How long do you have to live in a city before you find out about its secret underground library? In my case, I guess it’s 10 months, because I just heard about the tiny New York Public Library branch (the Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral Branch, officially) tucked away in a subway station.
The underground branch lives outside the turnstiles at the 51st Street 6 stop, and it sounds like a sort of literacy-and-public-transit-themed Cheers. “You see the same people all the time,” patron Melissa Britt told the New York Times in 2010. “You can’t find this place unless someone tells you about it.” Another patron added, “If you don’t take the train, you’d probably never even know this place exists.”
Most people who use this branch “don’t come here for serious research,” says the branch manager — they want page-turners for the commute — but don’t think the librarians don’t offer reference services. “They come in asking for help with the MetroCard machine,” the manager told the Times. “We do help them if we’re not too busy, and they also ask us for subway maps, so we keep a lot of them on hand.”