McGraw Rotunda

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The McGraw Rotunda in the New York Public Library in all of its resplendent glory - attractive and impressive through being richly colourful or sumptuous.

The McGraw Rotunda in the New York Public Library in all of its resplendent glory — attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous. The McGraw Rotunda features the story of the recorded word in four large murals by Edward Laning. The entrance to the Edna Barnes Salomon Room 316 is on the left. The entrance to the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room 315 is on the right.

The four murals are:

  • Gutenberg showing a proof (of the Bible) to the Elector of Mainz
  • Moses with the Tablets of Law
  • The Linotype-Mergenthaler and Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune
  • A monk of the middle ages copying a manuscript

The Mural on the ceiling depicts Prometheus.

The McGraw Rotunda

The McGraw Rotunda (formerly Central Hall) is a rectangular barrel-vaulted space on the third floor, at the top of the stairs from Astor Hall. Two passageways lead northward and southward from the rotunda. The Public Catalog Room is to the west and the Salomon Room is to the east. The entrances to both rooms are flanked by freestanding marble pedestals. The floors are made of Hauteville and Gray Siena marble. The rotunda's walls contain red marble bases with dark wood piers supporting a plaster or stucco barrel vault. On the north and south ends of the barrel vault are glazed open windows. There are alcoves on the side walls, supported by columns with Corinthian capitals, which were intended to contain murals. The rotunda also includes a booth where visitors can sign up for free guided tours of the Rose Main Reading Room.

The rotunda contains a set of panels painted by Edward Laning in the early 1940s as part of a WPA project. The work includes four large panels, two lunettes above doorways to the Public Catalog and Salomon Rooms, and a ceiling mural painted on the barrel vault. The four panels are located on the east and west walls and depict the development of the written word. The lunette above the Public Catalog Room's doorway is "Learning to Read", and the lunette about the Salomon Room's doorway is "The Student". The ceiling mural is called "Prometheus Bringing Fire to Men". The four panels and two lunettes were completed in 1940, and the ceiling mural was completed in 1942.

Bill Blass Public Catalog Room

The Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, also located in Room 315, is adjacent to the Main Reading Room, connecting it with the McGraw Rotunda. The Catalog Room's central location between the McGraw Rotunda and Main Reading Room makes it a de facto foyer for the latter. The room measures 81 by 77 feet (25 by 23 m). Similar to the Main Reading Room, it has a 52-foot-high ceiling. Four chandeliers, of identical design to those in the Main Reading Room, hang from the ceiling. The ceiling of the Public Catalog Room also contains a 27-by-33-foot (8.2 by 10.1 m) section of James Wall Finn's 1911 mural.

Possibly the first renovation of the Catalog Room occurred in 1935, when its ceiling was repainted. Further modifications occurred in 1952 when metal cabinets replaced the original oak cabinets as a result of the catalog room's quick expansion, with 150,000 new catalog cards being added each year. The Catalog Room was restored in 1983 and renamed for Bill Blass in 1994. Computers were added following the 1980s expansion.

There is an information desk on the north side on the room, on one's right side when entering from the rotunda. Originally, visitors would receive card slips with numbers on them and then be directed to one of the Main Reading Room's halves based on their card number. The Public Catalog Room also contains waist-high oak desks. These desks contain computers that allow New York Public Library cardholders to search the library's catalog.

Salomon Room

The Edna Barnes Salomon Room, located east of the McGraw Rotunda in Room 316, is usually utilized as an event space. The 4,500-square-foot (420 m2) was originally intended as a picture gallery, and oil paintings still hang on the walls. In 2009, it was converted to a "wireless Internet reading and study room" to provide overflow capacity for internet users who cannot fit in the Main Reading Room.

New York Public Library Main Branch

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, commonly known as the Main Branch, 42nd Street Library or the New York Public Library, is the flagship building in the New York Public Library system in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. The branch, one of four research libraries in the library system, contains nine separate divisions. The structure contains four stories open to the public. The main entrance steps are at Fifth Avenue at its intersection with East 41st Street. As of 2015, the branch contains an estimated 2.5 million volumes in its stacks. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark, a National Register of Historic Places site, and a New York City designated landmark in the 1960s.

The Main Branch was built after the New York Public Library was formed as a combination of two libraries in the late 1890s. The site, along Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, is located directly east of Bryant Park, on the site of the Croton Reservoir. The architectural firm Carrère and Hastings constructed the structure in the Beaux-Arts style, and the structure opened on May 23, 1911. The marble facade of the building contains ornate detailing, and the Fifth Avenue entrance is flanked by a pair of stone lions that serve as the library's icon. The interior of the building contains the Main Reading Room, a space measuring 78 by 297 feet (24 by 91 m) with a 52-foot-high (16 m) ceiling; a Public Catalog Room; and various reading rooms, offices, and art exhibitions.

The Main Branch became popular after its opening and saw 4 million annual visitors by the 1920s. It formerly contained a circulating library, though the circulating division of the Main Branch moved to the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library in 1970. Additional space for the library's stacks was constructed under adjacent Bryant Park in 1991, and the branch's Main Reading Room was restored in 1998. A major restoration from 2007 to 2011 was underwritten by a $100 million gift from philanthropist Stephen A. Schwarzman, for whom the branch was subsequently renamed. The branch underwent another expansion starting in 2018. The Main Branch has been featured in many television shows and films.

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