photo of New York Public Library

New York Public Library (NYPL)

The New York Public Library is located at 5th Avenue & 42nd Street, Manhattan, New York City. It was designed by architects Carrère and Hastings in 1897, and completed to popular acclaim in 1911, at a whopping cost of $9 million. In designing the New York Public Library, the architects brought to life the vision o the library’s first director, who wanted a place which is bright, quiet and airy, so that millions of books can be stored, and yet easily retrieved.

The New York Public Library, a home away from home for millions of New Yorkers of all ages, is one of the city’s classic establishments. The cherished institution has recently experienced a $200 million renovation, adding 180,000 sq ft and amenities. With nearly 53 million items in circulation, the New York Public Library (NYPL) is the second largest public library in the US.

The Library was built on the former site of the Croton Reservoir. Its Main Reading Room, which was recently renovated, is a majestic, cavernous space, almost like the inside of a cathedral. The length of shelves total 88 miles, and on these shelves are seven million books. In addition, there are 10,000 magazines from 128 different countries. And yet, it only takes a staff or a computerized conveyor minutes to supply any requested book.

It consists of four major research libraries and 85 branch libraries located in the Boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx.

In addition to books (including e-books and audio books), the NYPL boasts an enormous collection of movies, music, periodicals, images and thousands of other materials that can be borrowed or enjoyed on the premises.

You can apply for a library card online or at any of its branches. A full list of library locations is available at nypl.org/locations.

Above: The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is the main building of the NYPL. Throughout its history, its resources (the reading room, internet and computer access) have been used as a way for those with little else to improve their lot in life. The Schwarzman library is guarded by two giant stone lions – symbols of fortitude and patience.

Across the road from the well-known Stephen A Schwarzman location is the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, which boasts “an increase in public seating areas, a whole floor dedicated to children, a new business center, a learning center, and, last but not least, a new rooftop terrace.”

The great thing about the New York Public Library is the sheer volume of materials available for borrowing and the fact that you don’t need to go to a specific library to check out an item.

You can simply search their database online, find the material that you want and have it sent to your local library for pick-up (you will need your library card number to make online reservations).

The NYPL also makes an incredibly user-friendly app for Androids and iPhones which allows you to organize and keep track of your borrowing.

Classes at the NYPL

Furthering its emphasis on learning and education, the NYPL offers a number of free classes, from English for Speakers of Other languages (ESOL), to tech, social media and even knitting. For a full list of class schedules, visit nypl.org/events/classes.

Exhibitions

The main branch of the NYPL, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and certain other branches also host free exhibitions covering everything from religion and art to photography and architecture.

Among the treasured items in the library’s collection today includes Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and T.S. Elliot’s typed copy of “The Waste Land”.

Visit nypl.org/events/exhibitions for information on current and upcoming exhibitions.

The New York Public Library is the main library with a network of 82 branches. Among the more popular branches of the library are the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center, and the Schomburg Center in Harlem.

Note: Brooklyn and Queens both have their own library systems (brooklynpubliclibrary.org and queenslibrary.org respectively) but residents of these Boroughs can still apply for a New York Public Library Card. They can also link their Brooklyn or Queens Library cards to the NYPL system. But materials borrowed from the NYPL cannot be returned to the Brooklyn or Queens library and vice versa.  

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