Tag Archives: Municipal Archives New York

Roundup: Books less borrowed

Secret Libraries in New York City

People often talk about the newest places in New York, the trendiest restaurants and blockbuster art exhibits, but I find my favorite things about the city, and often the most surprising, are the things right under our noses, the ones that have been around the longest. A recent feature about the little-known City Hall library in the New York Times Metropolitan section got me thinking about other libraries camouflaged into the streetscape. Here are three gems quietly leading their existences.


1. City Hall Library
What makes this library so secretive is a lack of signage outside its home in a landmark downtown court building. This advertising restriction hides the over 100 years old library from street traffic. The library is rich in city history, with documents dating back to the first mayor of New York City.

2. American Kennel Club Library
One of the world’s largest libraries devoted to canines, the American Kennel Club, opened in New York in 1934 is a unique resource for tracking the history of breeds. No materials are allowed out, but cat people will be happy to hear they’ve expanded the collection to have some books about our other favorite pets. The fact that the library no longer has a librarian may make the institution even more secret, but the 2,000 years of pooch history is still open by appointment.

3. Theosophical Society Library
Located discretely on the second floor of the Theosophical Society’s 53rd St building, the Theosophical Society Library collection includes books on a mix of topics in divinity, esoteric philosophy and the occult. The society was founded in 1897 by the fiery and controversial Helena Blavatsky, whose magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, delved into some big ideas about the the universe. Members of the society can borrow books for free, but anyone can join the library for a $20 annual fee.

Images: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times.

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