Theme: The Idea: Haunted Main Branch of the Largest Library in America The Aspect: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost The Face(s): Lucy O’Connell (Head Librarian) Description:
Often referred to as the “main branch,” the Beaux-Arts landmark building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street houses outstanding research collections in the humanities and social sciences as well as a circulating children’s collection. The non-circulating graduate-level collections were initially formed from the consolidation of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, and have evolved into one of the world’s preeminent public resources for the study of human thought, action, and experience — from anthropology and archaeology, to religion, sports, world history, and literature.
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is renowned for the extraordinary comprehensiveness of its historical collections as well as its commitment to providing free and equal access to its resources and facilities. It houses some 15 million items, among them priceless medieval manuscripts, ancient Japanese scrolls, contemporary novels and poetry, as well as baseball cards, dime novels, and comic books.
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is part of The New York Public Library, which consists of four major research libraries and 87 branch libraries located in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. In addition to collecting the rare as well as the commonplace, it has, since the very beginning, acquired materials often regarded as controversial or even offensive by some. For instance, during the height of McCarthyism in the late 1940s, it actively acquired materials from the Left and the Right, despite the objections of government and citizens’ patriotic groups.
The ways in which the resources of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building have been used are as diverse as the collections themselves. To cite but a few examples:
During World War II, Allied military intelligence used the Map Division for research on the coastlines of countries in the theater of combat.
Television and print journalists first consulted the Slavic and Baltic Division when covering the changing political structure of the former Soviet Union.
Authors of countless literary and nonfiction books cite the Library as a major resource in their work.
Newly arrived immigrants as well as descendants of the Founding Fathers have reconstructed family histories and located long-lost relatives through records in the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy.
The origins of this institution date back to the time when New York was emerging as one of the world’s most important cities. By the second half of the 19th century, New York had already surpassed Paris in population and was quickly catching up with London, the world’s most populous city. Fortunately, this burgeoning and somewhat brash metropolis counted among its citizens men who foresaw that if New York was indeed to become one of the world’s great centers of urban culture, it must also have a great library.
Among the Supernatural community, the Library is famous as the location of the first ghostly encounter between a ghost, and those mortals who would later go on to be known as the “Ghostbusters”. The Ghost of the library, believed to be the spirit of Ethel Castor, a librarian brutally murdered in the library on December 7, 1841, was never ‘busted’ by the famous Paranormal Investigators and Eliminators, and sightings of Ethel continue to be reported by Library patrons.