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Iconic lion statues outside New York Public Library wear giant face masks, reminding others to do the same

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is preparing to gradually reopen some of its locations next month, and the staff is sending a message to New York City residents: Wear a mask. The ionic lion statues outside of the NYPL's Bryant Park location are now wearing special masks made just for their giant, marble faces.

"As NYPL prepares to gradually reopen select physical locations on July 13, our beloved lions #PatienceAndFortitude are setting an example to remind New Yorkers to stay safe," NYPL wrote on Instagram. "To pick up or drop off materials when locations reopen, masks will be mandatory."

The two lion sculptures, named Patience and Fortitude, have stood in front of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street for 109 years, according to NYPL. Their masks, which arrived on Tuesday, are 3 feet long.

"Patience and Fortitude are the perfect symbols for the strengths our City and our nation need now even more," NYPL president Anthony W. Marx said in a press release. "Like them, New Yorkers are strong and resilient and can weather any storm. We will get to the other side of this public health crisis together. But to do so, we must remain vigilant, we must have patience and fortitude, and we must follow what experts tell us, especially as we continue to reopen our cities. The lions, protectors of knowledge and truth who have seen 109 years worth of history, are setting that example."

The lions have donned accessories before. Every December they wear wreaths, and during the 2000 Subway Series, they wore Mets and Yankees caps. They also wore top hats to celebrate the library system's Centennial in 1995. 

Anything placed on the historic lions is made with non-eroding material to ensure that they cannot damage the marble – including these masks, according to the press release. 

A crew fastened the 3-foot masks to Patience and Fortitude's faces on Tuesday.   WCBS

When NYPL starts reopening on July 13 it will offer grab-and-go service at eight of its locations. Starting on July 6, patrons can place items on hold via the NYPL online catalog, or via phone starting July 13, the NYPL website says.

Several safety measures will be put in place to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Patrons must leave the library as soon as they pick up or return their books. They must also practice social distancing in addition to wearing masks – two rules being implemented in all of New York City's public places. 

NYPL said its locations are also undergoing enhanced cleaning and all returned materials will be quarantined for 72 hours, as per expert recommendations. Fines will also not accrue at this time for items checked out before the library was closed for lockdown or during this first phase of its reopening. 

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