The New York Public Library has more than 80 branches across Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island of varying sizes. The hub of this vast network of lending libraries is the Schwarzman Building, an iconic midtown landmark built in 1911 that houses an extensive collection of non-circulating books, periodicals, and documents. While serious researchers are found scattered throughout the rooms lending legitimacy and gravitas, most visitors come to experience the building itself, the impeccable reading rooms and the rotating exhibits hosted in several galleries. With free admission and a beautiful park next door, it is the perfect escape--however brief--from the noise and energy of Midtown Manhattan.

In the reading room in the New York Public Library / All sorts of souls were bent over silence reading the past / Or the present, or maybe it was the future, patrons / Devoted to silence and the flowering of the imagination
- Richard Eberhart, Reading Room: The New York Public Library

What You Will See

The Schwarzman Building rivals the Met and the Guggenheim in both interior and exterior beauty. Polished marble hallways lined with massive columns connect a series of reading rooms and research library, each more striking than the last. While most of the collections at this branch do not circulate and are often as esoteric as they are rare, wander the stacks and marvel at the depth and diversity of topics. Portraits, busts, and murals decorate each room. Though currently closed for renovation, the Rose Reading Room is one of the most beautiful interior spaces in the world. In addition, the library hosts temporary exhibits, usually with a literary, historical or New York theme on par with top museums in the city.

Why You Should Go

At the intersection of two of the most famous streets in the world, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, the conceptual heart of Manhattan, is not a skyscraper or a theater or a square filled with advertisements, but rather a free library. In a city founded on commerce, with monuments to great wealth and private industry adorning every block, it is significant that a public library is one of the cities finest and most-treasured institutions. The main building reflects the pride and love both visitors and residents have for it and whether you have an entire day to spend wandering the 15 square acres, need a lunch-time break from the city or a relatively quiet place to study, the library is welcoming, comfortable and inspiring.