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This September, the building at West 10th Street and Waverly Place was sold to a firm called Oliver’s Realty Group, and you’d be forgiven for expecting a familiar grim story to have played out thereafter. The building’s retail tenant is Three Lives & Co., a superb independent bookstore of the type that has been crushed out of most New York neighborhoods by high rents, and there was not a lot of hope that this time would be different. Yet we are here to tell you first that Three Lives — founded in 1978, and in this location since ’83 — will stay put indefinitely, under conditions that both landlord and tenant confirm are sustainable for the long term.
If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.