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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

New York Public Library celebrates Lou Reed Archive with special edition library card

Lou Reed

Lou Reed library card (Photo: Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library)

The New York Public Library (NYPL) for the Performing Arts, which acquired Lou Reed’s archives in 2017, has finished processing the collection and opened it to the public yesterday.

At the same time, the library issued a special edition Lou Reed library card featuring photographer Mick Rock’s famous over-exposed album cover photo for Reed’s landmark 1972 album Transformer.

Only 6,000 of the cards have been printed, and are available exclusively at The Library for the Performing Arts branch located in Lincoln Center--where Laurie Anderson toasted her late husband last night in commemorating the month of his birth. Reed, who died in 2013, would have turned 77 on March 2.

Like all NYPL cards, the Lou Reed edition grants eligible users access to all NYPL benefits including books, eBooks, databases, CDs, DVDs, streaming services, and now, the Lou Reed Archive containing paper-based, audio, and moving image materials stored in the Library for the Performing Arts’ third floor Music and Recorded Sound Division.

Additionally, a display has been installed marking the 30th anniversary of Reed’s New York album, tracing its history from conception to production.

The Lou Reed Archive measures approximately 300 linear feet of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, and holds approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings. It documents the history of Reed’s life as a musician, composer, poet, writer, photographer, and tai-chi student, and spans his creative life from his 1958 Freeport High School band The Shades, to his position as a staff songwriter for budget music label Pickwick Records, his rise to fame via The Velvet Underground, his subsequent solo career, and his final performances in 2013. Items in the collection include studio notes, galleys and proofs, master and unreleased recordings, business papers, personal correspondence, poster art, fan gifts, rare printed material and Reed’s substantial photography collection.

As Reed was a life-long resident of New York City, the Lou Reed Archive effectively reflects his hometown through the words, music and photographs of one of its uniquely creative and expressive artists. The NYPL Reader Services staff has compiled a reading list inspired by his life and the cultural milieu that enveloped it, which can be accessed at the NYPL website’s Lou Reed page.



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