November 2022 Issue

Countee Cullen Library

William Quinonez

It’s hidden underneath pyramids of scaffolding and neighboring trees. It is a treasure chest that can be found on the corner of 136th and Lenox Ave; across the street from Harlem Hospital’s “Pursuit of Happiness” mural. Down the street from our window and wobbly desk is a small library known as Countee Cullen.

When I first moved to the city, one of my main goals was to explore the vast realms of local libraries. I wanted to establish myself as a loyal member of the public resources, which would require proof of address and photo ID. The day I received my library card was the day I was knighted by the catalog people. The community that makes up the shelves.

I spent the formative days of my summer at Countee Cullen while attending my first semester at City College. I enjoyed the air-conditioning and communal quietness that surrounded the book-filled walls. There was a sense of belonging when the people of Harlem came into the library to study, work, and relax. On-time were the routine scholars getting their autobiographical fill. The after-school youth brigade who in silence can still create a revolution. Then there are the sunglasses sleepers with the newspaper in one hand and dreams in the other. I hope to be a member of each. 

If you are new to the city like me, it may benefit you to know about some of the resources the library provides. There is the Simply E app that gives anyone with a library card access to digital copies of books and audiobooks. You can reserve copies that are in high demand. You can visit the NYPL website and explore the currentevents and exhibitions at different branches.If you are a fan of the Velvet Underground, there is currently a free Lou Reed exhibit at the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. It explores the artist's rare never before seen solo work. It also comes with a custom Lou Reed library card.
A friend of mine works at the Ottendorfer Library in the East Village. He works in the Children's department playing music, reading, and teaching. If I ever have any particular interest regarding research and school, he always wants to help by providing suggestions and recommendations. He is of service and one of many knowledgeable librarians. 

Attached to the Countee Cullen Library is the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. It is currently open through appointments for research purposes. The Schomburg Center has vital archives and multiple exhibits. There is an ongoing exhibit titled Been Seen, which explores the work of Austin Hansen, a Harlem-based photographer of the twentieth century. The research center is also celebrating Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month through photography and film materials.

Ultimately, the library is a place where I can cultivate a mindset of curiosity and exploration. I am proud to be a member and hope to utilize the resources as much as possible. If you have some time to spare, check out Harlem’s libraries. Beware though if you are like me, you may get lost in awe of all the great books and movies that before you know it’s closing time and the whole day has passed you by.

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