New York has been roiled with closures of cultural establishments for the reason that effort to cease the coronavirus kicked into excessive gear final week.
But for a sure form of New Yorker, the information on Friday that the New York Public Library can be closing the hovering Rose Main Reading Room in its 42nd Street flagship — together with its 91 different areas throughout Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx — a minimum of till April 1 brought on a particular form of disappointment and alarm.
The Queens and Brooklyn public library methods, that are separate, had remained open, however on Sunday night they introduced that they too would shut, beginning Monday till additional discover.
The Rose studying room, lined with two ranges of bookshelves and big arched home windows overlooking Bryant Park, is likely one of the nice areas of New York. It’s a Grand Central Terminal for the bookish, full with (in additional abnormal instances) crowds of vacationers snapping pictures from a chosen zone close to the doorway.
The room, an inside landmark stretching the size of two metropolis blocks, is a spot to seek the advice of a number of the 18 million volumes within the analysis assortment, use the computer systems, do homework, or just stare up on the magnificent 52-foot coffered ceilings with murals of pink-streaked clouds. It’s one of many metropolis’s uncommon bits of luxurious transcendence that’s actually open to all.
“For some people, their getaway is the beach or a spa,” mentioned Lyubov Ginzburg, an unbiased scholar who had rushed over to seek the advice of a number of books on Friday after she heard concerning the closing. “For me, it’s the library.”
At three p.m., three hours earlier than closing, the studying room was hardly abandoned. But the crowds had been markedly skinny, a number of regulars mentioned, in contrast with the roughly 5,000 who go to every day, in line with the library’s statistics. (There has been a 15 % drop since March 1, the library mentioned.)
Some gave the impression to be taking a languorous method to the disaster. In the northern part of the room, reserved for researchers, one younger man was dozing together with his head on the desk, subsequent to a splayed-open copy of “500 Great Military Leaders of World History.” In one other nook, a person was munching contraband doughnuts from a plastic carton. (Food is forbidden.)
But largely, folks had been busy, some with the bookish equal of the panicked rush that has emptied some grocery shops round city.
“I’m sorry, time is of the essence,” mentioned Lenore Beaky, a retired English professor at LaGuardia Community College, when requested if she had a couple of minutes to speak.
She relented when requested concerning the stack of books in entrance of her, together with one known as “Heaven: A History.” For the previous few months, she had been coming to the library a number of instances every week to work on a venture that was jump-started by the invention of a beforehand unknown letter by Anna Mary Howitt, a 19th-century British feminist she had mentioned in her long-ago Ph.D. dissertation.
Tablets and laptops predominated (including some perched on angled, posture-improving lecterns). But some patrons, like Ms. Beaky, had old-fashioned piles of dead-tree matter, wrapped with request slips bearing their names.
One of them, Daniel Winocour, when asked if he was a scholar, shrugged. He has been coming to the library every day, he said, since retiring as a research librarian at the Queens Public Library. Mr. Winocour was reading the ancient Greek historian Polybius, in the original, with the help of Liddell and Scott’s famous Greek-English lexicon.
“I have the abridged Liddell and Scott at home,” he said. “But some of the words Polybius uses aren’t in it.”
Mr. Winocour, who has a master’s degree in linguistics, said his main research project concerned the Bronze Age. And oh, he also had a stack of Russian dictionaries. “I’ve been trying to read Chekhov,” he said.
Asked about camaraderie, Mr. Winocour said regulars would sometimes nod at each other in recognition, but generally there was not a lot of chitchat. Danny Wong, a freelance architect who works there several days a week, seconded the assessment.
“We practice a kind of social distancing already,” Mr. Wong said. “When you come here, you’re in isolation but still in proximity to other people.”
But soon, even more distance would be required. About an hour before the 6 p.m. closing, the sun dipped below the top of the huge arched windows, and golden light came streaming in. One woman in the researcher section, who would give her name only as Alexa, got up to snap some surreptitious smartphone photos and started to leave.
She had just moved to the city from Chicago, and had come in Friday for the first time, looking for interior design books she couldn’t find in any local bookstores. After the closure, she said, she’d be back.
“It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, nobody’s going to bother you,” she said. “What more could you ask for?”
Right before last call, Ms. Beaky returned her stack of books to the desk, where requests are moved up and down from a book bunker underneath Bryant Park via a cute red trolley. “I got through them all,” she said, with a look of relief.
Did she have enough at home to continue her research?
“At first, I was panicked I wouldn’t have enough to do,” she said, slinging her backpack over her shoulder. “But I think it will be O.K.”