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96th Street Library Celebrates 110 Years!


Last month, the 96th Street Library celebrated its 110th birthday. In that spirit, the staff at the 96th Street Branch would like to thank our community for supporting the Library throughout its history. Because of you we have made great strides in the services we provide: popular monthly opera recitals and weekly films, children’s programs, book discussions, art showings, music concerts, technology classes, and more. Of course, we have not forgotten the bibliophiles in the community, so you can rest assured that there’s no shortage of books in print, audio, and e-book format waiting for you at the Library.

A Brief History

On September 1, 1905, the 96th Street Library opened its doors to the public. Housed in a beautiful Carnegie building, the Library was designed by the architecture firm Babb, Cook and Willard, and built by Isaac Hopper & Son. The façade of the library, styled in the late 19th century Italian Renaissance Revival, looks almost identical today to how it did in the early twenties.

96th Street, Exterior view. Image ID: 100832

Inside the 13,000 square foot interior are three floors with dramatic ceiling heights, elegant crown moldings of wood and plaster, original oak shelves, large pendant lights and tall arched windows that pass natural light into the first floor. Marble stairs lined with ornate cast-iron railings and carved wooden banisters connect the three floors; the vestibule, with its beautiful wall to ceiling wood carvings and molding links the main hallway to the exterior steps.

96th Street, Adult room, 1923, "showing section used for reading public" and the stairway thronged with people. Image ID: 100828

The high ceilings and large rooms present a stateliness that is complemented well by its subtle adornments. For the residents of the surrounding Carnegie Hill and East Harlem neighborhoods the Library is an emblem of the community as well as a refuge for those seeking an escape from the fast pace of the city.

Past meets present

While the historic building remains very close to its physical roots, the 96th Street Library has had major renovations in 1960 and 1991. Improvements include the addition of an elevator system, wheel chair access, central air conditioning, updated electric, carpeting, and, most recently, a new heating and fire suppression system. Some of these improvements would be crucial, allowing for the technological upgrades that would come at a later time.

Skipping past the era of card catalogs, main-frame-sized computers and giant laser discs, today, the 96th Street Library holds a number of upgraded desktop computers, laptops, new printers, copier machines, and free WIFI throughout the building. We also provide online access to free e-book and audiobooks for tablet and e-reader devices, effectively permitting twenty four hour access to library titles in electronic format.

As you can see, we love technology and try to incorporate it whenever we can. If you enjoy classic movies you’ll really appreciate our weekly film program. Using a high definition projector and surround sound, patrons are treated to a theater-like experience watching classic movies in the Library. Still, there’s a certain magic quality to the old projectors that digital ones just can’t reproduce. In that case we have these charming 16mm film projectors, which we use for the children’s film program. Many of the kids have never seen an old reel to reel projector before!


So whether you’re a fan of books, movies, or looking to read the latest issue of New Yorker magazine, the Library has you covered. Maybe you’re looking to take a computer class, need access to a computer, or want help with your tablet. We can help with that too! Now is a great time to come to your local library and see all that has changed about uswe like to think for the better!


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