The pleasures of the New York Public Library

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Today, my visit to the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan occurred serendipitously at the very moment a building tour was being conducted by docent Julie North Chelminski. As I snapped pictures with my iPhone, she enthralled a large group of visitors with her rapid-fire history of the century-old library and its riches.

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I was surprised when our tour guide explained that an important early donation to the library, the Berg Collection, included the private holdings of the president of the American Book Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. The American Book Company published the popular old textbooks known as McGuffey Readers.

Another private collection that was contributed to help establish the library included the first Gutenberg Bible brought to North America. The institution’s special collections include fascinating items such as the original typescript of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Now housing seven million books, the library is as much a museum as a place for research.

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I would have loved to request a book from the stacks, but it was sufficiently enjoyable to wander through the rooms and appreciate the architectural detail. I can contact a NYPL reference librarian from anywhere in the world by phone or email, if I have a question.

Mr. Misdiagnosed & Admitted wondered just how much fun a NYPL branch book sale might be. He promised to accompany me to New York for BookExpo America in 2010. Here’s hoping the book industry trade show and the library still exist for our benefit a year from now.

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