During the 1940s, custodians who worked for the New York Public Library often lived inside the buildings they tended. In exchange for cleaning and keeping the building secure at night, the library provided an apartment for the custodians and their families.

Ronald Clark’s father, Raymond, was one of those custodians. For three decades he lived with his family on the top floor of the Washington Heights branch on St. Nicholas Avenue in upper Manhattan. Three generations of the Clark family resided in that library until Ronald’s father retired in the late 1970s.


After college, Ronald got a position as a professor teaching history at Cape Cod Community College.

At StoryCorps, Ronald told his daughter, Jamilah Clark, how living inside the library shaped the man he would become.

Originally aired October 13, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition and re-broadcast on February 22, 2019.

Bottom photo: Ronald Clark, his parents, and his daughter Jamilah. Credit: Clark family, courtesy of NYPL.