“Press? I could tell by your clothes…” sniffed one greeter at the New York Public Library’s black-tie Library Lions gala last night, analyzing this GalleyCat editor’s corduroy jacket, wrinkled slacks, and uncharacteristically snazzy leather shoes. The guests sipped cocktails in a lavishly decorated salon inside the library, the room decked out with candles, ten-foot-tall floral arrangements, and a paparazzi crew. For one glitzy night, NYC high society dined alongside media moguls like Si Newhouse and novelists like Colson Whitehead.
Once inside, this GalleyCat editor quizzed guests about the one thing that really matters in this world: books. Actor, author and host John Lithgow recalled his favorite library book: “At my library in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I checked out the entire short works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” he recalled. “It was great storytelling.”
Author Fran Lebowitz reminisced about checking out a John O’Hara book with her mother’s library card. The librarian forced the young reader to call her mother to confirm that she could check out the racy title: “She didn’t care!” exclaimed Lebowitz. “That ruined my mother’s reputation at that library.”
The gala honored Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Annie Proulx (author of “Brokeback Mountain”) and illustrator Hilary Knight (who illustrated the Eloise books for children). Both creators have donated their papers to the NYPL. In addition, NYPL librarians Janice Moore-Smith and David Smith were honored.
Finally, NYPL Julia Chang–honored last night for her work as supervising librarian for children’s programs–talked about her most inspirational library book: “I was a reluctant reader. My mother brought home Curious George, and I was so fascinated by the pictures and action. That started my reading career,” she explained. “I think digital books are wonderful–they help promote reading. We are more able to rehabilitate reluctant readers. A child who wouldn’t read a book might read it on an iPod or a computer.”