Libraries that play “hard to find.”

The Gottesman Library at TC is pretty easy to find, with its prominent location at the end of campus and its five floors of open study space and book shelves. But some libraries are more elusive, almost intentionally hard to find. Today, the New York Times noted that the City Hall Library, located inside New York City’s Surrogate Court Building, is “open to all yet known to relatively few and visible to just about no one.” If you’re like me, that intriguing sentence alone will make you want to dash out with an orienteering map and a compass to hunt the place down on your lunch break. The collection is not small; they hold 66,000 books and 285,000 journals, magazines, and clippings–all focusing on city development, land, and property issues. It does make one wonder: how many hidden libraries does this city host?

The Atlantic recently reported about an elusive library project called “Word Play,” a bi-lingual library with numerous outposts built into benches around the SoHo area. Based on a “give a book, take a book” model, this library emphasizes serendipitous discovery of books in various languages. The project is part of a campaign by the Architectural League of New York, the PEN World Voice Festival, and the Little Free Libraries movement.

[Here below is a photo by Chat Travieso showing a bunch of kids happily reading the books, (dramatization).]

In the category of odd or specialized libraries, the Wall Street Journal recently did a piece about the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s magic collection, donated by Bill Kalush, a specialist in sleight-of-hand with cards. The collection includes personal letters from famous magicians, which they are now in the process of digitizing, Houdini’s handcuffs, rare Italian pamphlets from the 1500’s sold by street magicians, as well as books on juggling, hypnosis, ventriloquism, and escapology–the things magicians need to know. The library is “hidden” in the sense that one needs to make a research appointment to view the collection. It’s a unique collection and intended for serious research.

And finally, meet the Re-Animation Library. Located in Gowanus, Brooklyn, this library collects old and out of print books that other libraries weed from their collections–but they specifically collect books that are rich in visual information. It’s a collection of obsolete, visually inspiring works, and their mission statement is to re-generate creativity for artists seeking sample materials that speak to mainstream culture of yesteryear. Sound specific? Maybe, but if you’ve ever gone to the main branch of the NYPL to find weird science images from the 80’s to satisfy a lighting director’s vision for a gallery space–like I have–then this library would serve as a major source of relief. It’s a unique collection, and you can find it by either visiting their main location, or by finding one of their many spontaneous and rotating branch appearances at museums and libraries around the city (and country). The library refers to these pop-up branches as “spores.” ¬†Ah, hipsters.

[below, see the Re-Animation Library’s illustrated version of their mission statement, which makes everything clear]

Know of other small or hidden libraries that I haven’t found yet? Let me know!