Even more than my beloved Gates, my favorite place at the school was the former Graland library. Like the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, it was this bibliophile’s answer to the Elysian Fields. It was a glorious place of comfort: the fireplace in the Lower School library, the shelves filled with new and old books, the sounds of the Lower School librarian reading something as wonderful as Ezra Keats’s A Snowy Day, the welcoming staff always eager to answer research questions, the towering card catalogue , the Christmas trim-a-tree party, classical music, even coffee, etc.
I am not here to diss the new library -- a beautiful space and probably even more wonderful than the library I knew. Yet, for me, even though I was 29 years old, not a child, when I came to Graland School, remembering that library is my nostalgia -- comparable to insisting when I was child the importance of saying hi to **Prudence and Fortitude, the mighty lions, who guarded the entrance to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
The “old” Graland library was the safest place on this campus during my first year. I loved the Higbie Room, especially when it was a reference room -- I even taught eighth grade English in that room. Imagine my happiness when I discovered I could move to the old library classroom and teach Latin there. I was seconds away from the books and the sounds. Oh, I mourned the loss of the card catalogue, but dear Inara Humeyumptewa smilingly reminded me I would survive the loss. However, it was more enjoyable talking to the card catalogue than all versions of the electronic one -- I always mess them up, especially when I use an iPad. The good news is I have memorized certain call numbers I love. I must add: being in the library for a few years was almost as wonderful as my classrooms in Gates. When I left the library and my classroom, I was forlorn for months. However, nocturnal and weekend visits there have energized me. Thomas Wolfe, you erred. You can go home again, as long as the building is still there.
**The lions were “born” in the Bronx and first dubbed Leo Astor and Leo Lenox after John Jacob Astor and James Lenox, who founded the library. At one point, Fortitude became temporarily female, so called Lady Astor, and her brother, Lord Lenox. During the Great Depression, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia changed their names once and for all to Patience and Fortitude. Patience lounges on the south side of the steps. Fortitude to the north.