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The New York Public Library — An Overview of the NYPL

By

A Manhattan branch of the NYPL

A Manhattan branch of the NYPL

Valerie Peterson
The New York Public Library’s iconic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—the building with the dignified stone lions guarding its entrance—is what many New Yorkers and most out-of-towners think of when they think of the NYPL. But with a rich history, the New York Public Library’s reach—both physical and virtual—is much broader than that one, landmark building.

The New York Public Library’s Neighborhood Branches
The New York Public Library has about 85 libraries in its network of neighborhood libraries through three of the five boroughs of New York City: the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island (the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens each have their own, separate and distinct independent library systems). From lending Newbery Medal- and Caldecott Medal-winning children’s books to hosting job-seeking seminars, these branches serve book-loving New Yorkers in their local communities by giving them access to circulating collections of books, film and music. In all, an estimated 16 million patrons enter the doors of the NYPL locations annually.

In addition, the branches of the NYPL host thousands of public programs, including reading-related programs for children, as well as classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), literacy, researching and technology. These are often tailored to the location’s particular constituencies, but are all designed with the public’s need for information and literacy skills in mind.

The NYPL’s Collections
The New York Public Library System maintains both physical and electronic collections, as well internet databases. The library estimates that, between its circulating collections (that is, for lending) and its research collections, it provides free and open access to more than sixty-five million items (including materials for the visually impaired) in its branches and research centers. According to the NYPL website, “it is the most comprehensive library collection ever brought together for the free use of the public.”

The NYPL’s research centers focus on four areas:

  • General Research Division / Humanities and Social Sciences
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building — Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
    The General Research Division of the New York Public Library is housed in the lion-flanked main location. Its vast treasures include an Art & Architecture Collection; U.S. History, Local History and Geneology resources; and Jewish, Slavic and Eastern European collections, as well as:

    --The Rose Main Reading Room, a vast, elegant space for readers, writers and researchers.

    --The DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room, which routinely has on hand current unbound issues of 68 popular periodicals and 22 domestic and foreign newspapers

    --The Microforms Reading Room, which provides access to over 350,000 reels and 3,000,000 microfiche resources in the humanities and social sciences, as well as current issues of approximately 11,000 unbound periodical titles from 128 countries in 22 languages.

  • New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
    Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center — 40 Lincoln Center Plaza
    In addition to books, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is particularly noted the non-book materials in its collections. It’s a rich resource for professional performers, those studying performance, and appreciators of the arts, housing such materials as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs.

  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
    515 Malcolm X Boulevard
    With a collection of over 10,000,000 items, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a premier research facility devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. Named in honor of the scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, on whose personal collection the Center was first established, it has a nearly 90-year-old history of illuminating black history and culture through various programs and services.

  • Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL)
    188 Madison Avenue at 34th Street
    The NYPL’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) provides the public comprehensive resources for all facets of business and employment. Its print materials, e-resources, and services assist start-ups as well as established businesses seeking expansion, and provide help for all levels of job seekers. SIBL’s programs include consultations and advisory services from the library’s own staff as well as from on-site guest experts and through seminars in the various elements of business ownership, career coaching, and finance.

  • The New York Public Library Online
    The NYPL has made itself and its collections exceptionally accessible “virtually.” Its website, www.nypl.org, receives 28 million visits annually from users in more than 200 countries. For library patrons, it offers online reservations for its circulating collection, e-newsletters, blogs, e-mail access to librarians and research and makes a huge volume of research materials available on its site.

    For more about libraries, read about the American Library Association.

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