Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Lure of the Library

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the House and Garden TV Network. Besides giving me the opportunity to imagine other places and ways in which I might live, I also get a voyeuristic thrill—albeit a very tame one—from watching couples choose from among three plausible real estate choices or being surprised by a makeover of their home completed by a good-looking and highly animated team of young decorators. 

I also like the relative lack of clutter on display in almost every home. The piles of papers, groceries that have not been put away, cast-off shoes and semi-finished art projects that sometimes adorn my home are rarely in sight. But nor are the books. Perhaps they have been tucked away in closets or attic space. That’s fine for home dwellers when the guests are visiting or the TV cameras are rolling, but for space-starved New York City book lovers who need their reading matter close at hand, where to put the books can be a pressing concern.

One answer can be found in today’s real estate section of The New York Times, which features New York City apartment buildings with common libraries. Okay, you might not want to share your beloved copy of Catcher in the Rye with the teenager down the hall, but you might enjoy the idea of picking up a recent best-seller from the building library, reading it and returning it without the expense of a purchase or the responsibility of finding a place for it on your shelves.

Apartments in the buildings featured in the article all come with a high price tag and the library serves as another amenity along with the gym and or outdoor space (admittedly, more important priorities for many people). It makes me happy to see this trend, especially in NYC where real estate prices often leave one shaking one’s head in disbelief—space devoted to books is not only still considered worthwhile, but is actually a selling point.

Curious about what’s on the shelves? The print edition of the NYT article offers a sampling from the libraries of four luxury buildings:
 A building’s library is a reflection of its residents’ taste, either intentionally or organically. Following are some notable or popular books found in reading rooms in New York City.
Among the choices: The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory; Urban Farming by Thomas J. Fox; The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

A partial view of the library at Chez Stacked. Selections from the shelves include
Hard Times by Charles Dickens, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, and the Giant Book of
Puzzles and Games
by Sheila Anne Barry. 


  1. These shared libraries are common in Toronto condos, where heaps of amenities are the norm, buildings one-upping each other to provide extras. Most corporate law firms have them, too - although they tend to be dumping grounds for unwanted books, and good books disappear, never to be seen again. I'm glad to know they're appearing in NYC!

    Also, although you know me to be neat and relatively clutter-free, I love Ikea catalogs for the same reason you mention. I am envious of the workspaces that look so spare and uncluttered. Although my office is neat, it's packed with stuff. I wish it could all exist but somehow be invisible.

  2. The idea of uncluttered workspaces makes me think of a hospital pathologist I once interviewed. He had just started computerizing all of his records and was very excited about "the paperless society" to come (this was quite a while ago). Perhaps such spaces only exist in magazines, catalogs, or model apartments, probably not in any lab or other place of business!

  3. Perhaps such spaces only exist in magazines, catalogs, or model apartments, probably not in any lab or other place of business!

    I do think that's true. The law firm was one business that was supposedly going paper-free, and now it is more filled with paper than ever - as revisions and drafts and versions are ever-easier to make, and as everyone sends pdfs of every document to everyone else.