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Library, Tradition, & Home

This month marks my second year as a resident at the Wertheim Study in the New York Public Library. This fellowship provides me with a desk in a private room designated for researchers and full access to the collections of a world-class research library. Quite a privilege.

Wertheim Study

(Photograph by author)

Several days each week, I work in the library, scribbling notes, pouring over volumes, piecing together my thoughts, and hoping that I might gather enough material for a second book. What might that prospective book be about? I’m not ready to say.

When I pass through the library’s heavy doors and ascend its marble steps, I know that I am entering a special and storied institution. How many novels have been mapped out in its reading room? How many historic facts have been uncovered in its archives? How many long-forgotten figures have been given a new life there?

My own research at the library connects me to a rich, fertile tradition of authors, scholars, journalists, and thinkers happily toiling away. Such individuals find a late evening or a weekend afternoon in the library invigorating, even joyous. Anything but isolating and lonely.

reading room

Main Reading Room, New York Public Library (Courtesy of New York Public Library)

Earlier this decade, Sari Botton edited Goodbye to All That, a compilation of essays and reflections by writers who found themselves disenchanted with New York City and ultimately seeking life elsewhere.

Since beginning my tenure at the library, I experienced the opposite epiphany. By building a routine around my frequent library trips, I settled into the rhythm and pace of the city–or at least a small part of it.

After fifteen years of living in the region, I finally felt at home. It only took losing myself in the New York Public Library.




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