The Secret Apartments of New York City Libraries

(Photos: New York Society Library)

If I could live at the library where I work . . . yeah, actually, I'm going to pass on that one. But would have been an attractive opportunity when I was younger and more adventurous.

Cait Etherington writes in 6sqft that some older libraries in New York City used to have apartments. These were set aside not for librarians, but for building superintendents who needed to monitor the plumbing, boilers, and electricity as needed. Like residential building superintendents, this was easiest done on-site and on-demand. So they lived at their libraries:

This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours.

The New York Society Library, which is a subscription library, employed the Thornberry family, who are pictured above, for that purpose:

The family, who were joined by Rose Mary’s younger brother Terrence in 1945, lived in the library until Patrick Thornberry retired as the building’s superintendent in 1967. Their home was in what the library now refers to as the “closed stack” (a locked stack reserved for rare books). While the closed stack is currently sealed off to daylight to protect its rare contents, when the Thornberrys lived in the library, it was a light-filled and vibrant space. But the family was by no means confined to their apartment. They also enjoyed a penthouse-level garden and after hours, access to the library’s stacks and large reference rooms too.

-via Boing Boing


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