Patience and Fortitude are the nicknames of the marble lions that guard the Fifth Ave. entrance to the famous New York Public Library building on 42nd St., but you may need a little of both if you want to use the free wireless Internet there for more than a couple hours at a time.
The NYPL recently opened a Wi–Fi Reading Room and Laptop Loan center in the elegant confines of the Edna Barnes Salomon Room, which has been the site of many art and book exhibitions and other special events. Aside from the classic paintings on the wall and the high ceilings, the room offers 16 long tables, each with eight comfortable chairs, thus providing seating for 128 Wi–Fi users. If you don’t have your own laptop, you can borrow one for use in the room at no charge.
So what’s missing from this picture? Power.
None of the tables here offer an AC power outlet. Thus you’re at the mercy of your laptop’s battery, which of course drains a little quicker when you’re using its Wi–Fi adapter.
So what can you do if your device’s low-power warning starts flashing? You could walk across the third floor to the southern half of the equally elegant Rose Main Reading Room, where all of the desks offer AC outlets. The room is covered by Wi–Fi and some of the desks also offer working Ethernet jacks for wired Internet access. Unfortunately, both the wired and wireless Internet access were down when I attempted to use them Tuesday afternoon.
From there you could have walked downstairs to the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, another excellent working space also covered by Wi–Fi, but there are no AC outlets there either.
Kudos to the Fifth Ave. NYPL building for providing free public Internet access in an area where hotels and convention centers charge steep fees for the same. However, sometimes less is more.
Many of the smaller NYPL branches offer free Wi–Fi and dinky tables for laptop use–but they provide AC power strips, thus making them more useful, albeit less comfortable, than the august Wi–Fi Reading Room.
No, I’m not suggesting that the floor in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room be sawed up to accommodate floor AC outlets, but a powerless Wi–Fi Reading Room just misses the point.
What do you think?
Photo and text Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features