New York City Guide

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Public Library

The New York Public Library is located at 455 Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Its official title is the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. It was established in 1895, with its central building being opened in 1911. The Beaux-Arts structure was designed by the then little known architectural firm of Carerre and Hastings, and at the time was the largest marble structure built in the United States.

In the 1980's a major construction project was undertaken that added more than 125,000 square feet of space to the storage capacity of the library. This extra space was achieved through underground expansion under nearby Bryant Park to the west of the main building. The park was closed to the public and the new extension was created below ground level. The park was then restored and reopened to the public.

The lions that guard the entrance to the library, were sculpted by Edward Clark Potter and are now known as , but they were originally named  Leo Astor and Leo Lenox after the libraries founders. Later their names were changed to Lord Astor and Lady Lenox, even though both lions are male. Finally In the 1930s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude. Patience is on the left as one faces the main entrance, with Fortitude on the right.

The building boasts a magnificent reading room 78 feet wide by 297 feet long, with the ceiling being 52 feet high. The walls are lined with thousands of reference books displayed on open shelves at both floor and balcony levels. The room is lit by large windows and decorative chandeliers, plus the oak tables are equipped with brass lamps. computers are available for Internet access, and so visitors can view the libraries huge collection. Docking stations for laptops are also available.

Within the library's collection, there can be found two copies of the 1623 first folio edition of Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, nineteenth century Japanese ukiyo-e prints, a daguerreotype portrait of Walt Whitman, and the Gutenberg Bible. The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is only one of four libraries that comprise New York Public Libraries Research Libraries. The others are the Schomburg Centre for Black Research and Culture, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the Science Industry and Business Library.

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