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A Library Frozen In Time

At the Young Men’s Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut hearing “shhhhhhhhhh” would be quite appropriate. You see, this gem of a place tucked into the downtown area of the Elm City is the state’s oldest living literary institution and one of the last remaining membership libraries in North America. Who knew? Well I didn’t, but I’m about to tell you all about this wonderfully cozy back-in-the-day place.

My tour guide was Maryann Ott. Ott was brought on board by the trustees of The Insitute Library to develop a new following for this amazing place. It was founded in 1826, by six young men, but it was not until 1878 that it found it’s permanent home at 847 Chapel Street. As the decades went on women were brought on, but they had their section, and the men had theirs.

The place is truly frozen in time, I would say maybe 1930’s or 1940’s era. There are books in this place that are probably priceless such as writings on the Great Flood of 1936 and tons of out-of-print books about world notables. This library of course has the  card catalog system with cards written in hand, some beautifully, going back to when it was founded, can you imagine that? There are directories, now known as phone books, that date to the early 1800’s. At The Institute Library you get over-the-phone service, and if you need a book they will send it right out to you thru the mail. This is business done the old fashioned way. You just have to see it to believe it, cozying up here with a book, well it’s a wonderful experience.

There are three floors, but the first is the only working space right now. The second floor was once upon a time a place for children, didn’t even get to what is on the third floor. The building still has crank-open open ceiling windows, and the light fixtures throughout, all vintage. If the walls could only talk.

You have to have a membership here to be able to come in and check out books, you can do that for the bargain price of $25.00. It is the hope in the very near future that lots of folks will begin to know about this gem in New Haven, that it will become a kind of “salon” where talks are given and events are held.

Oh, by the way, you won’t find the Dewey Decimal system for its 28,000 books, no siree, it has a system all it’s own that was developed by William Borden. In 1910 Borden took his way of cataloging books to India, and the whole country embraced it. So that makes only two places in the world, New Haven and the country of India, with this strange cataloging, pretty cool right?

You’ll find plenty of books on the state of Connecticut that go oh so far back, but you’ll also find brand new books too.

Spread the word about this wonderful place and become a member. Get involved to help ensure that this vintage library keeps its place in a modern day world, it’s important.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Ann Nyberg

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