Future of libraries: Magic is alive at the library | SierraSun.com

Future of libraries: Magic is alive at the library

Pam McAdoo
Special to the Sun

Editor’s note

This is the ninth in a series of articles exploring the varied ways that public libraries are continuing to reinvent their services and facilities in order to respond to technological innovation and the specific needs and populations of the communities they serve.

Click here to read part one of the series.

Click here to read part two of the series.

Click here to read part three of the series.

Click here to read part four of the series.

Click here to read part five of the series.

Click here to read part six of the series.

Click here to read part seven of the series.

Click here to read part eight of the series.

What’s in a library? These days the answer seems to be, “just about anything.”

A few blocks from the Empire State Building in New York City is the 2600-square-foot Conjuring Arts Research Center, a library full of magical secrets, where interns and volunteers help a staff of six watch over the collection of 12,000 volumes, manuscripts and letters.

Narrow corridors lead to rooms with tall bookshelves filled with tomes on everything from ventriloquism to escapology.

Glass cases guard artifacts such as Houdini’s handcuffs, and the collection includes rare Italian pamphlets sold by street magicians in the 1500s; a fragment of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” from 1476; and a collection of magic periodicals, some from as far back as the 1700s.

There’s even a hidden door leading to secret rooms where one of the employees lives.

In 2003, Bill Kalush, whose father introduced him to magic, founded the non-profit library to house his growing collection of magic books.

The mission statement explains that the Center is, “dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of magic and its allied arts … a valuable resource for performers, historians, collectors, and the general public, with its extensive working library of books and periodicals, many of which are not readily available anywhere else.”

Browsers are not allowed, but anyone with a request for specific information may request an appointment to use the resources.

A simple proposal which includes research project goals, a list of up to five resources you plan to use, and end uses of the research will be reviewed by the librarian and forwarded to the board for approval.

If the proposal is approved, you may schedule a two-hour appointment to visit. If you can’t make it to the Center in person, you may pay to access “Ask Alexander,” the Center’s digital archive of over 2.500,000 pages of material dating back to the beginning of printing.

And, should your gala event require it, the Conjuring Arts Research Center can recommend a fully vetted magician for hire.

Pam McAdoo is a board member of the Friends of the Truckee Library. Visit truckeefol.org to learn more.