Unsurprisingly, the history of The New York Public Library is a storied one. Just last fall, a narrative inextricably tied to their history revealed itself to the world; one that begun at the turn of the twentieth century, back when philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated over $5 million to build more than 60 libraries through New York City, and back when coal was used to heat each of the buildings. During this time, Raymond Clark served as custodian at NYPL’s Washington Heights Library, where he was in charge of heating and maintenance. For over three decades, Clark lived with his son and granddaughter in an apartment that has since been converted to a teen center. The role the library had in shaping the lives of Raymond’s son, Ronald, and his granddaughter, Jamilah, is best described through their own stories — personal accounts from two amazing people who’ve drawn from their lived experiences and gone on to share them with the world. Storycorps and NPR have provided Raymond’s family with the platform they deserve, with the former producing the interview and the latter airing it on their Morning Edition program.
There is so, so much to love here. It’s a reminder of the power of personal, direct accounts, and how the human memory has the ability to illuminate storytelling like nothing else. A reminder of how our humanity is integral to our stories and the stories that resonate with us, and that storytelling is integral to our humanity. A reminder of how storytelling can explain not only our place in this world, but the journey we took to get where we are. I could probably go on. And on. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll just tell you to check it all out. You’ll be glad you did. It involves a blog post, which links to the joint interview, along with a few videos.