News & Politics

Author Profile Leads to NY Library Fun Facts


One thing in the Observer‘s story on author Wells Tower caught Crystal Koo’s attention: “Seriously, the New York Public Library has a secret room reserved for people with book contracts?” Yes, though it’s not quite a secret; NYPL lists the Frederick Lewis Allen Room as “reserved for writers with book contracts.” It “provides quiet cubicles and laptop connectivity. Books may be kept conveniently in the room.” There’s also the Wertheim Study, “a quiet workspace where those engaged in long-term projects may keep books needed for their research.” (Users apparently also receive the services of “Dave Smith, NYPL’s Librarian to the Stars.”)

In a 2003 article the Times described the Allen Room as “the incubation cell for more than 200 published books,” with “wood paneling and nine fabric-lined cubicles, each furnished with a desk and a lamp.” You used to be able to smoke there; “When they went to clean the brown marble,” NYPL President Paul LeClerc told the paper, “it turned out to be white marble.” The article also said the Wertheim Room was easier to crack; it “has no book contract requirement, but applicants must show that their project is likely to lead to a conclusion,” which is what they all say.

In 1999 the blind author Ved Mehta threatened to sue NYPL for not providing him with a private room. “‘I’ve written 22 books, I was a staff writer at the New Yorker from 1961 to 1994,” Mehta told the Times. “‘I don’t understand the priorities of this civilization.” Photo (cc) melanzane1013.



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