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Perhaps the greatest example of Beaux Arts architecture in Manhattan, the majestic New York Public Library stands proudly on 5th Avenue.
Its grand steps are flanked by the museum's mascots, two stone lions known as 'Patience' and 'Fortitude' which were so named by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1930 in recognition of the strength of the citizens of New York during the Great Depression of the 1920's.
Founded by John Jacob Astor and James Lenox, the world's greatest reference library was dedicated in May 1911.
The New York Public Library consists of four major research libraries and 85 branch libraries situated in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The sheer scale of the library is breathtaking. The building spans two entire city blocks and houses 88 miles of shelves.
Its collection comprises over 52 million items, including manuscripts, published books, music scores and electronically stored data, and the Periodicals Room houses over ten thousand magazines and papers from every corner of the globe. For convenience, the library has one of the world's largest databases, which is easily accessible online.
However, the richness and atmosphere of the palatial Main Reading Room really must be experienced in person. There is no electronic substitute for the library's star exhibits, which include the Declaration of Independence, written in Thomas Jefferson's own hand.
The museum also offers workshops and lectures.
Address: 5th Avenue (at 42nd Street), New York, NY
Tel: (212) 8869 8089
Opening hours: 10.00am-6.00pm Monday-Saturday with guided tours at 11.00am and 2.00pm
Admission charges: Free