The American Library Association, a group most have never heard of, celebrates September as Library Card Sign-Up Month, a campaign started way back in 1987. Then-Secretary of Education William Bennet wisely felt that every child should have a library card that they use to take out books and partake of the nation’s public library resources. A grant provided by the Reader’s Digest Foundation to the tune of $85,000 kicked off the effort. Disney Publishing Worldwide contributed “Toy Story 4” characters and ready-made graphics to share on social media, helping to promote the event, which has largely remained unknown for the past 32 years, although TV, radio, and print magazine advertising have always been utilized to spread the word.
There was even a way to win $100 Visa Gift Card by signing up this year. Participants were asked to take a selfie with your library card and post to Instagram or Twitter using hashtag #GetLibraryCard. Of course, it was recommended that participants cover or obfuscate any personally identifiable information before submitting. Unfortunately, the deadline on this contest has already passed.
So, in the spirit of helping to promote Library Card Sign-Up Month, our Borough President traveled about as far from Borough hall as is possible while remaining on the island, visiting the Tottenville Public Library branch and renewed his own borrower’s card. “Go get your library card. Read a book,” he tells us. Of course, that’s wise advice, as an educated populace is key for our nation’s system of government to work properly. The more we learn, the better equipped we will all be to deal with life’s challenges. And kids’ scholastic performance, and overall learning capacity, can only be enriched by a trip with parents or caregivers to the local library. Getting kids to appreciate books while they’re young is essential; this underutilized resource should be better known by every Staten Islander, both young and old.
And, of course, a NYPL card is a resource that any resident in NYC or NYS can apply for. NYC residents can simply apply in person, bringing along one photo ID; New York State residents living outside of NYC can even apply by mail. In fact, eligibility is open to anyone living, working, attending school, or paying property taxes in NYS. There’s even a three month temporary card for those interested in borrowing who are traveling to NYC. Call 917-ASK-NYPL for details. The card is completely free, however, please return your borrowed library materials on-time, as there may be late fines if you do not.
There are a lot of resources available besides traditional books to be borrowed. There’s also a ton of services available right on your phone via app, including hundreds of thousands of e-books, learning courses for 71 languages provided by Mango Languages, over 2,000 newspapers, magazines, thousands of online classes, and over one hundred thousand streaming videos. Of course, the NYPL also allows you to order and reserve books from any branch, which will be mailed to your local branch for in-person pick-up. There’s also DVD and CDs, so you can borrow videos of all types, as well as music.
Maybe you remember the iconic main branch flanked by the giant stone lions (named Patience and Fortitude) from the opening scene of the original Ghostbusters. That imposing building was opened in 1911; the Beaux-Arts colossus was the largest marble structure in the United States at the time, holding 3.5 million volumes, and an internal space of 375,000 square feet.
The architectural firm of Carrère and Hasting was selected from a contest back in 1897 for the design of the building. The Astor and Lenox libraries, as well as a donation to the tune of $5.2 million from Andrew Carnegie and a bequest from Samuel J. Tilden helped to create our world-famous library system. Only the Library of Congress is a larger public library, and the NYPL is the third largest in the world, the first being the British Library.
In Brooklyn and Queens, there’s the Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library, both independently operated nonprofits, though NYPL card holders can borrow or place a hold or transfer on books from those libraries as well as the NYPL branches. There are a total of four research libraries in the NYPL system: The Humanities and Social Science Library of 42nd Street, the SIBL for science and business, the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, in Harlem, and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, in the heart of Lincoln Center, all serve our city’s scholars.
There are 39 branches in Manhattan, 35 in the Bronx, and 13 on Our Island. These four research center, along with the 88 branch libraries, are also complemented by collections held in the Queens Public Library with its 60 branches, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library’s array of 60 branches, as stated above. In fact, over time, these libraries have merged some of their departments, including the newly formed BookOps shared technical services department, a combined effort by NYPL and the Brooklyn Public Library.
The NYPL website is an easy way to access the library’s catalogs, online collections, and subscription databases, along with info about free events open to the public, exhibitions, ESL classes, and computer training workshops. All this is free. The online catalog system is called LEO, and was once accessible by telephone, before we had the Internet. Now, of course, cardholders may use LEO to request books from any branch right from their SmartPhone. CATNYP is the equivalent system for research materials help in the NYPL. Books, journals, and other materials may be requested, and once a hold is placed, the item will be shipped to a local branch for pick-up.
Cardholders can also access thousands of magazines, both current issues and archived periodicals from the past. The NYPL Digital Collections is a database of nearly a million images. There are also microfiche collections of periodicals from the past, which are accessible at some local branches. On Staten Iisland, this is available in St. George., and is called the Staten Island History Collection. This service is available to any NYPL card-holder, or any visitor with a photo identification card.
There are also other amenities, such as self-service checkout, Wi-Fi, computers for public card-holder use, as well as children-only restrooms. Free work and life skills classes are offered to residents. And,of course, immigrants are welcomed with open arms; diversity is the rule here. And,as of July 2018, NYPL card holders can visit the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim, and 31 other NYC cultural institutions free of charge.