Friday, January 07, 2011

New York Public Library

Nothing like being unexpectedly blown away. I stop by the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd and 5th, because I need the Internet and I want to ask about the affects of the closing of the Slavic and Baltic Reading Room.

I walk up between the famous lions, a bit cracked, but the building looks gloriously white, like it has been recently cleaned. (buildings in NYC get really sooty.) I head up to the 3rd floor reading room - use the Internet to find the offices I need to find in Westchester county and to get the address and phone number of an old bibliophile I may have time to visit while I am here in New York. Guests are allowed 50 minutes access to the Internet, I don't know about NYC residents. On the my way out, I ask the reference desk how the closure of the Slavic and Baltic Reading Room has affected their work. Of course they still have the incredible collection, but only one employee from the reading room remains, who's time is divided between collection development and other duties. So service to this collection is much reduced and the pages have a difficult time retrieving the books as some of the call numbers have not been transliterated, and the pages can't find the books with the cyrillic letters in the call numbers. I am given the name of the one remaining specialist, who I will have to contact for an update on the collection and to see if it continues to be developed for the Baltic region.

I head downstairs from the epitome of all library reading rooms and remember there is usually an exhibit, so I will just poke my head into it. First I come accross the Scriptorium - the interactive portion of the exhibit. I think of my colleague Sue Steuer and find myself fascinated by all the tools, pigments used for manuscript illustrations, parchment, paper, brushes, quills, gold leaf and more. The center of the room contains a huge light table and people are encouraged to sit down and trace their names in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew or an old English script. I still have business to take care of, so I just grab the script examples and head to the main exhibit.

The Three Faiths - amazing. Even libraries can do their share to further world peace. NYPL takes the three major religions and explains how they are similar with plenty of artifacts from all three. Sue will kill me that I just glance at all of them and just read the major panels on Revelation, Scriptures, Commentaries, Prophets, Spreading the Word, Private Prayer, Public Worship, and Sacred Places. The exhibit is an amazing overview of sacred texts from various ages. Illustrations glitter with gold. Many languages are represented. I think the oldest piece I see is pre-900. I now want to read up on the history of the English translation of the Bible as I get a glimpse of a 14th century Wycliffe edition and an explanation of the evolution of the King James Bible. Of course there is a Gutenberg Bible on display.

My bibliophile treat for the holidays.