Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Secret Libraries of New York

When thinking of a library in New York, what immediately comes to mind is the New York Public Library. Yet the city has many other, lesser-known libraries.
The Brooklyn Art Library, one of New York's secret libraries.
Image via

These "secret" libraries in New York are sometimes private, members-only institutions, or they are special libraries that are located onsite at nonprofit organizations. Quite a few are open and easily accessible to the general public, if only the general public knew about them!

To raise a bit of awareness about these hidden treasures, Allison Meier of Atlas Obscura has written an article, "Secret Libraries of New York City." A couple of these secret libraries, the American Kennel Club Library and the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, I have visited for school assignments. The American Kennel Club Library is precisely what it sounds like: a library "devoted to dogs, the development of purebred dogs, and the sport and enjoyment of dogs," according to its website. "Open to the public, the Library's mission is to serve as a public reference collection and archive on matters relating to purebred dogs and the various roles they play in our lives."
Interference Archive, home to activist artifacts and much more.
Image by Allison Meier/Atlas Obscura 

The Livingston Masonic Library houses books and myriad artifacts and memorabilia that illustrate the history of Freemasonry, with an emphasis on Freemasonry in New York State. The library is open to Masons and non-Masons alike, but only "Masons who are members in good standing of a lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge F&AM of the State of New York" are allowed to check out materials, according to the library's website. Both the American Kennel Club Library and the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library are quiet, elegant institutions that are located in Manhattan and are staffed by friendly librarians and caretakers who are eager to assist you. Appointments are required to visit both.

Another secret library that Meier mentions in her Atlas Obscura article is Interference Archive. Located in Brooklyn, in the well-traveled and easy-to-get-to neighborhood of Gowanus, Interference Archive is a completely do-it-yourself institution. Its focus is on grassroots activist movements and subcultures, so its many materials, exhibits, and programs are on this subject matter. Interference Archive's library has "thousands of posters, zines, books, comics, signs, and other ephemera, as well as posters, T-shirts, and buttons from causes both national and international," reports Atlas Obscura. Largely run by volunteers, Interference Archive welcomes visitors (no appointment necessary unless you're in a group of five or more) during open hours, according to its website.

Other secret libraries in New York include the library of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, the New York Society Library, the Brooklyn Art Library, and the libraries of the Hispanic Society of America, the Grolier Club, and the Harvard Club of New York City. Another of these clandestine libraries is the Conjuring Arts Research Center. "Housed in an undisclosed location in midtown Manhattan, the library is a hidden treasure of rare books, many of them secretly published by magicians for magicians," I said in an April 6, 2013, blog post titled "Believe in Magic? Visit This Library!" The Conjuring Arts Research Center was founded by a magician, William Kalush, in 2003. To read about this and other of New York's secret libraries, go to Allison Meier's Atlas Obscura article, "Secret Libraries of New York City," at THIS LINK.

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