Daily Thoughts 12/9/2009
It was very interesting visiting the Center for Fiction, the new name for the Mercantile Library. Brenda Wegener gave us a tour of the building. I got there a little early and looked around. They have a bookstore downstairs where they have author signings. E.L. Doctorow was doing a signing in the afternoon on December 9, 2009. They also sold new copies of the books which they gave out awards for. There was a lot of very nice new fiction which they were selling; a few of the titles were Teresa Svoboda, Trailer Girl, The Vagrants by Li Yunyi, Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and The Cradle by Patrick Somerville. There were also some literary biographies like Camus A Romance by Elizabeth Hawes.
I had a few minutes to look around upstairs. There is a nice selection of literary journals. There was a review magazine for mystery called Deadly Pleasures which was interesting to look at. They have a website with lots of useful information. http://www.deadlypleasures.com I also saw many review magazines which I had not seen before like Book Forum. The environment was very collegial with overstuffed chairs, nice lighting, and plenty of quiet. It reminded me of an old fashioned gentlemans club.
Brenda Wegener took us around the building. We started on the first floor. In the book sale while I was waiting, I noticed they had copy of Henry Miller's Plexus.
On the second floor there is a new book sections with many popular titles. These are mainly literary fiction. However, there were also lots of suspense and mystery titles. Brenda Wegener said that they had never removed a mystery title from the collection. This makes the collection quite unique in that they have many mysteries that no one else will have. They have a very nice list of their recent acquisitions on their website. http://www.centerforfiction.org/collection/acquisitions.php
They get many literary fiction titles in translation from Europa Editions. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/books/26europa.html
The arrangement of the library is quite interesting. All of the fiction books are alphabetical by author. There are two floors of fiction stacks in the library plus the store, and the new books section. There was a brief mention of a 19th century collection of older material. This intrigued me a bit because we have quite a bit of material of this age and earlier at our library.
This is the first time I have been in a membership library. There is an annual membership fee of $125, and $95 for students and seniors. They are currently doing a 2 month trial membership for $25 a month. Brenda Wegener said that they had 320 members.
Some of the things which I learned were quite different. A membership library can focus a lot on readers advisory and gets to know its patrons very well. Some people come in to just sit and enjoy the quiet.
There is also a writers studio with 18 people in the studio. There is room for 30 people. It appears to be a clean, pleasant, place to be. They also run 10 to 11 book clubs per month, as well as a number of classes on writing. The space has a very genteel quality to it. They mentioned they were looking for potential writers in residence and were also doing a fundraising campaign.
It was a pleasant evening organized by Stephanie from the New York Librarians Meetup. I am very glad that I went. http://meetup.com/NYLibrarians