23 January 2014

Exploring the New York Public Library

Being a book worm, one of my personal must-see places in New York was the New York Public Library. I'm talking about the one of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street known as the Stephen A Schwarzman Building. I wanted to see the reading room and I was not disappointed.

Out front I was greeted by the lion statues nicknamed Patience and Fortitude sitting guard before walking through portico and stepping into the main entrance. Inside I found myself in a cavernous marble foyer with marble candelabras in four corners. There were two grand staircases leading off both the right-hand and left-hand side to the balcony above, chandeliers hanging above. I could almost see Sarah Jessica Parker climbing up the stairs in the first Sex and the City movie. I headed up them myself in search of the reading room on the top floor.

The New York Public Library is like no other i have ever seen. It is fit to be a museum so its hard to believe it was purposely built to be a library back in the early 1900s. The portico, marble foyer ands grand staircases were just the tip of the iceberg. Reaching the third floor lands me in the McGraw Rotunda which really does look like a museum with large paintings hanging on the wall.

It only stops me for a second though, I'm on a mission. I pass through the catalogue room, which is sort of an ante-chamber, to the Reading room and enter the the reading room picking my jaw off the floor as my eyes try to take in the space before me.

Its what every library should be. This Reading Room is the stuff of dreams for a bookworm like me. Rows and rows of solid wooden desks, brass lamps, walls covered in books set on dark wooden shelves. My eyes travel around the room and up past the large windows letting natural light flood in to the ceiling above.

Pink and white clouds are painted on a beautiful blue sky, framed with gilded woodwork right along the entire length of the Reading Room. Its no Sistine Chapel but I love it. It works well with the room and isn't distracting with too much detail. Below it hang chandlers at intervals that provide a warm glow when it isn't so bright outside. I cant help it i just have to take sneaky photos. Sorry! Blame it on temporary bookworm insanity.

After I've spent some time in the Reading Room, I wander around the rest of the library. There are other reading rooms id have liked to enter but they need prior permission which is probably only given if you genuinely are researching a particular subject. The corridors are wide, made of the same marble in the foyer and lit with chandeliers. Its a bit of a labyrinth actually but it is one heck of a grand library.

If you are a bookworm then the New York Public Library is a place you simply must visit if you are ever in New York. Take some time out if you are in Midtown an drop in for a change of pace.

Have you been to any Reading rooms that you enjoyed?


  1. I adored the library when I visited New York and I even had some nerdy time to do some research! But I never noticed those ceilings! I'll have to go back now. I can't not see that with my own eyes.

    I used to sit in the ancient and massive reading rooms in Johannesburg when I was working for my post-grad degree. It was really retro and strange but a place none of my friends would be so no distractions.

    1. Those ceillings really are stunning, even outside the reading room, there is so much to see.

      They really do make a good place to hide out from distractions while still providing some aesthetic pleasure.

  2. I need to return to New York. Right now!