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Sunday, March 7, 2010

City Portraits - The New York Public Library

New York Public Library, Main hall
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.

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New York Public Library, Stair

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.

New York Public Library, Upper Stair Hall
From one of the upper stair halls in the Library.


New York Public Library, Reference Desks
Reference tables within one of the reading rooms. Decorative carvings cover all the oak furnishings.


New York Public Library, Main Reading Room
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.

15 comments:

Lily Hydrangea said...

Kitty, these shots are great! Makes me want to go and hang out there for an afternoon.

Fredrik said...

Amazing architecture. I'm so impressed by construction builders back in the days.

Bibi said...

I love all your library shots, and the bit of history, too. I so enjoy going to 'real' libraries like this.

Olivier said...

c'est un endroit magnifique (en plus a cote du bryant Park), avec aussi de tres belles peintures. J'adore cet endroit, pour y aller, il faut passer par "New York City's Library Walk" ( East 41st Street ) les plaques de bronze en hommage a la librairie sont magnifiques.

Clueless in Boston said...

Great shots. Interestingly, I visited the main branch of the BPL yesterday. The grandeur of these great libraries is amazing and something we all take for granted. Nice series.

frankdejol said...

Excellent pictures and thanks for the guided tour of the New York Public Library.
Wonderful place.

Sylvia said...

Beautiful pictures! We are staying in NY for a few days and walked by yesterday and today. I really wanna try to go in and make some pictures tomorrow. Thnx for sharing! Love city!!

Virginia said...

Kitty,
Thanks for your visit today. I regret that I don't stop by here as often as I'd like. I'm so glad I did today. I love these shots of your library. How grand and wonderful it is. You captured it so very well!
V

Hladový ohař said...

Amazing place, beutiful photos

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Beautiful shots, Kitty. I'm a big fan of libraries and have made a point of visiting this one in New York. Regarding the reservoir shot, it's fascinating to see how narrow Fifth Avenue was then and to note the absence of tall buildings.

Me-Ami said...

Libraries make me happy, and the New York Public Library is like a book museum. I wish we had something even remotely like this in Miami. Thanks for the lovely pictures.

Diane said...

Hi Kitty--

I am a first-time commenter. I love your blog because you bring NYC alive for me. I live about 90 minutes from San Francisco, another beautiful city. I've been to New York twice in the last 5 years and loved it both times. I tell people it is S.F. x 10 for everything to see and do.

Wanted to say that you didn't mention the original Winnie the Pooh teddy bear and the other stuffed animals that belonged to Christopher Milne are on display in the childrens' room at the library. My family and I saw them there last October. Another reason to visit this incredible building.

Kitty said...

Thanks everyone. I'm so glad you liked this building as much as I did!

Hi Lily
I so highly recommend going to visit. It's great now because the facade was cleaned over the winter. You're lucky to live nearby.

Hi Fredrik
Yes yes yes. They simply don't build buildings like this anymore.

I was running my hands all over the carved marble handrails. The guards thought I was NUTS. But they are GORGEOUS!

Hi Bibi
So glad to run into another library lover!!! Yes, this one is the 'real deal'.

Hi Olivier
Oh yes, the Library Walk, the bronze plaques inset into the sidewalk that are nearby. That would be a good thing to photograph.

Hi Clueless
I love the Boston Public Library. It has a similar feeling on the outside (large Beaux Arts Building). I haven't been there in years. It must be gorgeous too!

Thanks Frank!

Hi Sylvia
I hope you're enjoying your stay here in NYC. You are SO lucky because the weather is just perfect - cool, breezy and spring like. I hope you take lots of photos!

Thank you Ms. Virginia!

Thanks Hladovy!

Hi Terry
I agree with you about Fifth Avenue. That was a time when Fifth Avenue must have been just another street. How weird!

Hi Me-Ami
That's an interesting analogy, a book museum. The lighting in the main reading room along the walls really convey that idea, lighting each bookcase as if a special display.

Hi Diane
Thanks for commenting! I have a special place in my heart for SF. Mark has been threatening to move there for the longest time, lol.

I'll have to check out the Winnie the Pooh exhibit next time I have a long lunch. That sounds like fun. I am an avid Pooh fan. :-)

valeria said...

Woooow! This is so classical.. it reminds me of the Natural History Museum in London.

Dottie Jo said...

LOVE that library! They have an amazing genealogy room. I was just there last weekend (March 9) to do some research, and wandered around a bit. Great post!