The original Reading Room began in August of 1935 as a public response to the Depression Era job losses in New York. Many people did not have anywhere to go during the day, and no prospects for jobs. The New York Public Library opened the “Open Air Library” to give these out-of-work businessmen and intellectuals a place to go where they did not need money, a valid address, a library card, or any identification to enjoy the reading materials.
The 1935 Reading Room consisted of several benches, a few book and magazine cases, and a table with a beach umbrella for the five librarians who ran it. It operated every day except Sunday from mid-morning until mid-evening. Most of the books were from the New York Public Library’s circulation, but all magazines and trade publications were donated by publishers or individuals. When it rained the books and periodicals were quickly put in a large water-proof chest and readers and librarians took cover. No cards were required – patrons were simply asked to sign in and out. The Reading Room was closed in 1944 due to an increase in jobs and World War II.
The Bryant Park Corporation has repeated history by recreating the Bryant Park Reading Room. It is modeled after the original with the additions of custom-designed carts for an extensive and eclectic selection of books, periodicals and newspapers; readings and programs at lunchtime, after work and for kids; movable furniture to create a more intimate environment; and kid-sized carts and furniture for children to use. The programming, publications, and environment of the Reading Room are available to everyone for free, without any need of cards or identification.
Books and Staff
We are fortunate to receive book donations from publishers of the periodicals, books, and newspapers that fill the shelves of the Reading Room. Thanks to all that donate.
Thanks also go to the dedicated people who staff the Reading Room whenever it is open. If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Special Thanks To:
Exclusive sponsor since 2003
Oxford University Press
Classics and Reference Library
Gift of Children’s Library
Random House Library Marketing
Gift of Children’s Library
Newspaper Delivery since 2003
Special thanks also go to Condé Nast, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Time Inc., and Rodale, who have steadily supplied the Reading Room with magazines since 2003.
Special thanks to the New York Public Library for providing us with a rain venue for some of our events.
- The Reading Room is open 11am to 7pm daily
Upcoming Reading Room Events
- Tuesday, March 18, 2014
- Tuesday, April 15, 2014
- Thursday, April 24, 2014
The Reading Room invites student poets and poetry lovers to New York City's 12th Annual Poem in Your Pocket Day. This day long celebration of poetry kicks off the Reading Room's 2014 Word for Word series and is free and open to the public.
Students from NYC's elementary, intermediate and high schools will have the opportunity to read their latest poems during the open mic forum. If you are 18 or under, and a student at a NYC school, you may register for our Poem In Your Pocket Open Mic. Please email email@example.com if you are interested in participating.
NYC Youth Poet Laureate: TBA
Guest Poets: TBA
Music by: TBA
Produced in cooperation with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York City Department of Education, New York City Voter Assistance Commission, and the Office of the Mayor.
Visit the Word for Word Poetry Blog to read more about our poetry series.