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Learn about – New York Society Library – established 264 years ago

The New York Times: “Founded in 1754, the New York Society Library, on East 79th Street in Manhattan, calls itself the oldest cultural institution in New York City. “If you can find one that’s older, let us know,” said Carolyn Waters, its head librarian. Yet the place remains little known, even to many New Yorkers. “It’s surprising to me how under the radar we’ve been,” said Ms. Waters, 54, who at times can seem like a den mother for the many writers who toil away in the library’s elegant reading and study rooms. Historically, these have included the likes of Herman Melville and Washington Irving. “We’ve always been a haven for writers,” Ms. Waters said. “You trip over them here. They’re everywhere.” Since this is a membership library supported by annual fees and its endowment, patrons must pay to enjoy lending privileges for its roughly 300,000 volumes on a broad array of subjects, including plenty of material about New York City. Members also enjoy access to the library’s stacks and its elegant, wood paneled spaces on upper floors decorated with paintings and sculptures. Ms. Waters has pushed to widen membership beyond the Upper East Side, despite the challenge of the name itself. “It’s frustrating, in many ways, to have that word, ‘society,’ in our name,” she said, because it can connote exclusivity…” [See also the New York Society Library Blog]

In reality, she said, “We’re a society in the sense that we’re a community of people with a similar interest: We’re bibliophiles.”

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