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The Mission of the Library of The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen is to:
- Support the educational programs of the General Society
- Preserve and build on the historic collections of The General Society
- Provide access to the collections of The General Society for researchers and the public
- Promote an understanding of urban work and its history
Established in 1820 as the Apprentice's Library, by 1861 the library had extended privileges to women and at the turn of the 19th century had become the largest free circulating library in New York City.
The Library has more than 120,000 volumes of current fiction, non-fiction, trade, technical-related research materials, and fiction. The collections represent the importance placed on a broad education and illustrate urban work history. As the second oldest continuously operating library in New York City, the wealth of older books makes the library an excellent research facility.
The library still uses the card catalog and classification system created by the librarian in 1901. It is one of the few remaining subscription libraries in NYC and host to the Small Press Center and annual lecture series. The main reading room soars to a height of three stories topped by a magnificent skylight. The faux marble pillars, ironwork, and wooden shelving lend the reading room an ambience that makes it a rare and special place.
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