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Visit the New York Public Library Gift Shop

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 11/20/2009 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>   Visit the main New York Public Library to see one of America's few grand palaces. Built by European craftsmen with imported stones and other precious materials, it is visually worthy of public use and inspiration. That this building houses great book and other intellectual collections makes it even more awe-inspiring.

And rest assured that the splendor will continue! The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965. In 2008, the building was re-named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in honor of a $100 million donation from Mr. Schwarzman to the New York Public Library's capital fund drive.

More information about the library building and a bit of its history appears at the end of this article.

New York Public Library Lions

The main library is a palace for scholars and researchers. Here they can collaborate or study individually in the Rose Reading Room, where they can browse books from the library's non-circulating (in-house) collection.

In keeping with the idea of scholorship, lions, like the two that protect the main library, are the traditional symbols of courage, power, authority, and wisdom. Although they had many nicknames, in the 1930s, they were called Patience and Fortitude by then New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in reference to the period's financial hard times. The nicknames stuck! Fortitude is pictured above.

Note: The main library's exterior is currently undergoing extensive renovation and is covered with shrouds to protect the environment while work is in progress. You will not see its exterior again until sometime in 2011.

New York Public Library Gift Shop

Among the many areas you can access when you enter the main library from its front steps are Astor Hall, which is America's most monumental, rare, white-marble entrance room, the third-floor McGraw Rotunda, the library's historic Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, and the Gift Shop, where you might want to begin your visit.

As I wrote in Obtain the Best Value from a New York City Museum Visit, gift shops often provide more immediately understandable information about a historic site than brochures and guides.

The New York Public Library's Gift Shop is no exception. Here, you can find books and objects that represent the library's collections, its building's architecture, and its service to the community.

New York Public Library Gift Shop

Prices in the gift shop range from $2 to hundreds of dollars for things such as fine jewelry, one-of-a-kind items assembled from cardboard, books on how to use libraries, maps of all types, calendars and books about New York, children's books and related toys, plus much more.

As a simple pleasure, I love the photo of Fortitude on a reasonably-priced mouse pad (above). Talk about an opportunity to own something where you can keep goals well under hand!

New York Public Library Gift Shop

And while I love to buy moderately expensive items, especially when every purchase supports the library, little, inexpensive things, like the crisp image of Patience on a magnet, help me and my friends remember the grandeur and beauty of the main library.

New York Public Library Gift Shop

Books, of course, are curated (selected) to represent library collections and unique publishing techniques. Featured pop-up books, like the one above on butterflies, are stunning.


Many books in the children's section provide information on how to use the library's extensive system and several are accompanied by toys and puzzles that help reinforce the subject.

New York Public Library Gift Shop

Items throughout the gift shop call attention to New York City monuments and popular sights. Wire sculptures of buildings (in this case, the Empire State Building) are exceptionally popular.

New York Public Library Gift Shop

If you are on a tight budget, items like logo-embedded tacks, magnets, bookmarks, pins, and pens make perfect small gifts. Packaged together, they also make interesting party favors (perhaps for an "I've Returned From New York" party) and Christmas stocking stuffers, among many things.

Note the reference to architecture on the cup. Once in the main library, your attention is immediately drawn to its great halls, leaving you to wonder about the talented people who created them. If you have time, find out more about the building, its architects, and craftsmen by researching the subject in the Rose Reading Room.

Hallway in the New York Public Library

The Children's Center entrance is on 42nd Street. I recommend, however, that you first acquaint your children with adult spaces by going through the main door on 5th Avenue between 42nd and 40th Streets. Do this so that they can see, feel, and be inspired by historical grandeur.

I'll publish detailed information about the extremely popular children's library and its services in the future. You, however, should be aware that the children's section has museum-worthy exhibits, in addition to free events, thousands of books, and even (amazingly) a bank of computer terminals.

New York Public Library Childrens Center - Winnie-the-Pooh

The main library houses the original Winnie-the-Pooh collection. On exhibit in the children's area are real Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals and illustrations. The article, A Real Pooh Timeline, provides more background about the exhibit. Pictures of the original stuffed animals can be seen on the library's Treasures website page.

New York Public Library Childrens Center - Winnie-the-Pooh and Lottie-the-Otter

The family of Pooh's deceased author, A. A. Milne, authorized a new book in the series and honored the library by announcing the new volume in 2009 from the children's section. The book is entitled Return to the Hundred Acre Wood and features a new character, Lottie-the-Otter, pictured here. You can buy the book in the giftshop!

Addresses and Links

Address: The main doors of the library are located on 5th Avenue, between 42nd and 40th Streets. Another entrance is on 42nd Street, near 5th Avenue, which is also the Children's Center entrance. Behind the library is the fabulous Bryant Park (6th Avenue between 42nd and 40th Streets), which features many events, an antique merry-go-round, winter ice-skating pond, and fine dining.

Links: Because the New York Public Library's website is currently being re-constructed, I do not know if the organization's links will hold after some date in 2010.

More Information!

This article was created in collaboration with New York Public Library personnel, Sara Abraham, Director of Retail Operations, and Barbara Bergeron, a library fact-checker and editor. Additional information includes:

  • The main library building is a fine example of Beaux-Arts architecture developed by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. "École" means "school" in English. "Beaux" means "fine."

  • Several great New York families in the late 1800s donated money toward the development of a free public library system. These included John Jacob Astor, James Lenox, and Samuel Jones Tilden. The main library that we know today was opened in May 1911.

  • The official name of the Rose Reading Room is the Deborah, Jonathan F.P., Samuel Priest, and Adam Raphael Rose Main Reading Room.

  • The lions that welcome visitors to the main library have had several nicknames. Today, we know those lions as Patience and Fortitude. Patience is on the north side and Fortitude is on the south side of the great stairway. For more information, see The Library Lions: Patience and Fortitude.

  • The renovations to the building's exterior are being funded by the City of New York and New York State.

  • Mr. Schwarzman's contribution of $100 million was made to the library's $1 billion capital fund drive. This donation can be used at the library's discretion and is not earmarked for the main library, although the main library's building is now named after him.

Questions? Contact me at karen@littleviews.com

Article and photo by Karen Little. All photos taken for this article have been donated for use by the New York Public Library. First published on 11/20/2009. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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