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The Library Hotel takes its theme seriously

One block south and one block east of two of New York’s greatest Beaux Arts gems – Grand Central Terminal and The New York Public Library, respectively – stands the Library Hotel, 14 floors of sleek modernity, engaging whimsy and poetic imagination.

As the name and location implies, the Library Hotel is a kind of a library, organized according to the Dewey Decimal System, beloved by libraries, bookworms and Type A personalities everywhere. The 10 floors featuring 60 rooms correspond to Melvil Dewey’s classifications of books, in which 000s represent general knowledge and journalism; 100s, philosophy; 200s, religion; 300s, social sciences; 400s, languages; 500s, math and science; 600s, technology; 700s, the arts; 800s, literature; and 900s, history and geography.

But this being a hotel rather than a library, the Library Hotel has taken a bit of literary license with Dewey’s categories, says Adele Gutman, the hotel’s warm “honorary librarian.” Her actual title is vice president of sales, marketing and revenue for the Library Hotel Collection in Manhattan, which includes the Casablanca Hotel, inspired by the iconic film; the family-friendly Hotel Giraffe; and Hotel Elysée, a touch of Old New York where The Monkey Bar & Grill has welcomed everyone from Marlon Brando to Tennessee Williams.

At the Library Hotel, the 000s through 200s are the 10th through 12th floors. Otherwise, the “library” would start in the lobby. This also allows for the bright, comfortable Reading Room on the second floor, which includes 24-hour beverages and goodies as well as complimentary wine and cheese from 5 to 8 p.m. Lined with general interest titles along with magazines and newspapers, the Reading Room is a favorite of business folks as well as bibliophiles, Gutman says.

The boutique hotel – only 25 feet across and 100 feet long – has also had some fun with the Dewey system on the individual floors, whose classifications are announced by lit signage. On the seventh floor, you’ll find a room dedicated to Fashion Design (700.006), which technically is not part of the arts in the world according to Dewey. But who cares when Vera Wang herself picked out the books and accompanying artwork?

This is one of two rooms that was not curated by Gutman and Hollywood set designer Jordan Jacobs, whose father, Stephen B. Jacobs, served as the hotel’s architect. The other is the Love Room (1100.006) on the 11th floor, whose accoutrements were selected by Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

“People come from all over the world and say, ‘We want to be in the Love Room,’” Gutman says.

Though it does include a copy of the “Kama Sutra,” the ancient Hindu sex manual, the Love Room contains “nice” books on the theme of amour, she adds. (Remember, this is the high-minded philosophy floor.)

For the “naughty” love tomes, including another “Kama Sutra,” you’ll have to reserve the Erotic Literature Room (800.001) on the eighth floor.

Whatever your intellectual passion, you’ll receive the same kind of accommodations – a sparely elegant room or suite with rich cherry wood, crisp bedding, spa-like bath and artistic and bookish appointments that entice without overwhelming. The interior design is by Andi Pepper, architect Stephen Jacobs’ wife and collaborator.

Recently, the hotel updated the bedding and carpeting, adding a long brown pillow/bolster that bears the thought “Book lovers never go to bed alone.” The $1 million’s worth of wood is periodically refinished by John Craig.

But none of it – the lovely surroundings, the clever theme – would work were it not for a dedicated staff that has taken the bibliographic ball and run with it, says Gutman, who was the first person hotelier Henry Kallan hired for the Library Hotel, in 2000.

“What makes the hotel is an exceptional staff. They really feel as if they are part of the surroundings.”

Apparently, so do the guests, who each year tend to “borrow” a couple of hundred of the hotel’s 6,000 titles, originally purchased at the Strand Book Store, a Greenwich Village institution, for some $85,000.

“Who knows where (the books) go,” Gutman muses. “But that’s OK. We need to refresh the collection.”

What is clear is that the Library Hotel is a good place to refresh your spirit. The minute you walk into the lobby off the heart of Manhattan (Madison Avenue and 41st Street), you feel as if you’re in another world – a quieter, softer world where people offer information with a smile and go about their business thoughtfully.

Which is not to say that the Library Hotel lacks liveliness. By day, the 14th floor rooftop Writer’s Den & Poetry Garden is an airy yet cozy respite for thinking. By night, the space turns into the Bookmarks Lounge, where the locals can sip such witty concoctions as the Jackie Collins (orange vodka, fresh lemon and lime juices topped with lemon-lime soda); The Hemingway (aged rum, lime juice, muddled mint, crowned with Champagne); and the Tequila Mockingbird (tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime juice and minced ginger).

Speaking of Hem, you can make like Papa and belly up to the bar in Madison & Vine, the hotel’s intimate street-level restaurant, which is always packed with the lunch bunch and dinner crowd. (WAG was able to savor the butternut squash ravioli in a buttery sage sauce while getting in some quality writing time.)

Says Gutman, “There’s something for everyone here that makes it a personal experience for them.”

Rooms range from $299 to $799. For more, call (212) 983-4500 or visit libraryhotel.com.

 

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