Nightclub for Nerds

Just after 10 p.m., Leila Taylor, the creative director of the Brooklyn Public Library, stepped onto a platform in the Central Library at 10 Grand Army Plaza and read a quote from the eccentric paper architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. In Architecture, Essay on Art, unpublished until 1953, Boullée writes: “If there’s one project that should please an Architect, and at the same time, fire his genius, it is a Public Library.” Hushed cheers and soft claps filled the huge wing devoted to Languages & Literature. I’d gotten to the talk early, so when I turned around I was astonished to see roughly two hundred people leaning on bookshelves and sitting on the floor behind me. Some were taking notes; others ate muffins or drank from straws stabbed into big green coconuts.

The eighth annual Night in the Library—which was a tick cooler back when it was co-sponsored by the French Embassy—ran from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., free and open to the public. (The French programming would go for twelve hours, and the speakers were better.) Lecture topics ranged from Palestinian liberation to the e…

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