“Frank Collerius has been working at the Jefferson Market Library for over two decades. Today we discuss the history behind the ionic building as well as what reading means to him and how everyone should switch from reading digital books to a physical book instead.”
Interview by Danielle Sevier
Produced by Mike Persico
DS: Hi, I’m here with Frank Collerius at the Jefferson Market Library. Frank, what do you do here?
FC: What do I do? I’m the manager, I guess they call me the branch manager of the library. So, I do a little bit of everything. Really.
DS: How long have you been here?
FC: I’ve been here since 1999. Since last century.
DS: Nice, long time.
FC: 23 years.
DS: Excellent. So, I know that the library has a lot of programs for children, for adults, different events. How has that been affected since a pandemic?
FC: We also had a renovation, which many of you know, and pandemic, certainly, and we reopened just a couple of months ago. So, I have to say, we sort of missed a generation of children during those years we were closed, like the baby toddler age. But I have to say if you came an hour earlier, you would have seen a million strollers in the children’s room because we had our baby time today.
DS: Excellent. I used to bring my daughter for the story hour and things like that when she was young.
FC: Exactly. Kids in the neighborhood have come back to the library wonderfully, and adults interestingly have come back
as well. I mean, our patterns of use, I’m still observing them, but they have changed a little bit. I realized libraries, by definition, need to be consistent and reliable to know you can go there and get what you need. However, through no fault of anyone’s, the pandemic disrupted that, and so, coming back is sort of just getting into a routine to say to people that were here and come visit us. I mean, books, amazingly, in terms of circulation, have gone back up to levels of before.
DS: Oh wow that’s incredible, I completely agree!
FC: People love books. And I have to say about books, by the way, is that I’ve learned since the pandemic because I also went online to buy more than I ever did. And I think a lot of people went online because they had to. There was nowhere else to go. We were in lockdown or whatever. And I think now having a book on your bed table, in your house, in your bag, in the kitchen, wherever, one book, an actual book to read without disruption, without interference from text messages. Stuff like that something that’s a physical book between you and the author’s word is, like, one of the best things you can do for your soul. I’m not kidding, when I read a book, I really realized no one knows I’m doing that it’s between me and the author. You get focused because I think you’ve lost a lot of focus going online over the past couple of years. I’ve discovered this for myself personally, so I’m forcing everyone to make sure they check out a book, have one book out at all times, whether you finish it or not. Anyway, that’s my spiel.
DS: I like that, I’m an avid reader, and being in real estate, if I don’t read something that’s outside of real estate and reality every evening, I don’t think I would ever sleep.
FC: I think it helps you sleep. And I don’t mean like, oh, that’s boring to read. It’s just… DS: No, it’s exciting!
FC: It focuses you, and also it builds your vocabulary. I know that sounds sort of schoolish, but I really think all we’ve got is our own human experiences and the language to describe it. I think more authors views on their stories, taking it into your own life gives you more words to describe your own experience.
FC: It’s really important.
DS: Exactly. Very well said. Yes, I agree with that.
FC: Thank you.
DS: So, the other thing I’m curious about, which I just read about, was your reference room, which has rare books of New York City and more specifically of Greenwich Village. I didn’t know about this. Can you tell us something about that?
FC: Yeah, absolutely. The library was opened in 1967.Obviously, this building was a courthouse and was converted because of the public acidizing in Greenwich Village. The public saved the building and asked to be a library since 1967. So since ‘67, librarians have been building this collection of books on the history of the Village and New York in general. So, every generation of librarians come along and added to this collection. So, some are rare, some are interesting, some are hard to find, some are not so hard to find. But it’s an eclectic collection like the Village itself of books of the history of the Village. And we get people all the time browsing it or asking for specific books that they need for research. There’s a book from the 60’s about the old Women’s House of Detention building, which is incredible. And the new book has come out on the just this year that’s amazing too. So that’s part of our collection. The Women’s House of Detention was next door where the garden is now.
DS: Yes. And how big is this collection? Just curious.
FC: Good question. It’s like 25 shelves, maybe a couple of hundred books.
DS: Oh, nice.
FC: I haven’t counted it yet lately, but it is a very interesting collection to walk through. And I love when we have browsers who discover it and look through it. And we also let people check out these books. A little scandalous, but they are referenced. But if somebody really needs it for a research project, I don’t want to deny them. Then they can check it out too, and many do.
DS: That’s very thoughtful. Thank you.
FC: That’s what I like to say.
DS: Excellent. Well, thank you so much. It was a pleasure speaking with you. I really enjoyed it.
FC: Thank you!
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