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Bryant Park’s Reading Room

Susan Reimer, Baltimore Sun

Bryant Park Reading Room, Susan Reimer, Baltimore Sun

Bryant Park is a success story in its turn around from a drug haven in the early 1980s to a gem of New York City today. It is also a place has become a model for how to create uses and increase usage of urban parks through different features. One feature often not mentioned is the park’s “reading room.”

Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun visited the park, which is next to the New York Public Library, and gives the story on this unique offering:

Those who restored the park to its innocence in the 1990s after a long, dark period of disrepair and disrepute also restored its Depression-era role as a reading park.

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd streets and Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, in the shadow of the New York Public Library.

During the 1930s and until World War II restored full employment, librarians used to come to the park with carts of books, newspapers and magazines and the jobless could spend their days reading. There were few other places for them to go.

The librarians distributed reading material behind a table and under a large umbrella every day but Sunday. If it rained, they would scurry back into the library with their books.

Today, there are children’s books, magazines and a collection of classics donated for the reading pleasure of Bryant Park guests. In addition, readers drop off used books to share. Volunteer attendants maintain the reading area and cover the books at night and in bad weather.

Given that reading is a pretty common acitivity in public parks, it seems like a natural fit.

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