Unique Albany Airport Reading Lounge Provides Free Books to Travelers
Having an uninterrupted block of time to read a good book is one of the benefits of a long plane trip. A good book can also help avoid a long wait at the airport.
At New York Albany International Airport (ALB), they understand that. The airport has a special reading lounge — called the Mario & Matilda Cuomo Pavilion — with plush chairs, exhibits by renowned writers, and free books.
Open during the pandemic and located in pre-security on the first floor of the terminal, this 800 square foot glass-enclosed lounge was developed in partnership with the Albany-based company New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany.
The institute was founded more than 36 years ago by Albany’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, and brings together dozens of writers, poets, historians and filmmakers each year for events, workshops and readings. .
In addition to providing a comfortable space to read a book, the living room has shelves filled with more than 100 books selected, donated and replenished by Core Donorsa local non-profit organization that stores 22 small free libraries in the area with books, including many community programs.
When ALB’s Reading Lounge opened, Grassroots Givers filled the shelves with titles from authors who had visited the Writers Institute. Now the choice of reading material has been expanded to include a wider range of adult non-fiction and fiction books as well as children’s books. And anyone visiting the reading lounge is encouraged to take a free book with them on their trip.
Albany International Airport’s Arts and Culture Program oversees the Reading Room, which has a wall filled with colorful posters celebrating some of the authors who have passed through town as part of the Institute of writers.
There are also two showcases here.
“One offers a bit of history on the creation of the NYS Writers Institute and the legislation passed by the government of the day. Mario Cuomo who founded it,” said Kathy Greenwood, Art & Culture Program Director at Albany International Airport.
“The other is about famed author William Kennedy, who headed the University of Albany’s Writers Institute,” and includes samples of his published titles and digital printouts of writing samples.
Greenwood says the airport plans to host events with visiting writers in the Reading Pavilion, “But since we opened this just as the pandemic hit, we haven’t scheduled any in-person programming yet.”
Travelers will find reading corners and free book programs at select other airports across the country and around the world.
Some examples include the Aviation Museum and Library at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the main hall of the international terminal, which reopened in June 2022 after being closed for more than two years.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has a post-security library, on Holland Boulevard, which is open 24 hours a day. On the shelves are books on Dutch history, art and culture, translated into more than 40 languages, which are intended for be read on the spot.
The Schiphol Library also offers digital screens and exhibits on Dutch literature as well as a selection of Dutch music and music videos. A leave-a-book/take-a-book section for books that travelers have brought from home is also available.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) hosts a fun, free book exchange (in Terminal A-West) with a lounge area made from recycled materials.
There is also a growing list of airports across the country that have kiosks that distribute free news. The list includes Oregon Eugene Airport (EUG), Airport (OAK); Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Oakland Airport (OAK), Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and many others.
Featured image credited to Albany International Airport