Book Ends: The Places in Town For Readers

For anyone who appreciates books, libraries and book stores are the meccas for readers of all ages and inclinations.

City of Readers: At one of downtown is the Rye Free Reading Room (right). On the other end, Arcade Books. Photos Lois Wald
Published June 7, 2024 2:23 PM
3 min read


Rye is book-ended by book institutions.

At one end of our downtown is the Rye Free Reading Room, our public library, and at the other end is Arcade Books, an independent bookstore.

For anyone who appreciates books, libraries and book stores are the meccas for readers of all ages and inclinations. Reading has always been one of my main sources of pleasure. I grew up loving libraries and bookstores. Even when I travel, if there’s a notable library or bookstore, it’s an itinerary stop. As a daughter of immigrant parents who couldn’t read to me, my joy of books was ignited by library visits as a young child, and small allowances my parents gave me for book purchases at school book fairs. Being exposed to the experience of the written word at an early age can be life-changing. It was for me.

That affinity has stayed with me. After having kids and settling down in Rye, I left commuting and the corporate world. A few years passed, and I was lucky enough to find an opportunity that combined my professional experience with a passion, and started doing work for the Rye Free Reading Room on its public communications.

I know firsthand how much this resource offers our community. On any given day, town residents fill the spaces. There are children enjoying story times or hunting for books with their moms or nannies, adults and seniors quietly reading or relaxing, and in the afternoon, teens gathering away from school or home for a break in a welcoming place.

At the library’s helm is Chris Shoemaker, its director for the past 11 years. He trains daily from lower Manhattan, using the time to read and play the daily Wordle. Chris worked previously at the New York Public Library, as well as the County of Los Angeles Public Library.

What does he think of Rye and its readers? “Rye is a dynamic and wonderful place to be. I love walking down Purchase Street as most days I see someone I know and spend a few moments catching up. I’ve been handed things to take back to the library, too. The readers in Rye are incredibly well informed, and know exactly what they want. They have their pulse on the finger of the book world, seemingly ahead of The New York Times Book Review.”

One of his favorite programs, he themed “Read in Rye,” is an author series that features writers talking about their new books, frequently including talented local and first-time authors.

Arcade Books owner and proprietor, Patrick Cocoran, is typically in attendance with books on hand for purchase. Patrick has been running Arcade Books for 42 years. He manages the store by day and is a jazz musician by night. He was always one-stop shopping for my kids’ school reading-lists way back when – and still is for today’s moms.

A lot has changed in the 30-plus years I’ve lived in this town. Some chain stores have come and gone. And, as with any town, businesses come and go. But there are mainstays that are favorites and distinguish us. Arcade Books is one of the oldest stores in Rye. In 2019, Patrick successfully moved his small shop to its current location.

“I’m lucky to have a business in Rye,” says Patrick. “The fact that I’m still standing is amazing. I made it through Covid and it’s still a tough economy, but my customers are great readers who support me. My favorite part is the young people who come in all excited. That gives me purpose for the business as a place in town for young people to find and buy books and develop a love for reading.”

He’s eager to help his customers find what they’re looking for, even if they don’t quite know what that is yet. He supports local authors by carrying and displaying their works. I recently saw him expertly wrap a book into the perfect gift — in seconds. Customers come in and leave happy.

How fortunate are we that our downtown is flanked by these long-standing institutions? I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for reading and the power in pages. This is a town of readers. Many belong to book clubs. Some more than one. It’s a privilege to have these “bookends” here. They’re part of what makes our town special.

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