secret rooms in libraries

One of the librarians showed me the secret room in the library if I’d write something about it. There is a secret room in the ceiling of VTC’s Hartness Library. Eames in the eaves You turn a key in a keyhole in a brick wall and a staircase descends from the ceiling with a great rumbling. Climing the stairs gets you into a disused room that used to be the bindery area but is now just used for storing shelves and old Eames chairs. It’s an odd and noisy room since it’s right next to the room where all the HVAC equipment is. They don’t use the room anymore because of ADA requirements and because it’s darned complicated to get into and out of when the library is open. I’ll add this freaky little room to my list of library attics and basements that I’ve been compiling. Places that don’t have elevators, places that are inaccessible or otherwise tough to get into. Thanks, Ben, for showing me another one. Here’s the list I can put together off the top of my head so far.


15 thoughts on “secret rooms in libraries

  1. Cool post! More pictures! Sorry to hear that ADA requirements forbid it being used more. The mind reels at the possibilities of a library with a hidden room. The secret lair of a mild-mannered librarian by day and superhero by night would be the most obvious choice I suppose, but other possibilities are easily imagined. Thanks Jess!

  2. That’s pretty remarkable–libraries have lots of delightful “secrets” in the form of fabulous books one can often find nowhere else, but it never occurred to me to look for actual secret rooms, too.

  3. You have no idea how much I want to see all of these… and how much I want to get to explore all that must be inside the depths of the Astor Lenox Tilden building of the NYPL.

    If you ever get an invite down there, take me with you? :)

  4. I swear if I look at all those links I will dream I am in the bowels of a very old library tonight…! NOT for bedtime, I will look at it tomorrow though!! thanks.

  5. We have underground fallout shelter tunnels at the Downtown Reno library…old civil defense supplies and all.

  6. Have you ever had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Boston Public Library, Jessamyn? I’m thinking you might have, but if not, give me a holler next time you’re down here! We have tons of nooks and crannies in the Central Library that are really fun to get lost in, provided you bring a cell phone. I *have* had trouble finding my way out of some levels of closed stacks…

  7. Does this qualify? The Morristown, NJ, public library is running out of a store front while the library building gets repaired after a huge explosion wiped out its basement! No one was hurt. I have a picture of a portion of the store front, if anyone is interested.

  8. The Paterson (NJ) Public Library was built in 1905, designed by Henry Bacon, who later designed the Lincoln Memorial. It was “renovated” in 1967 and when a room was shifted and a hallway created to access the stacks building, a room that was part of the old art library was walled up. The maintenance supervisor discovered it around 5 years ago, when he was on a ladder and moved a few ceiling tiles to trace ductwork. We are thinking of putting a door in – we really need the office space!

  9. My branch is an 80 year old mansion, complete with tunnels, an old coal burning furnace that is so huge they couldn’t remove it when we upgraded the system, and a “mushroom room” (yes they used to grow mushrooms there!) with a dirt floor. We have a great 25 minute video of the history of our building on our website. Go to, then click on Branches and choose South Euclid-Lyndhurst. Enjoy!

  10. There is a room off the women’s staff bathroom on the 5th floor of the Newberry Library in Chicago. It is set up like a hotel room with two double beds, a nightstand and a desk.

  11. The Central Library at the Monroe County Library system (Rochester, NY) has a secret room:
    (The following is from the library’s webpage at

    Secret Room

    A memorable feature of the Children’s Center is the Secret Room, which is entered through a hidden door in the wall. The room houses the George W. Cooper International Doll Collection. In the 1930s, through a doll exchange with schools and organizations in other countries, the students and teachers of #43 School gathered a collection of 180 dolls dressed in traditional clothing. Since its donation to the library in 1940, the collection has grown through individual donations to over 200 dolls.

  12. Sounds very Underground Railroad-ish! Fun post & comments.

  13. Our new (2007) library has a storage room under the stairs. The door is part of a paneled wall, so it’s pretty much invisible.

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