Library Visit: New York City Public Library, Main Branch

New York Public Library Main Branch
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Foundation stone laid: November 10, 1902
Dedication ceremony by President Taft: May 23,1911
First day open ( May 24, 1911) saw 30,000-50,000 visitors
Design & construction: Carrère & Hastings
Construction cost: almost nine million dollars

For more information visit the library’s website.

Going to The New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building felt a bit like visiting a royal palace. I walked in with great expectations and left in even more awe…and I only saw a fraction of its splendors. 

The last time I was in Manhattan, the library was closed. However, last month I was there during library hours and had an hour to look around. I spent most of my time in the Celebrating 100 Years exhibit but also walked around a bit. I also spent some time (and of course money) in their excellent gift shop as well. Next time I hope to have at least a half day to spend soaking up the details and taking one of the free docent-lead tours.

Here’s some information about the Celebrating 100 Years exhibit:

Gottesman Exhibition Hall | On View through March 4, 2012

One hundred years ago, The New York Public Library opened its landmark building, now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, dedicated to preserving its varied collections and making them accessible to the public. Over time, the Library has radically expanded its holdings, but its founding goals are as central today as they were in 1911. Library curators past and present have been guided by the philosophy that all knowledge is worth preserving.

Curated by guest curator Thomas Mellins, Celebrating 100 Years gathers more than 250 thought-provoking items from NYPL’s vast collections, a fascinating demonstration of how the Library has encouraged millions of individuals to gain access to a universe of information for more than a century. The first Gutenberg Bible acquired in the Americas is included, as are dance cards, dime novels, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score of “Lover Man.” Organized into four thematic sections — Observation, Contemplation, Society, and Creativity — this major exhibition highlights the collections’ scope and their value as symbols of our collective memory. Indeed, Celebrating 100 Years also documents changes in the way information has been recorded and shared over time, beginning with samples from the Library’s collection of Sumerian cuneiform tablets (ca. 2300 BCE) and culminating in selections from the Library’s 740,000-item Digital Gallery.

It looks like they’ve extended the exhibit because the brochure that I have lists it as running from May 14 to December 31, 2011. So, if you’re going to be in Manhattan sometime between now and March 4, 2012, I highly recommend checking it out. The library also posted some videos on YouTube comparing items included in the exhibit such as this one, which looks at a 1552 edition of Dante’s Inferno, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, and Malcolm X’s briefcase.

Below are some pictures from my visit–





Patience and Fortitude are the names of the lions that flank the library’s entrance.
Lego versions of Patience and Fortitude.


Nathan Sawaya created the Lego lions.
The library was decorated for the holidays.


Some images from Celebrating 100 Years–

Typewriters always catch my eye.


e.e. cumming‘s (1894-1962) typewriter
S.J. Perelman‘s (1904-1979) typewriter
Terry Southern‘s (1924-1995) typewriter

 Possibly the neatest thing I saw on display–


Charlotte Bronte‘s (1816-1855) travel writing desk


another view of Bronte’s travel writing desk

 And moving further back in time–

Cuneiform tablets. These are tiny tablets–between the size of a matchbook and a small flip cell phone.


Beautiful wood ceiling in the exhibit hall

Some snapshots during my wandering–



Not a historical display, but a rare, working artifact.

If you’ve been to the New York Public Library or if it’s your regular library, what do you most love about it?


  1. Loved this post! I love the history and the integration of technology. I feel like I'm sitting with all those who came before encouraging me to learn.

  2. Fantastic photos. I've stolen your shot of cummings' typewriter (with credit, of course). Thanks for providing the images.

    – Ed Darrell (not sure why my profile isn't showing here)

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