What constitutes a good hotel…a fluffy pillow, a firm mattress, a good read, perhaps? In today’s competitive landscape, many hotels are trying to distinguish themselves and woo literary-minded guests with in-house libraries, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
Hotels with books: the thinking traveler’s choice
In Newfoundland, the new Fogo Island Inn features furnishings, crafts made by local artisans and a province-focused library. A pair of modern wingback chairs bookend a fireplace in its Dr. Leslie A. Harris Heritage Library, a spacious room with a large central table ringed by books on Newfoundland culture and history. “The 1,000-and-growing book collection was donated by Dr. Harris, past president of Memorial University in St. John’s, the province’s capital, and supplemented by Newfoundland publisher Harry Cuff Publications. Its topics range from island folklore and how to salt cod to Newfoundland breed dogs and vernacular architecture,” as stated in The Times article. Guests wander into the library to peruse the shelves, borrowing selections to take to the lounge or back to their room
The three-year-old Ballyfin in County Laois in central Ireland is in a restored 17th-century manor house with a generous portion of its ground floor devoted to a library “befitting a ‘Masterpiece Theater’ production, with fireplaces at either end, a 19th-century replica chandelier and windows that overlook a garden fountain,” the article reports. Its mahogany shelves hold over 5,000 books, many rare, on topics from ancient law to modern garden design. “It’s the most used of the public spaces in the house,” the general manager Aileesh Carew told The Times. “It’s comfortable and encourages relaxation.”
Not restricted to high-end boutique hotels, lending libraries at the nearly 500 Country Inns & Suites around the U.S. have proven popular. The chain offers a Read It and Return Lending Library at each location, allowing guests to borrow a book. If they haven’t finished it by checkout, they can take it with them and return it at their next stay. “As a matter of social responsibility, reading is important,” said Scott Meyer, a senior vice present at Carlson Rezidor Group who oversees the brand. “We get a lot of positive comments from guests saying they are glad we are promoting literacy.”
Authors get star treatment at some bookish hotels
In 2011, the W London—Leicester Square hired the journalist and author Damian Barr to curate the hotel’s (W)riters’ Library. He invited 10 writers, including Bret Easton Ellis and Geoff Dyer, to each choose 10 books, then write an introduction inside the volumes explaining their choice.
Two years ago, the Betsy-South Beach in Miami started a writers-in-residence program that offers guest rooms to writers—newcomers to poet laureates—along with a dining stipend. In exchange, the writer holds a literary salon, lecture or reading open to the public.
When that hotel bought the neighboring property, the Carlton South Beach Hotel, it expanded its writers-in-residence program to house writers exiled from their home countries, such as Chenjerai Hove from Zimbabwe, a critic of the Mugabe government.
So next time you’re traveling, skip the pool and head to the library!