you go to read?