Friday, August 3, 2007
Visiting the Library
I've had many questions from friends and readers about visiting and doing research at the New York Public Library. I admit, the Library can be an intimidating place to those unfamiliar with its procedures, but once you figure it all out you'll be rewarded with wonderful collections and a beautiful space to work.
The collections I work with are at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, the "one with the lions." This library is one of the four research libraries of the NYPL system and we use a catalog called CATNYP. No materials within the research collections are circulating. You can't take them home. Ever.
To request materials in the research libraries you must get an Access Card. The Access Card will give you access to all the collections, except those within the Special Collections, and will also allow you to make one 45 minute Internet reservation a day. One piece of advice: fill out the Access card application BEFORE you come to the Library. It speeds up the process. The card pick-up is on the 3rd floor in the Rose Main Reading Room.
To find out what books and materials we have in the research libraries, browse through CATNYP, because you can't browse through the stacks. Yes, we're a closed stack library. To request a specific book, you fill out a call slip when you arrive at the Library. We will fetch the book for you and bring it to you in the reading room. The exceptions are the books on the open shelves of the Reading Room which are available for browsing. They include many ready reference books and general works. If you are requesting materials in any of the smaller collections, such as Asian and Middle Eastern, Slavic and Baltic, Maps, and the Jewish Division, you should submit your call slips within that division.
For general cookbooks, use Cookery as one of the keywords in CATNYP, as it will yield more relevant results. Most cookery-related and culinary history materials are available in the General Research Division (rm 315).
The Buttolph Historic Restaurant Menu Collection is housed in Rare Books, and requires 24 hour notice as well as a card of admission to Special Collections. You can get that card in room 316 (where you can also see the Gutenberg Bible). The holdings of the Collection are available through the Menu Collection Database.
It all comes together eventually, but yes, it can be time-consuming and often confusing. If you want to do research at the Library you can always email me, or leave a comment, and I'll try to steer you in the right direction.