And what chairs these are! As far as wooden chairs go, the Rose Main Reading Room’s model seems designed to hold you and keep you, providing a firm launching pad for your loftiest thoughts.
In these chairs, no amateurish, collegiate study positions are tolerated. Your feet rest so solidly on the floor, they will never seek out under-table ledges or chair rungs; they will not curl up beneath you. The arms, a graceful slope of polished wood, support the arms all the way to the table edge, where they meet it at perfect ergonomic height for typing or writing. The seat features a slight depression for each thigh. The curved chair-back hits just below the shoulder blades, and the carved central slat ensures your spine is straight. The legs are not on casters, and it takes a forceful nudge to wrest them from their spot, making it even easier to just stay put.
In fact, the grating of the chair legs scraping the floor tiles is perhaps the most prominent sound in the room. The silence of the Rose Reading Room is the most dignified—sacred, even—of any public space I’ve encountered in the city. There is no laughter, chatter, or exclamations, only muffled coughs, the clicks of pens and the plastic buckles on backpacks.
The distant rattles and bangs of the medieval book-delivery machine in the center of the room, which conveys books from the library’s forty-mile inner sanctum of shelves, seem to echo the churnings of the many minds bent over the tables. And if your mind should chance to wander, all you have to do is stay right there in your seat and look up to the ceiling, where, fifty-two feet above, ceiling panels painted with luminous sky and billowing clouds greet you, offering escape and, perhaps, inspiration.