Free Tours Of The New York Public Library

Flanked on both sides by New York’s iconic lions, Patience and Fortitude, sits my very favorite New York City institution: The New York Public Library (NYPL).  Having been an avid lover of all things books from a very young age, I decided to delve deeper into my knowledge of the NYPL by taking a docent-led tour of the building.


The NYPL (Photo Credit:


The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, otherwise known as the Main Branch, was completed in 1911, and just celebrated its 100th birthday last year.  Our docent, a brilliant woman by the name of Karen, was able to give our group a tour filled with truly interesting stories, historical highlights, and fun facts that I never learned in my high-school history class.  Even if you’re not a literary or history junkie, you would absolutely be able to appreciate the sheer beauty and uniqueness of the building’s different rooms.

Karen began the tour with the most asked question of visitors to the library, (well, besides “Where’s the bathroom?”).  “Where are all the books?”  Interestingly enough, the books that are on display throughout the reading room are for aesthetic purposes only.  The real books are held on seven floors of stacks, four in the building and three below, and are only accessible by the library’s staff.  In 1987, the library actually ran out of space for the books, so now books are also held behind the library, underneath Bryant Park!  Each visitor is allowed to request up to nine books every hour and a half, and can expect a 25 minute wait time for the books to be delivered.  If you are interested in a much speedier book turnover process, check out one of the 87 lending libraries throughout New York City, as this branch is for research only.


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Besides just books, the library is home to many interesting historical gems: Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Charles Dickens’s letter opener, and Jack Kerouac’s harmonica.  You can also find the largest collection of postcards as well as the largest collection of Beat Generation literature in the United States housed here.

The Building Tours are free to the public, and are held at 11am and 2 pm Monday through Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays.  Tours meet  at the front reception desk in Astor Hall.  For more information about the tour, please visit the NYPL’s website.  Happy reading!

WHERE: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, New York 10018-2788

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen



  • I’ve been dying to visit this library for so long but always manage to miss it when I’m in the city. It looks absolutely stunning, and I’m going to make it a point to do the tour the next time I’m there!

    • Used York City says:

      You will LOVE it, promise! It’s one of those places that’s just as magical for kids and adults alike!

  • Definitely New York city is too beautiful. their environment really so amazing as well as attractive. my sister lives in New york city with her two children. they study in the best educational institute. sometimes they go in this library to read and achieve extra knowledge. actually last month i went there with my parents. we went there by plane. our journey wast too enjoyable. we stayed there many days. then we are came back in our country. new york city

    • Used York City says:

      It’s nice to hear tourists have such wonderful experiences of NYC! We’re always happy to show off our fabulous city! What country are you from?

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