The Secret Apartments of New York Libraries and More Critical Linking

Critical Linking is sponsored today by Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.



For many book lovers, there is nothing more exciting than the idea of a home library. What most of the city’s book lovers don’t know is that until recently, there was an affordable way to fulfill the dream of a home library—at least for book lovers who also happened to be handy with tools.

In the early to mid twentieth century, the majority of the city’s libraries had live-in superintendents. Like the superintendents who still live in many of the city’s residential buildings, these caretakers both worked and lived in the buildings for which they were responsible. This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours.

Despite library school and working in libraries for a number of years, I never knew there were libraries that had apartments for their Superintendents. This is fascinating and awesome and so nerdy I can hardly handle it.


It’s easy for Americans to go into the Haskell–they merely walk through the front door. But for Canadians it’s a little more complicated, because they technically have to cross the international line, which is demarcated by a cement obelisk and a line of flower pots. “It does feel a little bit like you’re passing through some DMZ,” library director Nancy Rumery remarks, referring to a demilitarized zone.

While Canadians are guaranteed safe passage to the library, it’s a bit of a harrowing journey. To enter they have to walk past a series of security cameras on Church Street and then past the U.S. border guard stationed out front. As long as they collect their books and walk back the way they came, everything is fine. But if they walk out and continue into the U.S. they’ll be picked up for illegal entry. “We pretend that no one left Canada,” Rumery explains.

I *did* know about this library which sits on the US-Canadian border but I didn’t know the full story of it.


The Quimbys are a working-class family, and Cleary incorporates this into every page of her eight Ramona volumes without ever once making it the focal point of the narrative.

This piece came out in April but it just hit my radar. I really need to reread the Ramona books, especially because I suspect a lot of the money stuff is as relevant today.


Despite the lack of a clear #1 bestseller across print and digital formats in the vein of last year’s The Girl on the Train coup, Jojo Moyes had a strong showing in the first half of 2016, placing three editions of Me Before You among the top 20 slots in Nielsen BookScan’s list of bestselling print books for the January–June period. The e-book edition of Me Before You came in at #2 on the Amazon Kindle e-books list for roughly the same period.

I always love knowing what books are selling the best and the critical eyes as to why those particular titles are doing so well.

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