As a member of The New York Society Library since the 1970s, I took it for granted that every literate New Yorker was a member. Not so: my husband, Karl Meyer, proudly announces to friends that his membership was the dowry he received when he married me. As writers of biographies and imperial histories, the Library is of indispensable value to us. It contains, for example, the impossible-to-find account by John F. Baddeley of the conquest of the Caucasus on which all later accounts have relied. J.W. Kaye's lively and definitive contemporary accounts of the Indian Mutiny and the Afghan wars were also invaluable. We depended on the Library's extensive volumes of 19th-century travelers' accounts, most of them long out of print, in writing Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia.
Another benefit of the Library is the fifth floor large study room, where I serendipitously first met Caroline Alexander, biographer of the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. I was working on the great Central Asian pathfinder Sven Hedin at the time, and we had a wonderful conversation about the vicissitudes of exploration and the "frenzy of renown."