Unsurprisingly, the SVA Library Pictures Collection contains a rather robust “Libraries” folder. The folder is packed with architectural delights of the book-housing variety, and offers glimpses of moments like impeccably-coiffed librarians from the 1960s and 70s helping guileless students do research, people of all ages perusing titles, and artist Cindy Sherman in the stacks. The folder also contains quite a few images of the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd street being used over the course of many decades. The folder provides a fascinating look into the history of how these spaces were designed, used, and have shifted in terms of both form and function over time. As any bibliophile will tell you, libraries are sacred spaces. Although many have been quick to herald their imminent death, libraries have generally been quick to adapt to new technologies and prove their unwavering value. A visit to any public library in New York will demonstrate that they are decidedly not the ghost towns the over-excited pallbearers of the book era claimed they would become in the age of the internet. While certainly their computers are often their most used resource, the fact that public libraries remain lively community centers and offer super-accessible reliable information means that they are still invaluable social institutions (especially in a United States where the public sphere is being systematically reduced).

Two women holding books look at other books, surrounded by books on shelves.

A woman reads a book while standing on a raised library platform.
Interior shot of the NYPL Schwarzmann building reading room.
Two children sit at a table reading in a room lined with bookshelves. The girl wears a blue blazer and pigtails, and the boy wears a gray and red striped blazer. They both have brown hair.

Artist Cindy Sherman appears before bookshelves wearing a blonde wig, white headscarf and white shirt.
Cindy Sherman, ArtNews cover Winter 2018
A black and white photograph displays a cavernous room with an indoor balcony lined on all sides by bookshelves.
January 1948

Three people browse books at a bookstore, one woman sits on the ground while perusing her book of choice.

Interior shot of the Salle Ovalle of the Richelieu Library in Paris.
La Salle Ovalle, Richelieu Library Paris
Interior of the NYC Public Library main reading room taken from within the staff section of the room.
NYC Public Library main reading room, April 30th 1961

Stately library interior.
Some library patrons peruse stacks in a conceptually-designed, modern wood-pannelled library.
Man wearing a blue sweater and leaning his head on his palm consults one book from a pile in a library. To the left of the image is a large metal bust of a bearded man.
The 5th Avenue facade of the New York Public Library, Schwarzmann building.
A chandelier hangs from the ceiling of a green room with domed ceilings. Two out of three of the visible walls are made up of book shelving, and the third is made up of windows.
A man and a woman consult drawers filled with catalog cards. On the left is a large metal bust of a man.

The interior of the British Library Reading Room.
British Museum Reading Room, London
Visitors consult display cases filled with codexes in the Vatican library.
Vatican Library, April 1957
People mill around in an ornate, beautifully designed old library.
October 1956

Library patrons read in individual desk cubicles.

A woman blows a bubblegum bubble while reading a book, her ankles are crossed and she leans back in her chair with her feet up on the table.