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TWO LIBRARIES LOVED BY BOB

BOB ECKSTEIN IS a talented illustrator, cartoonist, and writer frequently appearing in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Mad Magazine. In my book, high praise indeed.

His recent Sketchbook item in The New York Times Book Review, December 13, 2019, celebrated five of Bob’s library loves: The New York Public Library; The Grolier Club, New York; the Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China; The Royal Library of the Netherlands in The Hague; and the Liria Palace, Madrid, Spain.

Two of these institutions particularly caught my eye and encouraged me to do some Internet sleuthing. Tidbits follow.

Above, Eckstein’s illustration of the New York Public Library. Below, of the Tianjin Binhai Library, in Tianjin, China. Images from The New York Times, December 13, 2019.


The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library is the second largest public library in the United States; only the Library of Congress is larger. The NYPL is third largest in the world, the British Library pipping it for second globally.

What has come to be the NYPL’s main branch is shown. c. 1908, prior to installation of its iconic lions. Image from the Detroit Publishing Company—Library of Congress.

The NYPL was established in 1895 through amalgamation of various 19th-century collections. The Stephen A. Schwartz Building on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets is its main branch (there are 91 others). The place is renowned for its Beaux-Arts elegance and pair of lions. Patience rules south of the main steps; Fortitude, north of them.

Above, Patience the Lion, south of the main steps. Below, Fortitude the Lion, on the north side, with Patience in the background.


The NYPL Magical Book Train. Less well known, but enamored by Bob Eckstein is the NYPL’s Magical Book Train. Built in 2016, this automated 24-car system connects the main branch with its Milstein Research Stacks, where 4 million volumes can be stored beneath NYC’s adjacent Bryant Park.

The NYPL’s Magic Book Train. Images from nypl.org.


The system, which replaced an outdated conveyor belt, has some 950 ft. of track with several other stops within the branch before the Rose Main Reading Room on the third floor. The cars can travel at 75 ft./minute; a one-way trip takes perhaps five minutes.

The Tianjin Binhai Library. Tianjin is on the Chinese coast, about 100 miles southeast of Beijing. Its Tianjin Binhai Library was commissioned by the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute and designed by Rotterdam-based MVRDV.

The Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China. This and the following images from CNN Travel.

Oh, by the way, this architectural wonder is planned to house 1.2 million books. (The NYPL’s main branch, not counting its subterranean Research Stacks, has around 2.5 million.)

Mountain of Books.

The five-story building’s central atrium is surrounded by mountains of bookshelves. According to CNN Travel, “The library advises that readers under the age of 14, those who wear heels, and those who aren’t fit for hiking should avoid the book mountain.”

The Tianjin Binhai was built in only three years. So demanding was local officials’ schedule that, according to CNN Travel, “Most of the shelves in the atrium are plastered with images of book spines instead of actual books. Visitors have to head to the more traditional sections of the library for the real thing.”

L’art pour l’art,” it’s said. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

One comment on “TWO LIBRARIES LOVED BY BOB

  1. Damon Blue
    December 31, 2019

    Happy New Year, Dennis!

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