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 6, 2015

Lively and entertaining commentary on the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.

With resident film expert Scott Adlerberg and film critic and author Stephen Whitty.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hosted by: Cali Co Cat

Tails, Meowsic, and Arts & Crafts to boot!

In case of rain, Word for Word StoryTime will be cancelled.


Bruce Lourie & Rick Smith, Canadian Environmentalists & Authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck & Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World.

Tom Szaky, CEO Terracycle Global Recycling
Albe Zakes, Global VP of Communications, Terracycle Global Recycling
Make Garbage Great: The Terracycle Family Guide to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Hosted by Adam Sobel, Atmospheric Scientist, Professor Columbia University
Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future

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:

Tony Hoagland, Twenty Poems That Could Save America and Other Essays
Jeffrey McDaniel, Chapel of Inadvertent Joy
Regie Cabico, Flicker and Spark: a Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry

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 8, 2015

Lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour sounds off about the things that tick him off most – not the least of which is the sorry state of lots of music today.

Learn more about Corey!
Learn more about Lou!

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.