Whenever I’m in New York City on business, in between meetings, I slip into the main public library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. I wander up to the 3rd floor to the Rose Reading Room. When I was a working class kid growing up in Yonkers, I used to play hooky from school and travel through the tough reality of the Bronx and wander around Manhattan, where I always found my way to this majestic place. Don’t ask me why I was drawn to this library. Maybe it is because the front entrance has so many steps. I’ve always liked climbing steps; it makes me feel strong. Maybe I liked this library because it is guarded by two lions. A kid like me needed to have a couple of lions in my life. Maybe I was drawn to the library because I love books and and even as a kid I knew books took me to faraway places I had not yet even come to dream of.
The Rose Reading room was always filled with generous light filtering in from windows that reach forever upward to a ceiling that appears to be painted with clouds like a rich variation of heaven. To this day, I feel a special tenderness and spiritual awareness that I have not come to feel for any other physical place in this world. The Rose Reading Room has changed. The entire room used to be filled with the old card catalogs stored in heavy standing furniture with multitudes of narrow drawers that held a card for every book in the library. These drawers were made of dark burnished wood and had brass pulls so highly polished that they gleamed. And in unexpected dark nooks, there used to be reading kiosks holding heavy glass cases, displaying medieval manuscripts that had been handwritten by monks. So while the Rose Reading Room has changed, the light filtering in is still the same.
When I was a kid I was scared that someone would tell me that I didn’t belong here, but no one ever did. Now I have come to know that I was destined to find my way and one way or another, my destiny would find me. This is why I love libraries. I learn more about why I have come to be the person that I am today. I also love libraries mainly because they allow people from all walks of life to read books for free. I love the idea that all of us can develop a lifelong love of learning if we so choose. Books not only transform lives; books have the power to save lives and ennoble us to become better human beings. There are many libraries that I have come to know and love. I feel a special tenderness and rich spiritual awareness for libraries that I have not come to feel for any other physical place in this world. All libraries have stores of their own to tell. You have your own story to tell too. Take a random visit to the library; any library will do.
New York City Library on 5th Avenue and 42nd
476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
Hours: 10am to 6pm every day and CLOSED on Sunday