The Best Deal in Town!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to experience New York City and their incredible research library

Having just returned from a week-long visit to New York City for Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a few facts and tidbits I picked up along the way.  I am putting together a display for SBPL about South Brunswick artists George Segal and Leon Bibel, so one of the places we visited was the library!  They are currently in a state of upheaval and since we were finally able to navigate our way though, I thought I might let others know what we learned the hard way.

The main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue between 42nd Street and 44th Street, called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, (the big marble Beaux-Arts building with the lions Patience and Fortitude out front) is, in a quote from their website, “one of the world's preeminent public resources for the study of human thought, action, and experience -- from anthropology and archaeology, to religion, sports, world history, and literature.”  To explain the disarray that seems to be apparent, they also say, “The Library is restoring the Schwarzman Building to its original purpose of providing library services for ‘the free use of all the people’” which includes opening a new Children’s Center on the ground floor and offering more programs, indexes and online resources than ever before.  

The library is a perfect place for anyone to do research in their extensive collections but it is a closed stack library where you have to request the books you want from their catalog and they will be brought to where you are sitting to use while you are in the library.  However, for the last year, the magnificent Rose Main Reading Room and the adjacent Bill Blass Public Catalog room, where you would usually request your materials and sit to wait for the delivery, has been closed.  A part of the elaborate plaster ceiling fell and they are evaluating how they are going to make repairs.  (See their website at for more information about the repairs).  In the meantime, they have places to sit in every other room in the library in order to accommodate all users. 

To access the General Research Division materials in person, while the reading room is closed, you have to complete a request slip and give it to the staff member seated at a small desk in Room 217 (or you can submit a request in advance on their website).   Before you can make the request, you need to have a NYPL card which you can apply for online or get from someone temporarily seated in the copy room on the second floor.  If you are not a resident of or employee in New York, you can apply for and receive a temporary card that can be used to reserve the books.  These cards are valid for up to 3 months.  Books in their other divisions, such as art and architecture, maps, photographs and rare books are accessed directly in the rooms where they are located.  A list of the divisions can be found at

For some fun facts about the library and its history, check out their description at and for more about the building itself, see  

There is also a Library Shop (on the first floor) filled with fun books and gifts for the readers in your life. And during the Christmas shopping season, Bryant Park, situated behind the library, is set up with little “shops” featuring local crafts people selling a wide variety of handmade items. And surprisingly, since Bryant Park is actually located directly on top of the vast rooms that house the majority of the library’s books, they have put up an ice skating rink! I’m sure the library hopes they don’t spring a leak. And the tree in Bryant Park, that was lit up for the season on Tuesday, December 1st, is particularly beautiful!

So, if you are looking for place in New York City that you can visit for free, the library is a great destination.  And see if you can find their copy of the Gutenberg Bible, on display in a dark showcase in the third floor McGraw Rotunda.

More NYC “insider information” in this blog soon. 

No comments: