Built like the great hall of an Elizabethan house, the 131-foot Gail Kern Paster Reading Room incorporates sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French and Flemish tapestries, carved oak paneling, a high trussed roof, and a large fireplace. Its name was changed from the Old Reading Room to the Gail Kern Paster Reading Room in 2011, in honor of retiring Folger Director Gail Kern Paster.
On the hall screen at the east end hang portraits of the Folgers in their academic robes, painted by the British artist Frank O. Salisbury. Above the Salisbury portraits is a bust of Shakespeare based on his memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. The ashes of both Folgers are interred behind a memorial plaque.
At the west end is one of the Folger's treasures, a large stained-glass window depicting the Seven Ages of Man from Jaques's speech in As You Like It.
The Paster Reading Room is devoted to scholarly research. It opens to the public once a year for the Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration in April.