Reading Room

The original Reading Room began in August of 1935 as a public response to the Depression Era job losses in New York. Many people did not have anywhere to go during the day, and no prospects for jobs. The New York Public Library opened the “Open Air Library” to give these out-of-work businessmen and intellectuals a place to go where they did not need money, a valid address, a library card, or any identification to enjoy the reading materials.

The 1935 Reading Room consisted of several benches, a few book and magazine cases, and a table with a beach umbrella for the five librarians who ran it. It operated every day except Sunday from mid-morning until mid-evening. Most of the books were from the New York Public Library’s circulation, but all magazines and trade publications were donated by publishers or individuals. When it rained the books and periodicals were quickly put in a large water-proof chest and readers and librarians took cover. No cards were required – patrons were simply asked to sign in and out. The Reading Room was closed in 1944 due to an increase in jobs and World War II.

The Bryant Park Corporation has repeated history by recreating the Bryant Park Reading Room. It is modeled after the original with the additions of custom-designed carts for an extensive and eclectic selection of books, periodicals and newspapers; readings and programs at lunchtime, after work and for kids; movable furniture to create a more intimate environment; and kid-sized carts and furniture for children to use. The programming, publications, and environment of the Reading Room are available to everyone for free, without any need of cards or identification.

Books and Staff

We are fortunate to receive book donations from publishers of the periodicals, books, and newspapers that fill the shelves of the Reading Room. Thanks to all that donate.

Thanks also go to the dedicated people who staff the Reading Room whenever it is open. If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Special Thanks To:


Exclusive sponsor since 2003

Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press
Classics and Reference Library


Gift of Children’s Library

Random House Library Marketing

Random House Library Marketing
Gift of Children’s Library

Mitchell's NY

Mitchell's NY
Newspaper Delivery since 2003

Special thanks also go to Condé Nast, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Time Inc., and Rodale, who have steadily supplied the Reading Room with magazines since 2003.

Special thanks to the New York Public Library for providing us with a rain venue for some of our events.

View map of the park


  • The Reading Room is open 11am to 7pm daily

Upcoming Reading Room Events

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lively and entertaining commentary on Paranoia in film. With resident film expert Scott Adlerberg and author Dennis Tafoya.

In case of rain, Word for Word Reel Talks will be canceled.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hosted by: Cali Co Cat

Tails, meowsic, and arts & crafts to boot!

In case of rain, Word for Word Storytime will be canceled.


Paul Greenberg, Ocean Life Expert and Best-selling Author of Four Fish
American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

Karl Weber, Founder and President, Karl Weber Literary
Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer – and What You Can Do

Rain information:
In case of rain, events are held under a tent at the Reading Room. In case of severe weather, please check for the indoor location.


Featuring the Poets of Sibling Rivalry Press:

Saeed Jones
Rickey Laurentiis
Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Wendy Chin-Tanner
Valerie Wetlaufer
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
Brock Guthrie

Presented in partnership with Sibling Rivalry Press

Rain information:
In case of rain, events are held under a tent at the Reading Room. In case of severe weather, please check for the indoor location.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Dynamic twosome from Clerks make a rare appearance in honor of their new book, an illustrated collection on how to wreak havoc wherever you go.

Kevin Smith will pre-sign books prior to the event that will be sold on-site, day-of. Jason Mewes will sign books following the event and will be happy to take photos with people who purchase the book. Please note: Only books will be signed at this event - No memorabilia.

Rain information:
In case of rain, events are held under a tent at the Reading Room. In case of severe weather, please check for the indoor location.