There are times in this job when you uncover a gem of a hotel for which you had no expectations at all (not because you'd heard bad things, but simply because it had until then escaped your attention!). Library hotel is one of those gems. Its theme, as you may have guessed from the name it bears, is the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries around the world. Not only is this a truly original theme which is well exploited in the hotel, but the real genius is that it is one that will never go out of fashion. The hotel itself, which has a great Midtown location and is renowned for its impeccable service, is beautifully appointed and decorated and boasts features which other hotels can only look upon with envy. The Library would be an ideal hotel for couples, friends or families in New York on either business or pleasure.
Positioned on one of Manhattan's most famous thoroughfares, Madison Avenue, the hotel enjoys a privileged situation with all the tourist attractions within easy reach. Times Square is just the other side of New York Public Library, while Broadway and its theatres and the shopping hotspots on Fifth and Madison Avenues, as well as the Rockefeller Center, are within walking distance. Grand Central station is at the next block while 5th Avenue metro station is a block the other way. JFK is 17 miles away, La Guardia 8 miles and Newark 17.
Almost as if by design, the hotel has the same number of floors as there are main categories of the Dewey Decimal System. Each floor is themed according to one of these topics which are: Social Sciences, Languages, Maths and Science, Technology, The Arts, Literature, History, General Knowledge, Philosophy and Religion. The six rooms on each of those ten floors are then given a sub-theme, for example 'Fairy Tales' (literature), 'Oceanography' (history) and 'Architecture' (The Arts). By all means request upon reservation a particular room and staff will do their best to accommodate your preference. Each of the rooms features art and books relevant to its adopted subject, with a total of 6,000 books in the hotel. The building in which the Library is housed was built in the early 20th century and, before becoming a hotel in 2000, was offices. Library is part of HK hotels, owned by Czech Henry Kallan who also owns the Hotel Elysée, Giraffe Hotel, Casablanca Hotel and the Monkey Bar (next door), all of which are in New York as well as the Aria Hotel in Prague.
The exterior of the hotel is in dark brown brick and features some criss-cross work in a lighter shade. The entrance is through an elegant stone arch flanked by windows with the building's address written out in words above. The lobby is particularly welcoming with classical music playing in the background and bookshelves packed with volumes to the left between which is a seating area dominated by a painting of the New York Public Library, just steps away in reality. The monkeys staring out on to the street from the window sill are a tribute to the bar next door. The hotel does not have either a gym or a wellness centre; it's just not that type of place (although complimentary passes to the New York Sports Club can be arranged). The way to unwind at the Library is to head up to the Reading Room, a swanky lounge open 24 hours a day where guests can get stuck into a book taken from the room's shelves. Leather-backed seating alcoves punctuate the bookcases and there are several clusters of tables and smart white armchairs for, among other things, heated literary debates until the early hours! A shiny black piano sits in the corner complete with sheet music for those wishing to tinkle the old ivories. At the top of the hotel are two more spots for winding down. The first of these is the Writers' Den, a cosy lounge with a gas fireplace, flatscreen television, classical music in the background and of course a collection of reading material. The seaside snaps on the wall are fun. Adjoining the room is a covered terrace with seating surrounded by green plants. From above, the neighbourhood's skyscrapers look down upon the yuppies who come in for a drink at the bar (4pm til midnight) after work each night. The Poetry Garden and Terrace has a similar set up with an interior, conservatory-like lounge and an outside space surrounded by the wonderful stonework seen embracing the hotel's entrance. The inside is bright and airy with wicker furniture and various plants giving a burst of colour to the room. On the terrace are a myriad of potted plants and worn wooden garden furniture with lots of mini tables dotted around making it a real quaint oasis in the city. There is no particular stunning view, but it is definitely a pleasant summer spot all the same. The hotel has a business centre which guests are welcome to take advantage of on a complimentary basis while it also holds a collection of 175 DVDs which you can borrow, also without charge. Between 5pm and 8pm a cheese and wine reception is held for hotel guests (again, free of charge). The hotel's staff, clothed in locally made uniforms, is charming and live up to its reputation. For a hotel that opened a decade ago it is in remarkable condition throughout and there are great bits of memorabilia around the property. Not to be missed is the beautifully painted mural running the length of the staircase. Breakfast, unusually for New York, is included in the room rate.
The 60 rooms at the Library are spaced equally over its 10 floors meaning minimum fuss outside your room and maximum quietude. Although there are four different types of room, they all enjoy pretty much the same amenities; only the size changes. Simply yet smartly appointed, they feature either a single, queen or king bed with a padded leather headboard, a marble-topped dresser with snacks and complimentary water, iPod docking station, flatscreen television, DVD player, a well-stocked minibar, bathrobes, slippers, iron and ironing board and safe. You'll find a host of books on the theme of the room as well as related paintings or photos on the wall. The bathrooms are of a good size and have fresh green/grey tiling and towels and a marble-topped vanity with Thymes toiletries. Above the bathroom door is an opaque window through which shines one of the lights acting as a sort of nightlight for the bedroom. The Junior Suites have a little extra space for a small living area with couch and coffee table. The only suite to have a balcony is that dedicated to love, from which you can see the New York Public Library and there is an uninterrupted view of Madison Avenue.
Madison and Vine is the hotel's restaurant which sits on the corner of Madison and 41st Street. The two floor eatery is open for lunch and dinner during the week and in the evenings only at weekends. Downstairs the tables are fairly tightly packed but the room is bright and crisp and in the summer the sliding windows open fully for an alfresco feel. Behind the bar the wines are piled up in racks framed by pointed arches. More of a neighbourhood number than a place to come to from afar, its menu features salads, sandwiches, several meat and seafood dishes and simple desserts. Three courses would set you back between $40 and $60, wine not included.
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