10 public libraries in NYC you need to visit

Open book and notes

You have just moved to Manhattan, and naturally, you are looking at various things to do after moving to Manhattan. Visiting public libraries in NYC is a must, whether you are here to study, or you are just a fan of books. 

The most famous library among NYC public libraries is the New York Public Library, or short – NYPL. Being the third largest library in the world and the second largest in the US alone, NYPL is an essential asset for scholars, students, and book lovers of all kinds. It is a home of nearly 50 million items and it has astonishing 92 locations in the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Iconic NYC public library branches in Manhattan

If you like to visit libraries for research, or just to admire their spacious rooms and outer architecture, you should definitely start your library visits to Manhattan. Here are some of the NYPL locations you shouldn’t miss!  

1. New York Public Library Main Branch – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

The NYPL main Branch is the most famous of locations of the vast library system. With its main entrance steps located on the 5th Avenue, opposite East 41st Street, this beautiful building was earlier known as the Central Building. Nowadays, it is mostly known as the Main Branch or New York Public Library. At the time of opening, the Main Branch was considered the largest marble building in the United States ever built. It is one of four research branches of the NYPL, so many scholars, writers, and books aficionados spend their time in the majestic rooms of the Main Branch.

The New York Public Library Main Branch view of the front entrance and steps
The New York Public Library Main Branch is an iconic NYC location.

2. Mulberry Street Library (NYPL)

Popular among students as it provides a nice and cozy space for studying, The New York Public Library’s Mulberry Street branch is also a great gem located just off a quiet street in SoHo. It is located in the neighborhood historically known as the Cast Iron District, just at the site of a former chocolate factory.

3. Grand Central Library

The Grand Central Branch is one of the newly opened branches. Its convenient location is suitable for commuters and families living to the east of the city. Grand Central is notable for being home to Teen Central’s programs and collections.

4. Jefferson Market Library – East Village

The Jefferson Market Library is one of the historical jewels among the NYPL branches. Distinctive by its tall red brick tower, used in the earlier days as fire lookout tower, the building resembles a church and it’s been declared a National Historic Landmark. It is located in Manhattan’s East Village,

5. Tompkins Square Library

The Tompkins Square Library is the most prominent NYPL branch located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It has a three-story space and sixteen-foot ceilings. It is also one of the branches of the public libraries in NYC with a spacious room for children. The branch is traditionally serving many ethnic populations, including Italian, Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian and German. Since the 1960s it hosts a thriving arts community.

6. Ottendorfer Library

Located in East Village, New York City’s first free public library, the Ottendorfer Branch opened in 1884. At the time, this landmark building was a part of the neighborhood called Kleindeutschland (“Little Germany”). The branch served its mainly German-speaking community with half of the books in German. The building itself is a designated New York City landmark.

7. Hudson Park Library

Greenwich Village cherished library, snuggled on one of the most gorgeous streets of Manhattan, Hudson Park has served its patrons for over one hundred years. It is a calm and relaxing place to read, work and enjoy some book time.

8. 53rd Street New York Public Library

The 53rd Street branch is an oasis of books and learning, opened just recently (2016) in the center of Manhattan’s Midtown. It is located just next to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), so you can join these two visits for a great time!

Other notable public libraries in NYC

Besides the libraries belonging to the NYPL vast system, you should not miss the Brooklyn Public Library and the Poets House.

Stack of books in public libraries in NYC
The NYPL contains more than 50 million book items.

9. Brooklyn Public Library

One of the best places to go if you need some time with books is the Brooklyn Public Library. Its Central Branch has a design resembling an open book. Besides the vast book collection, it is great for its outdoor space for concerts and other events. It is also notable for its one of a kind Youth Wing, dedicated specifically for toddlers and teens to become keen on reading.

10. Poets House

As the name says, Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center dedicated to poetry. If you are a fan of poetry, don’t miss this one! It’s located on Murray Street in Manhattan.

More reasons for visiting NYC public libraries

If you have children, you will want to discover attractions for children in New York. Keep in mind that NYPL branches offer exciting programs for kids, including workshops. Not to mention their vast book collection for the youngest readers!

A child reading a picture book
Public libraries in NYC are the great place for children!

Whether you are a new ex-pat, or you have some ex-pat friends in NYC, you are probably wondering how to adjust as an ex-pat in NYC. Once you settle in and go through all the major excitements of the city, you will probably need a space which can connect you to your own heritage and even people. Public libraries in New York offer great stuff for ex-pats, including English classes. Ottendorfer, Tompkins Square

List of NYC public libraries famous for architecture

If you are like seeing beautiful buildings, here is the list of public libraries in NYC you shouldn’t miss.

  • NYPL – Main Branch and the most famous of all public libraries in NYC
  • The Morgan Library and Museum
  • NYPL – Jefferson Market Branch
  • New York Society Library
  • NYPL for Performing Arts
  • Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch
  • Brooklyn Public Library Pacific Branch
  • Poets House
  • NYPL Yorkville Branch

New York is a great city to live in. If you ever need any book, a research done, or if you are simply interested in beautiful architecture, the enormous choice of public libraries in NYC will definitely serve you great. Happy reading!

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