The renovated Rose Main Reading Room inside the New York Public Library Main Branch, New York City
© Sascha Kilmer/Getty Image
So many books, so little time
May 23, 2021 marks the 110th anniversary of the opening of the New York Public Library’s Main Branch (now known as The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building). Back just before the turn of the 20th century, a group of New York City businessmen decided that if their hometown was ever going to compete with Paris and London as a centre of urban culture, then it needed a great library.
It took almost two decades and a lot of brainpower and money to create the architectural masterpiece that stands today on New York’s 42nd Street. On the day it opened to the public, 30,000 to 50,000 people streamed through its doors to take in the architecture and gaze at the one million books on display. The first book request was filed at 9:08 a.m. and was delivered to the reader six minutes later through the library’s rapid delivery system. Since then, it's become part of the very fabric of New York and has been featured in movies from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' to 'Ghostbusters' to 'Spiderman.'
Today, we turn our gaze to the Beaux-Arts delight that is the Main Branch's Rose Reading Room. It is truly one of the city’s great public spaces, a lavish hall where one can come to escape the bustle of the city streets and the honking of taxis. This room underwent an extensive renovation after one of the gilded rosettes crashed to the floor in May 2014. Now it’s all spiffed up and in perfect form for its anniversary celebration.