New York City discovery: Bryant Park Reading Room

I love stumbling upon unexpected discoveries.

While in New York to cover a Condé Nast Traveler event, I spent a little time in Bryant Park, near Times Square and just behind the New York Public Library. After picking up sandwich from the ‘wichcraft food concessionaire, I walked over to find a spot to sit and eat, and found this outdoor library under the trees.

Sponsored by HSBC Bank and supported by the New York library system, there are both adult and children’s reading areas, with magazine racks and books to page through while you enjoy pleasant park surroundings.

It is near the 42nd Street/Avenue of the Americas corner and is open 11 am – 7 pm daily, weather permitting. You don’t need a card; the only requirement is to stay within the designated reading area to use the materials.

Apparently this “open air library” (or some form of one) has historic origins. From the Bryant Park Web site:

“The original Reading Room began in August of 1935 as a public response to the Depression Era job losses in New York. Many people did not have anywhere to go during the day, and no prospects for jobs. The New York Public Library opened the ‘Open Air Library’ to give these out-of-work businessmen and intellectuals a place to go where they did not need money, a valid address, a library card, or any identification to enjoy the reading materials.”

What a nice discovery in an already impressive park, and what a break it would provide harried families traveling with kids who would like to get away from the Times Square cacophony.