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New York Public Library Tour

New York, New York, United States

42nd street and 5th avenue
New York, New York, United States
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Overall Experience: 7 / 10
Date Visited: Saturday, October 11, 2008

The New York Public Library offers tours of the big library located at 42nd street and 5th avenue. It is known as the "Humanities and Social Sciences Library". At the moment, this library is just a research library (not a lending library), although there are plans to change that in the future.

Monday through Saturday, the library offers tours at 11:00am and 2:00pm (be sure to check their website for an updated tour schedule). We visited on a Saturday for the 11:00am tour. The library only opens at 11:00am, so the tour doesn't really depart until 11:10am (they allow 10 minutes for all the people who have been waiting in line to actually get into the library before starting). The tour departs from one of the large candelabras in the main lobby, by the information desk.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the tour. I had not been in the New York Public Library before the tour, and I was definitely glad I visited. The building is an impressive piece of architecture. It's rare to find buildings in North America that are made with the huge amounts of stone and marble that are present in the New York Library. Many of the rooms are quite large, and the amount of marble in its construction is definitely impressive.

The tour of the library starts in the main lobby, talking about the history of the library, how it was financed, and built. It then goes to some of the smaller rooms (like the map room). At each room, our tour guide told us a bit about some of the pieces that were stored in the room, or the occasional interesting story about people who had used the room, or were somehow related to the articles kept in the room.

In addition to research materials, the library also holds special items in their "special collections", which can be seen only in special circumstances (typically you need to be an academic with a specific need to see a specific piece). For example, the library holds a copy of George Washington's farewell address, in his original handwriting. Although we weren't allowed to see these, our tour guide told us about them while standing outside some of the rooms that house the special collections.

The tour also visits some of the larger research rooms, and our tour guide gave us a demonstration on how to fill out a request card to have a book brought to you. I didn't understand the need or use of such an antiquated system, but apparently it's still being used.

Visitors aren't required to stay for the whole tour - you can wander off at any time. Cameras are permitted, although bags are searched upon entry to the library and you are not allowed to eat or drink inside.


Tours of the New York Public Library are free.

Estimated Visiting Time

The tour lasted approximately one hour. We didn't feel the need to look around any more after the tour.

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Estimated Visiting Time

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