Landmarks aren’t always about looks; sometimes, they are about books! This Tuesday, April 12, 2016, the Roosevelt Island library will be honored with a designation as a Literary Landmark. This designation recognizes the Island’s appearance in a number of prominent literary works and is a great distinction for our library.
The library is accepting the designation on behalf of the Island as a whole. The Island and library were nominated by the Empire State Center for the Book, which received Discretionary Grant funding from Council Member Ben Kallos to dedicate several Landmarks. The library will be presented with a plaque indicating its status, which will be displayed in the new library location upon completion.
Considering the Island’s unique history, it’s not surprising it has popped up in so many works of literature. It is the setting for Ten Days in a Mad-House, a compilation of a series of articles written in 1887 by journalist Nellie Bly that exposed the poor treatment of patients at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum (the main entrance of which still stands as the entrance to The Octagon.) The Island also makes an appearance in a number of other books, including Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger (published 1868), Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane (1892), The Cop and the Anthem by O. Henry (1904), and the play The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill (1922.)
According to Roosevelt Island Branch Manager Nicole Nelson, our library is now “more than a library; [it’s] a literary destination!” Nelson said it is a huge personal accomplishment to work at a Literary Landmark, and the dedication will also promote and raise the profile of both the library and the Island.
Literary Landmark designations are awarded by the Literary Landmarks Association, founded in 1986 “to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites” and their preservation. The Association is assisted by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and the Empire State Center for the Book. Our library will be listed on the ALA and Empire State Center for the Book websites among other prominent literary locations, including homes of famous writers (Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner), settings of books and plays (Willa Cather’s Prairie near Red Cloud, Nebraska), significant museum collections, and other miscellaneous memorabilia (the dead and now stuffed pet raven of Charles Dickens that inspired Edgar Allan Poe.)
When asked about the significance of the designation, New York Public Library Senior Publicist Amy Geduldig said it would “educate and inform not only Roosevelt Island residents, who are deeply proud of their home, but those who travel to Roosevelt Island to visit.”