Secrets of classic NYC: New York Public Library

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  • Photograph: Lauren Foy

  • Photograph: Lauren Foy

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Photograph: Lauren Foy

Retrieving a book from NYPL's vast collection is a simple process: Patrons fill out a piece of paper and give it to a clerk outside the main reading room. Until recently, these call slips were sent through a system of pneumatic tubes. "The clerk would put the slip into the tube, sending it to the reading room," says chief librarian Sumie Ota. "There, it was fed into another tube to one of the seven stacks levels, where it got spit out at the other end." The passages are no longer in use, but you can see the now-obsolete big brass pipes in the third-floor catalog room at the clerk's desk. "It's still operable, but a few years ago we moved to a conveyor-belt system," explains Ota. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Ave at 42nd St (917-275-6975, nypl.org)

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