The history of The New York Public Library begins more than 100 years ago. As the 19th century drew to a close, New York, the greatest city in America, still had no real public library. But thanks to a handful of visionaries and millions upon millions of users, The New York Public Library today is internationally recognized as one of the greatest institutions of its kind.
The Library's importance is a function not only of its sheer size and scope, but also of its unique character. It is the only library that features both world-acclaimed research centers and a large network of neighborhood branch libraries, all of which may be used by the public, free of charge. The Library is also distinguished by its long-standing tradition of serving the local community, as well as the international world of learning. Its branch system is one of the largest in the world.
Computer technology makes its catalogs of holdings accessible to users worldwide. The Library's collections themselves reflect the profoundly democratic and all-encompassing nature of the institution. Numbering into the tens of millions, its holdings range from the most venerable monuments of human culture -- such as the Gutenberg Bible and Jefferson's manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence -- to materials that document the everyday lives of otherwise anonymous people.
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