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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
City Reference Libraries
Humanities and Social Sciences Library of the New York Public Library
5th Avenue and 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788
Reference: (212) 930-0830
Guarded by New York City's most famous lions, the Humanities and Social Sciences Library – known colloquially as "the main library" - contains the New York Public Library's primary research collections in the Humanities. One of four research libraries in the New York Public Library system, it covers the fields of history, languages and literature, art, popular culture, philosophy, religion, psychology, sociology, anthropology, theology, geography and politics. Open to all, this research center includes the newly renovated and refurbished Rose Reading Room. Book stacks are closed; patrons must submit a "call slip" requesting a book, which is usually delivered within minutes.
The Science, Industry, and Business Library
188 Madison Avenue at 34th street
New York, New York 10016-4314
The Science, Industry, and Business Library - or "SIBL" (pronounced like the woman's name) - is one of the four main research libraries of the New York Public Library system. Located in the renovated former B. Altman building alongside the City University of New York's Graduate Center, this library offers research collections and databases dealing with business, banking, commerce, mathematics and science. Several reading rooms and state-of-the-art electronic resources are available to all visitors. The electronic databases of business and investment information in the "Electronic Information Center" are the same sources major corporations use to research marketing, investment, and industrial questions. While these corporations pay handsomely for access to these resources, visitors to SIBL get the same information for free. A circulating library concentrating on business, science, and mathematics is on the street level.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
(212) 491-2200
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, another of the four research libraries of the New York Public Library, focuses on the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. The center's collections first won international acclaim in 1926 when the personal collection of black scholar and bibliophile, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was added to the public library's Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints. Schomburg served as curator from 1932 until his death in 1938. Renamed in his honor in 1940, today the Schomburg Center contains more than 5,000,000 items, including art objects, audio and video tapes, books, manuscripts, films, newspapers, periodicals, photographs, prints, music discs and sheet music. The collection is open to the public.
Brooklyn Public Library
Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 230-2100
Founded in 1892 and expanded in the early 20th century with money donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the Brooklyn Public Library system is separate from the New York Public Library. Serving Brooklyn through 21 branch libraries, it also maintains a central research and circulation library at Grand Army Plaza. Among the facilities at that library are a multilingual collection that is run by librarians trained to assist the speakers of the major languages of Brooklyn: Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and Haitian Creole. The center also contains material in French, Yiddish, Hindi, Bengali, Polish, Italian and Arabic. The Education and Job Information Center at the central library is designed to provide information on "careers, employment, education, test preparation and companies."
Queens Borough Public Library
Central Library
89-11 Merrick Boulevard
Jamaica NY, 11432
(718) 990-0700
Early in the 20th century, seven local libraries in Queens County consolidated to form what is now the borough's public library system. A significant donation from Andrew Carnegie, along with an infusion of public funds from the City of New York enabled this new entity to grow and to institute some innovative programs, including a traveling book collection to bring library resources to communities without a branch library of their own. Today, the system includes a central library and 62 branch facilities. If you are not sure about where to locate a particular Queens Library branch, phone: the Central Library at 718-990-0778 or 0779. The Queens Library system maintains an Internet site linking visitors to an impressive array of reference works, newspapers, databases, search engines and other sources of information. For sources ranging from the Baseball Almanac to Inside China today, users can log on to
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Annex
l 521 W. 43rd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues)
New York, NY  10036-4396
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Mid-Manhattan Library
455 Fifth Avenue, fourth floor (at 40th Street)
New York, NY  10016-0122
In temporary headquarters while its main facility is renovated, this library, one of the four New York Public Library research libraries, is home to research and circulating collections on music, drama, dance and arts administration. In addition to books, the library boasts large collections of other materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs.
New York Historical Society
2 West 77th Street at Central Park West
(212) 873-3400
Reading Room: ext. 225
Manuscript Department: ext. 265
Fax: (212) 875-1591
Founded in the early 19th century, the library of the New-York Historical Society is one of the oldest research libraries in the U.S. Visitors will discover a superior collection of books, manuscripts, pamphlets, diaries, letters, atlases, newspapers and ephemera from four centuries of American history. The library is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. except between Memorial Day and Labor Day when it is closed on Saturdays. Admission is free, but researchers are asked to consider making a small donation at the front entrance. Inquiries as to the nature and scope of the library's holdings may be made by phoning (212) 873-3400. Specific research questions cannot be answered, although librarians can suggest a research strategy using the Historical Society's collections. Students in high school or younger can visit the library only if accompanied by an adult who must call ahead to discuss briefly the student's project with a reference librarian. The manuscript department is open by separate registration to adults pursuing advanced research.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
718-638-5000, extension 311 (archivist Deborah Wythe)
The Art Reference Library of this venerable and recently controversial museum houses materials on American painting, decorative arts and sculpture, as well as on African and Native American art; 19th-century costumes and textiles; Asian painting and ceramics; and the art and archaeology of Egypt, Islam and the ancient Near East. Special collections include fashion and costume sketches created by leading designers from 1902 to 1950, an extensive array of American art auction catalogs and 19th-century photographs of Europe and America. Open Wednesdays and Thursdays, by appointment only.
Frick Art Reference Library
1 East 70th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
New York, NY 10021-4967
This art-history research library of the Frick museum was founded in 1920 through a gift of Helen Clay Frick, daughter of art collector Henry Clay Frick. Frick's aims for his collection were "to encourage and develop the study of the fine arts, and to advance the general knowledge of kindred subjects." The museum focuses on works done between the 4th and the mid-20th century by European and American artists, and its library is designed to provide research materials on Western art. The library answers reference questions by phone at 212 288-8700 ext. 422 from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Researchers outside the New York area can submit questions by mail or by e-mailing
New York Academy of Medicine Library
103rd Street near 5th Avenue
New York, New York
(212) 822-7200
Founded in 1847 with a gift of a three-volume set of medical reference works, the Library of the New York Academy of Sciences opened to the public in 1878. With the addition early in the 20th century of medical texts from the New York Public Library's collection, this library became one of the premier medical libraries in the nation. It currently serves as the National Library of Medicine's branch for the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as an on-line training center for research librarians in the health sciences. The library is also a respected leader in efforts to preserve historic books. The Academy Library is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library maintains a telephone reference service to answer quick factual questions, such as queries about the definition of a medical term, information on physician credentials or descriptions of the library's holdings. Assistance is usually limited to approximately five minutes. For help, call (212) 822-7300 and then press 2 for the Reference Department.
New York Society Library
53 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 288-6900
This, the oldest library in the city, was founded in 1754. Its collection of more than 200,000 volumes is particularly strong in English and American literature and criticism, biography, history, the social sciences, the arts, exploration and travel, and books relating to New York City. There is a Children's Collection as well. Non-members may use the ground floor for reading and reference free of charge. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Huntington Free Library and Reading Room
9 Westchester Square
Bronx, NY
718 829-7770 Fax: 718-829-4875
Established by private endowment, the Huntington Free Library is open to the public and maintains two non-circulating collections, a reading room collection specializing in Bronx history and a research collection on the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. To schedule an appointment, call 718-829-7770. Appointments are not needed to use the reading room, which is open weekdays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., but are required for the research collection. The reading room is also open by appointment on Saturday mornings when afternoon public programs are scheduled. Use of the library collections is free.
Library of the College of Staten Island
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10314
(718) 982-4010
The Archives and Special Collections of this library contain the papers of State Senator John J. Marchi, a William Faulkner Collection and the Fresh Kills Landfill Collection. People who are not affliated with the College of Staten Island but who want to use the library must show a Community Access Pass that can be obtained from Professor Raja Jayatilleke at (718) 982-4016 or at
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
Founded at the turn of the 20th century with books donated by Columbia University, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library is a major resource for students and researchers interested in horticulture, botany and the history of these two sister sciences. Economic botany, landscape design, garden history, plant ecology and scientific biography are particularly well represented. Located in the Bronx on the grounds of the botanical garden (, this library is open to all. In addition, there is a small lending library, whose volumes circulate only to members of the garden but which can be read in the library by visitors. Research and reference questions may be submitted through e-mail to the library's archivist and reference librarians at:,, or
Tamiment Institute Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Sq. South
New York, NY 10012-1091
212 998-2630
These two collections, which are non circulating and open to the public, are designed for research on labor history and the history of radical political movements in the United States since 1865. The holdings also include works on women's movements, Utopian experiments and struggles for civil rights and civil liberties. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on weekdays.
Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 237-8246
This library focuses on social science, criminal justice, law and public administration. Its holdings include transcripts of trials held in New York's criminal courts from the 1890s until after World War I and police department annual reports from throughout the United States. Researchers not affiliated with the City University of New York may arrange to use the collection by phoning 212 237-8247 or emailing
Center for Migration Studies
209 Flagg Place
Staten Island, NY 10304-1199
(718) 351-8800
Founded in 1970, this specialized library includes books, periodicals, dissertations, newsletters, ethnic newspapers and journal articles on international migration, refugees and ethnic groups. It also includes an extensive print and photographic archive on the Italian American experience. The library is open to the public free of charge weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
YIVO Institute of Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011-6301
(212) 246-6080
The institute's library includes 350,000 books on the history and culture of Eastern European and American Jews. Its archives have some 22 million documents, pictures and other materials. Among these resources are the world's largest collection of books and documents in Yiddish, though the collection also includes material in English, Hebrew, Ladino and various European language. The reading room is open to researchers Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Those wishing to do archival research are urged to make an appointment with an archivist at 212 294-6143 or Appointments are required to use the special collections.