My Happiest Place on Earth

Picture this: a 10-year-old girl, with thick glasses whose dad cuts her hair, who spends recess reading and hasn’t really picked up on the nuances of socializing. That was me 12 years ago. It still is me now, just to a lesser extent.

Needless to say, I had kids bullying me quite often. They flocked to me. I was too smart, too smart-mouthed, an overachiever, a foreigner; a small, uncoordinated girl. My sisters didn’t like me. My mother was very critical.

During those years, books and especially libraries became my refuge. I lived a hundred lives in the library; I was Harry Potter and Hermione and Nancy Drew and anyone else I happened to discover as I whiled the hours away. I’d take out ten, twenty, sometimes thirty books at a time, read through them all in two weeks, then run up $10 in late fees because I could never remember to return them on time.

As I got older, I developed the sort of secondary sexual characteristics and social skills that would define me as desirable by today’s societal standards. You’d think I’d have forgotten all about the solace books provided me now that I had a life, but it’s never gone away. I was five years old when I learned to read; I was 8 when my dad’s friend bought me the first Harry Potter book, and I have been fascinated by literature ever since.

I’ll always have a soft spot for libraries, for helping me get through my more-awkward-than-most years.

For this assignment, I decided that after 12 some-odd years of living in this country, I would finally take a trip to what I’d always known would be a magical place for me: The New York Public Library. More specifically, the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch, which is the central branch (housing one of the most extensive collection of humanities texts in the world) located on 42nd & Fifth. For a more culturally relevant reference, I believe it’s where Carrie Bradshaw plans to get married to Mr. Big in the first Sex and the City movie.

I intern in an office that is four blocks down from the Schwarzman building, and I’ve been telling myself I was going to go in there one of these days, and earlier today I finally did. And I was not disappointed. The New York Library is my Disney World.

As a nod of respect for the point of this assignment, I sat in the Art & Architecture room, located on the third floor pretty much in the last corner of the building. There’s no photography allowed but I was not about to let some pesky librarian stop me. (I totally would have stopped if any librarian had so much as breathed in my direction. I am not brave enough to take on the Guardians of Knowledge, such as they are.) Here’s my illicit photo:

I figured that I might as well be as productive as possible during this little outing, so after doing the touristy thing of walking around with my mouth wide open and my iPhone out snapping pictures of everything, I sat down to do some work. It took some time until I became productive, because I spent quite a stretch pondering the beauty of the building. It looked like Hogwarts. It was beautiful. If I ever come across someone who doesn’t understand why libraries are so special, I’m going to take him/her to the NYPL with me, because I think it’s the pinnacle of what libraries aim to become. I think I’m going to try to go every week now. I’d like to thank this assignment for forcing me to go inside this beautiful place of learning and take in all it has to offer.