Photo by myself, inside the New York Public Library, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
The Main Branch of the New York Public Library is gigantic. You can come in without a library card, tour around or use the reading rooms.
Interesting exhibits are always on display. Currently showing are maps of New York from 1600 to the present, an exhibit honoring the 250th anniversary of the play 'Candide', and a display of three New York women photographers from the early 20th century.
Admission is absolutely free. For the website of the main branch building, click here.
Most New Yorkers don't realize the history of the New York Public Library site. It is located exactly where the city reservoir used to be in the 1800s. The reservoir was a gigantic enclosure that was built up and raised from the street. No telling how sanitary it was.
Click here for an 1879 photo of the reservoir from the Library archives.
From one of the upper stair halls in the Library.
Reference tables within one of the reading rooms. Decorative carvings cover all the oak furnishings.
Free wifi and natural light make the main reading rooms a popular hang out. The clerestory windows on either side face Fifth Avenue and Bryant Park.
If you visit, do explore the upper floors of the building. There are wonderful mezzanine views of the main entrance hall and upper stairs. Two giant reading rooms are on the third floor, connected by a low wooden reference area. The entire space is probably the size of a football field.
Reference books line the reading rooms, with a walkway above with more books. The result is a very human space, despite the enormous overall size.
There are computers for public use, and free wifi if you bring your own laptop. Not long ago, people avoided using the public libraries because a lot of homeless would lounge there. I think the wifi has changed peoples' attitudes about this place.
Each neighborhood has at least one library; this location is the main branch and is the most recognizable. As long as you have proof of New York City residence, you can obtain a library card, and borrow one of their millions of books for free.
City Portraits is an ongoing, once-in-a-while installment featuring parts of New York.
City Portraits - Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, City Portraits - The East Village and City Portraits - The High Line, in Chelsea.