New York Public Library celebrated its 100th anniversary yesterday. Its landmark Fifth Avenue building has nurtured generations of scholars and boasts such treasures as a Gutenberg Bible and an early copy of the Declaration of Independence.
The library was founded at the close of the 19th century by merging libraries built by wealthy New Yorkers James Lenox and John Jacob Astor. The current library system comprises some 90 research libraries and branch libraries. Its collections total more than 50 million items, including more than 20 million books.
The flagship is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, which opened on 23 May 23, 1911. Guarded by stone lions Patience and Fortitude, it is one of the city's most recognisable structures. A $50m (£30m) restoration undertaken to prepare for the centennial has removed decades of grime from the gleaming marble facade.
The library operates with both public and private funds, and cutbacks in city funding may force neighbourhood branch libraries to reduce their hours..
Centenary birthday festivities over the weekend included the unveiling of Lego replicas of Patience and Fortitude and an overnight scavenger hunt partially inspired by the film A Night at the Museum. Five hundred people spent the night at the library searching for artefacts.