Former Assistant Head Librarian
While The New York Society Library has always been happy to host and nurture its many fine writers, another group of members must also be recognized at this important point in our history. I refer, of course, to the many readers who have provided the sine qua non of the Library for lo these many years. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "'Tis the good reader that makes the good book." The Library has always numbered among its members a generous supply of good readers. Anyone who worries about the future of books should spend some time at the Library's front desk. We are not just handing out bibliotherapy here, or recreation, or even that ubiquitous commodity now called "information."
The New York Society Library provides sustenance for those to whom books are as necessary for existence as air. Luckily, in this part of the world, many of these bookaholics have always managed to find the Library. Staff members, many of whom suffer from the same sickness, are only too happy to guide patrons through the "12-Stack Program," which is surely the best treatment for this disease. Regular readers arrive to find little groups of books already held for them at the desk, with others to be searched for in the stacks, and on top of that, a list of titles to be reserved for the future. They stagger home laden with volumes, only to return soon for more.
Not only do our readers require large numbers of books, but they also demand a very wide selection of genres and subjects. The breadth and depth of the titles that float in and out of the building is a testament to the amazing scope of our members' interests. Author Jonathan Franzen recently bemoaned the lack of readership for the "social novel," but the Library members could prove him wrong with their strong inclination for literary fiction. Huge biographies that languish on shelves elsewhere fly out of our doors as if weightless. Travel, history, science, mysteries, the history and science of mysteries—you name it—they all find their readers here.
In fact, it has been the 250 years of fortunate symbiosis between readers' far-ranging tastes and the Library's satisfaction of those tastes that has created the irreplaceable book collection populating our stacks. These 250,000 volumes, supported by our ongoing efforts to provide a wide variety of current books, continue to sate the desires of a steady supply of readers. The readers have always been and will continue to be the true life's blood of the Library. We look forward to serving Emerson's "good readers" for the next 250 years.