Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Me In...

After last week's great find I decided to pick up on a dreadful tourist habit. I actually googled 'Best New York Spots' and sifted through the first few of the 389,000,000 hits and discovered the NYPL.
                                              NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

   The Iconic Veneer Reads Classic Architecture 
Unlike I imagined, this building is one of many. I didn't realise that this is part of a cluster of libraries simply because it is the most notable and thus most acknowledged. It is considered to be the main branch of all the NYPLs.
Being on 5th and 42nd immediately justifies it's reputable prominence as the locality is a real centre point in New York with the Chrysler/Empire State Building/Time Square all within a 10 block radius.
Like on many journeys I pass the world famous 'Empire State Building' ......Leeettss heaar it foorr NEW YOKKKKKKKK

Steeped In Stature
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, there are select havens dotted around the city in which to escape it's pulsating beat to rest your restlessness, be it parks;spas;gyms but I have found solace in a literary haven not shrouded by shrubs but by volumes of humanity and social science books.

In case you are confused, much like I was upon my visit, this is not a library with catalogs worth of fiction. This is in fact the flagship research library- the field of Humanities and Social Sciences. These comprehensive collections are well preserved archives of subject matters within the humanities and social sciences sphere- many of the reading rooms are home to scholars brushing up on their already informed research to further expand their breadth of knowledge.
Do you remember at school when the 'SILENCE' sign was the subject of ridicule in the library? Well the sign in this library demands actual 'SILENCE' - the doorways/hallways are decorated with stiff upper lip policemen to enforce this stipulation if it be violated with a murmur.....mmmm perhaps a little exaggeration but even if you happen to miss the bold sign you naturally revert to hushed tones because you just feel obligated I suppose.....
Where Mr.Big And Carrie Almost Tied The Knot
I feel like I have missed out on an important detail here- the history of the building. Whilst I am not intimately acquainted with the body of works within the library I do know that this building was only recently retitled 'The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building'. Stephen A. Schwarzman is an American investor and businessman who provided $100 million worth of capital towards the expansion of the New York Public Library- he is now a trustee. With all his commitment to the enterprise it was only natural that his name should takeover the already established 'Humanities and Social Sciences Library'. As of 2008, in recognition for his donation of the aforementioned sum the library is formally known as the 'Stephen A. Schwarzman Building'.

Whilst I could brief you on all the facts and figures of the building I am going to avoid stifling you with those details and leave it to you to discover in your own time: http://www.nypl.org/

My experience of this building is saturated with sentiment and appreciation for timeless beauty and driven scholars who plow their way through the finest volumes of academic study. I don't see myself leafing through the coffee stained pages of 'Progress and Values in Humanities' anytime soon..but I do see myself taking advantage of the ability to sit in the Rose Main Reading Room free of charge to hone my understanding of the field I am acquainted with.
Softly Lit Room For Peaceful Study

Harry Potter-esque Aura
Where Mr.Big Abandoned Carrie
As you can see the calming feel of the interiors puts you in the right frame of mind for study. It is not a cluttered space littered with overstated paintings and murals (those are on a separate floor) but a space which functions as a blank canvas- for you to build your own visceral experience. Because the floors are made of marble you feel a real sense of 'freshness' and 'cleanliness' if you like; although you can never be too sure, I sat feeling like I was not going to contract the 1000 diseases one can develop from just one subway ride!
Below you can see the elaborate water fountain. These features are placed at consistent intervals- but I didn't want to quench my thirst, I wanted to quench my fascination over this exquisite work of art, so I took a photo of it. 

Yes. This Is A Drinking Fountain
The library always has an exhibition open to the public. Currently, there is the 'Three Faiths Scriptorium' exhibition where you can familiarize yourself with traditions of Judaism, Greek and Islamic scribes. A Scriptorium, in it's broadest sense is a place where scribes write and illuminate books or scrolls. In keeping with tradition, the exhibition hall is sealed off from the outside movement and promotes the solitary aspect of writing manuscripts. Scribes are artisans who write texts by hand and conform to a life guided by tradition and religious laws- what may seem like a commonplace act, is in fact transformed into sacred undertaking with a degree of passion and precision. The scribes who wrote the Torah; Gospel and the Qur'an have a deeply intimate level of devotion to this art form.
Shrine For Scribes

Little Urchin Wants An Adventure
Inside is a long strip table where you can pick and mix Hebrew, Arabic and Greek Calligraphy and trace your initials with the special tipped pens. Of course, beautiful calligraphy is dependent on the harmony of the pen, ink and writing surface. My conditions were far from ideal with my poor excuse for a steady hand and little children berating the supposed 'fun' they were having- they were bored beyond stupidity. Not only did they not keep within their own lines, they jostled my elbow with their spirited temperament keeping ME outside my lines. ufffffff.

Speaking of children, there is a section for the little'uns to shrink their unbounded energy into the quiet rapture of the 'Children's Centre'. This is located on the ground floor just as you come in from the 42nd street entrance. Hopefully I did not look too out of place in this environment ......since I took some cheeky photos....
On one side of the room was a little girl reading aloud a story she had handpicked with intent. She was practicing her fluency as a reader: 'AAaaAnd ThhEn Theeeeee PARty STARted'. Her father, was faced down listening with accuracy and regularly prompted her at the beginning of new sentences. I just thought this was so brilliant. Sunday In The Library With Dad- Thank You Sondheim
Eloise, Madeleine and Tintin Sit Together On The Same Shelf.
                                      I'll leave you to ponder over the following:

Just Grand

-John Milton

'a good book is the precious life-blood of the master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life'

Best Wishes,

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