Ever since I first walked in its doors in the summer of 1969, The New York Society Library has been my refuge and inspiration. The Library's ancient, cramped elevator, so reminiscent of the tiny lifts in European hotels, has always given me a mild case of claustrophobia, and whenever the gate creaks open with a medieval flourish, I give silent thanks as I walk into the stacks.
Then I find myself in perhaps my favorite hideaway in the city, a place to think, to study, to daydream, and simply to immerse myself in print. The Library has long been my first stop when I am contemplating a new book, and I am always impressed by the depth of its collection and the patient assistance from the librarians. When I was working on my biography of Irving Berlin, Mark Piel, the dedicated Head Librarian, shared with me the singular fact that his father, an artist and inventor, supplied the songwriter with his famous prepared piano, which let him change keys while striking only the black notes, his preferred style of playing. The Library, in the same spirit, has supplied its members and patrons with a unique resource that, for me at any rate, makes life in New York richer and deeper.