Biographer Robert Caro is a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes in Biography and the National Book Award. He has been a Library trustee since 1994.
To me the Society Library is a very special place. It's a jewel of a perfect size, neither so large as to be an impersonal institution nor so small that its collection is lacking in the books that you want.
It seems, indeed, to have every book for which I ask, and those books are provided with a graciousness out of another age. I never cease to be surprised, whenever I need a book, when a friendly voice answers my call, then asks me to wait while she, or he, checks to see if it is on the shelf, and shortly returns to say it will be waiting at the desk when I come.
The serenity of the Members' Room is from another age, where Dickens or Trollope would have been as at home reading as I am. Although the ceilings are high, the furniture elegant, the chairs comfortable, the atmosphere is as friendly as the staff who run the Library. It is a wonderful place to escape into the world of a wonderful book.
An excerpt from addresses to Library trustees, staff and friends at an event launching the 250th anniversary celebration on November 5, 2003
I didn't write anything here but I read a lot here and I particularly try to read my favorite author here, Anthony Trollope. The way that I first came to read Trollope is why books are special. I majored in English literature at Princeton and we didn't read one word of Trollope. Most of his books were out of print and he hadn't been taught for about 40 years. Then one day my wife picked up a book by Trollope called The Prime Minister. She said to me, "This is the best political novel I've ever read." Well, I didn't believe her, but one night she fell asleep while she was reading it. I got up to take the book out of her hands, and I started reading what she was reading, which was a scene in the British cabinet in 1874. And I said, "This is the best political novel I've ever read." Now Trollope is back. He's taught everywhere. What does that show us about books? That what we learned about books when we were young is really true: if you write a book good enough it will endure. It doesn't matter if it falls out of favor; it'll come back.
Why do I like to read Trollope here? Well, Trollope is a 19th-century novelist, his cadences are slow and measured. The rest of the world goes by faster and faster. But look at this room [the Members' Room]. When he read, Trollope probably read in a room like this. This is the world as I always wanted it to be—a place where you could sit quietly in a beautiful room and read. So this place is a refuge and it's a treasure house for me.