Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Reading is hard

I have many love-hate relationships. The Roth-Allen monster. Duane Reade. High heels. But the one that takes the cake is the New York Public Library. On the one hand, all the books I need! Almost. But close! And old French-Jewish newspapers! In a beautiful old building, near many bus and subway lines! With cheap (OK, not anymore, thanks to rising food prices) Japanese fast food right next door!

But. While some go for the books, others go for the freedom to rant, digest (ahem), and lecture as loudly as they possibly can, and in an unshowered way as possible. One man, with fine, reddish hair in amazing clumps, likes to play with those clumps, twisting them around to form not so much dreadlocks as... greasy clumps. Another man seems truly proud of his admittedly impressive gas. Then there are those whose torso-exclusive skin diseases could be their little secret if they wore shirts that reached all the way down to their pants. Then there are those at the library to research government conspiracies of their own imagining; these folks can be recognized by the amazing amount of research materials they keep in plastic grocery bags.

This cohort is on the one hand distracting, but on the other hand unfortunate, either homeless, paranoid, or both. The set of people whose behavior is less forgivable is the flash-camera-having, the 'Oh, look, what a pretty library!' announcing, research-room-entrance blocking ('wouldn't a picture right here look great') tourists. My theory, given the library's prime Fifth Avenue location, is that tourists make a pit stop there for its free toilets, yes, but also so that they can say they did something cultural, that they didn't go to NYC just to shop.

So, while providing a safe space for the homeless, paranoid, or both is a worthy goal, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with tourists visiting the occasional monument between H&M and Zara, is there any reason the same room has to serve these two purposes and house all the city's books? Couldn't there be some kind of division of space, a room for each?

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