Whether you’re a New Yorker unfamiliar with how to do research at the New York Public Library or visiting New York from outside of the state or country and need to use our research collections, we recommend familiarizing yourself with Library collections and services ahead of time. In many cases, you can request that items you need to consult be ready for you when you arrive!
5 Time-Saving Things You Can Do Before You Arrive
1. Get a library card.
If you aren't already a New York Public Library cardholder, apply online for a library card. Even visitors from outside New York can obtain a library card that offers temporary access to our collections. When you apply for a card online, you will receive a 7-digit temporary barcode. This allows you to set a PIN, place circulating items on hold or submit requests for research items from offsite storage. You’ll need to complete your library card registration when you arrive and before consulting our materials (see further details below in the “Once You Arrive” section). Be sure to bring proof of identity in order to obtain your library card!
2. Search the collections.
Search for research items using our online catalog. You can search by title, subject, keyword, etc. Note the location in the catalog record. The catalog includes collections held at all New York Public Library locations, so materials in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building will have the location “Schwarzman Building” followed by the name of a particular division. If you are searching for non-book materials, you may consult the following catalogs:
Please note that certain materials are not reflected in our catalogs. For further assistance locating materials, proceed to Step 3 below.
3. Consult with a curator or librarian.
- Call, text, email, or chat with the Ask NYPL service for general questions.
- E-mail or call specific divisions.
Most divisions welcome walk-in researchers, but some special collections require additional registration prior to your visit. Please consult the list of research divisions and make arrangements in advance if required.
If you need some extra assistance in getting started with your research, make an appointment with a research specialist (at least 4-5 days in advance).
4. Place requests for materials stored offsite.
The catalog record will indicate if an item is stored offsite. Using the temporary barcode provided when you applied for your library card, you may submit the “Request from Offsite Storage” form to have offsite items delivered 1-2 business days from the moment you submit your request. For most offsite items, you may also request a table of contents, single article, book chapter or index of up to 50 pages be delivered electronically to your email address. Please note that upon delivery, offsite materials can only be used in the division they were delivered to, and cannot be taken out of the Schwarzman Building.
5. Place on-site items on reserve.
You may also submit a request to have on-site materials in the Schwarzman Building’s closed stacks retrieved ahead of time so they will be waiting for you when you arrive at the Schwarzman Building. Requested items will be held for you for 7 days. After the 7th day, the item will be returned to the on-site closed stacks.
Once You Arrive
Check any items not allowed in reading rooms.
Visit the no-fee checkroom at the 42nd Street entrance to check your belongings and pick up a Researcher Bag to carry allowed items.
Pick up your library card.
Visit the Library Card Services desk in Room 315 of the Schwarzman Building to pick up your library card. Staff will ask for proof of identity and will process your new library card within a few minutes. Upon giving you your new library card, staff can direct you to the service or division you’re looking for.