I am fairly certain that I have taken almost every person who has visited me since I moved to NYC to the main branch New York Public Library, also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman building. My reasons are simple: It’s in a great location near other tourist outings (Bryant Park, Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square are all nearby), I love libraries and this is a particularly beautiful one, and, of course, it’s free.
Someday I want to bring my laptop or a notebook and do some writing in the Rose Main Reading Room, but so far my visits are limited to showing that gorgeous space off to out-of-town visitors. We take a quick lap around, staying quiet so as not to disrupt the many people who do use the library as a work space.
Besides a moment to say hit to Patience and Fortitude, the lions outside the library, and a peek in the gift shop, the other main stop on my tour is the children’s room on the ground floor. It houses a circulating collection of children’s books, and it’s also usually home to the original stuffed animal that inspired the Winnie the Pooh books.
I say usually because right now Christopher Robin’s beloved friends are on the main floor of the library as part of a special exhibit, ongoing until March 23, 2014, called “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter”. I’ve mentioned the exhibit before, but I went back for my second visit in December and I have to say, you should go! As someone who thinks about kids’ books on a daily basis (and gets paid for it!), I was familiar with a lot of the books discussed, but not all of them, and I highly enjoyed both of my visits.
Some of my favorite bits were a model of the car from The Phantom Tollbooth (a book I didn’t read until college), an Alice who “grows” (with the help of some books), and the original letter written by Edward Stratmeyer to Mildred Wirt Benson outlining the new girls’ series he wanted her to write the first books of under the name of Carolyn Keene — the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.
While that last one is probably not as exciting to anyone else as it is to me, there are many other bits and pieces relating to well-known children’s books that will be fascinating to people who loved them, and at the least nostalgia-inducing for everyone else. There is also a great section on banned books, with a display of the titles of many books that have been banned and a discussion of the reasons some censors have given for banning them.
I could go on and tell you more about why children’s books matter, but that’s what the exhibit’s for! Have you visited already? What did you think?