The NYPL and You!

By: Yechiel Amar  |  March 27, 2024

By Yechiel Amar, Staff Writer

Going to college in NYC offers students many various opportunities and close-by amenities for one to take advantage of if they so wish. While an individual’s interests may pull them toward many different directions and disciplines,  the one that entices me the most is the New York Public Library (NYPL) system, and for good reason. For an avid book reader, being within close proximity to the second-largest library system in the United States, the fourth largest in the world, is an exhilarating prospect. Yes, each campus has its own in-house library, but these are to serve mostly academic purposes. For such things as popular fiction, graphic novels and the like, the public library is an excellent resource. Additionally, a library serves as a cultural center for any given locale. One can learn a lot about an area just from the aesthetics of their library, and NYC with its varied communities, reflects that.

For this reason I set out a mission for myself, one which I will endeavor to achieve over the course of my time in YU. I will try to visit every single library in the NYPL system. Now this is no simple task. Although only comprising 3 of NYC’s boroughs, with Queens and Brooklyn each having their own library system, across Manhattan, Staten Island, and The Bronx there are 92 library branches. However, slow and steady wins the race, so slowly I will chip away at my goal. Having started this journey, I thought it would be useful to give over what I have gleaned of the NYPL and what the average YU student should know about their local library.

The most obvious starting point for this topic is this question: where even is my YU-local NYPL? For Wilf Campus students the current closest NYPL branch to it is the Washington Heights Library located right near W 160th St. The way to get there is pretty simple- just take the M101 bus right next to our very own Mendel Gottesman Library down to Amsterdam Ave/W 161st, followed by  a 1-2 minute walk later and you’re there. Now, if that’s too much of a hassle and you’ll be in the Heights next year, you’re in luck. The actual closest NYPL branch, Fort Washington on W 179th, a mere 6-7 minute walk away, has been closed for renovations; however, they plan to reopen in summer 2024 (as long as the same City budget cuts that removed Sunday Service from libraries don’t impact the renovations as well). But for now, the Washington Heights Library is open Monday through Thursday from 10 AM – 7 PM, and on Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Now this library, like many of the libraries I’ve visited in the NYPL system, is, to be frank, underwhelming. The average branch library is small and comprises three sections: Adult, Young Adult, and Child, with various genre subdivisions within each. The Washington Heights Library puts each section on its own floor, but other libraries can have all the sections on one floor and combine them. The available selection is not that extensive, and the atmosphere is certainly no more enticing than that of the YU library, perhaps even less so given that there is less seating. 

The primary strength of the library is the catalog request system. The entire circulating collection of the library can be brought to you for pickup at the Washington Heights branch. All you have to do is get a library card, which can be done either online or in person, and which you are eligible for simply by attending YU, never mind living in New York State which would also make you eligible. Then you can use that card to request books for pickup, track their progress, and once they’re ready, go to the library to take them off the Holds shelf and check them out, an action only possible with a physical library card which you can get while you’re there. As a bonus, with simply a digital card you already gain access to the library’s digital resource collection on Libby as well as other digital collections on such apps as Hoopla. This is the second largest library system in the U.S. and with a library card and some foresight it is at your fingertips. 

For Beren Campus much of this doesn’t apply. After all, being in Midtown it is located not only a block away from the Kips Bay branch, but also a 17 minute walk away from the main branch of the NYPL, the legendary Stephen A. Schwartzman building with its stone lions, Patience and Fortitude, flanking the entrance. Now granted, while this building is considered the flagship branch and within lay beautiful architecture, art pieces, and exhibits, it is a research library not a circulating one, meaning you are not able to take out books from it. Not to worry though, because across the street lies the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, the largest circulating library in the NYPL system. I have visited it multiple times and I am awed each time at the sheer volume of books and media, all available for a cardholder to take home with them to enjoy at their leisure. For such close access, I envy Beren.

Between classes, assignments, and all the various other responsibilities attached to being a student here, one can forget the simple pleasure of a good book. There is no easier way to rediscover this pleasure than through the library. The doors of knowledge are open to us all, all one has to do is decide to step through. Happy reading!