Traditionally, the annual fundraiser honors writers, authors, and philanthropists with storied careers. On November 8, 2021, that was indeed true—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tina Brown, Jonathan Lethem, and Darren Walker all received the prestigious “Literary Lion” accolade for their tremendous cultural impact and legacies. Each received a thunderous (and well deserved) round of applause when Library President Tony Marx said their names over the microphone.
Yet, as Hochul echoed, the night also served to remind just how important the library—which turns 125 this year—is for society. As New York City locked down in March 2020, the 92 locations across the five boroughs were forced to physically shut their doors. Yet, they never closed in spirit. Instead, the library amped up their e-book collection (they had over 10 million online checkouts during the pandemic) and scanned thousands upon thousands of archive pages for researchers. All the while, they kept their WiFi on, allowing those without internet access if in the library’s vicinity, especially those who needed it for remote learning. Outside of their landmark 42nd street branch, their iconic lion marble statues wore masks. Even in the darkest of hours, the library never stopped serving their city.
Over 350 attendees, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (who is married to the Library’s Chief Financial Officer Iris Weinshall), David Remnick, Jay McInerney, and Sloane Crosley, attended dinner in the 42nd Street branch’s Beaux-arts style Rose Reading Room. The menu included seared tuna and braised short rib, and afterward, coffee and dessert were served in Astor Hall.
All in all, the night raised over 5.8 million dollars—nearly twice its previous record. “This library will endure for another 125 years,” Hochul said.