Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New York Public Library Main Reading Room

Traveling down 5th Avenue by tour bus or strolling over from Bryant Park, tourists marvel at the magnificent Beaux-Arts facade of the main branch of the New York Public Library. They stare in childlike wonder at "Patience" and "Fortitude," the two lions standing sentry in front. Many will even sit on the steps for an al fresco hot dog and soda lunch while watching the locals hurrying by. But what a lot of people don't do and what you should do is this:

Go inside.

This wondrous building, part library and part museum, completed in 1911, houses over 20,000,000 books, manuscripts, maps, pictures, films and microfilms. Put in your request for anything in their catalog and highly-trained library workers will have it for you in minutes. Nestle yourself into one of the chairs in the enormous Main Reading Room (half as wide and as long as a football field) and enjoy a well-deserved respite. The Reading Room has served generations of New Yorkers seeking information, vocational improvement or mere escape. Also visit the newly restored Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division which has approximately 431,000 maps and 16,000 atlases and books on cartography dating from the 16th century. And remember, it's a public library so it's all free. The library has been featured in dozens of movies, TV shows and books including "Ghostbusters," "Spiderman" and "Sex and the City." Located at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. B, D, F, V trains to 42nd Street or an easy walk from Times Square or the Theater District. Nearby - Times Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building.

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