In New York, I ran into a roadblock. My previous libraries either had incredibly long hours, like the University of Washington, or had incredibly long hours and also let me check books out for free, like the University of Montana and my college library. The only exception, the Library of Congress, had mediocre hours and the books didn’t circulate, but the main building happened to be a short bike ride away from my cheap apartment on the edge of Capitol Hill. In New York, in that first year, the only place I could afford was a $560-a-month room in Crown Heights. My one reliable freelance gig—aggregating news articles for a blog—required me to send in my work at 11 AM. I spent the rest of the day working on book reviews. The main branch of the New York Public Library closed at 6 PM. It was an hour away by subway. When I got there, if I found the book I needed, I couldn’t take it home. I hardly ever went.

The other research libraries in town, at Columbia and NYU, refused to admit the public, and there was no way I could afford the fees they charged to get in the door, let alone the even more exorbitant fees they charged to check out their books. Strangely, given all the good books that have been written here, New York was the first place since leaving Idaho that I didn’t have easy access to a good library.