NYC Library Takes Novel Approach, Posting Books to Instagram

08/22/18 12:15 AM EDT
By Charles Passy 

For generations, the New York Public Library has given cardholders the opportunity to head to their local branch and borrow a book. Since 2005, it also has provided them with the option of going online and checking out an e-book.

Now, the library is going a step further and posting classic novels and short stories to its account on Instagram, the Facebook Inc.-owned photo- and video-sharing platform.

The new service, dubbed "Insta Novels," will be available to all Instagram users starting Wednesday, regardless of whether they have a NYPL card or live in New York City.

The library is starting with just one offering: Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." In the months that follow, it plans to add two more: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper, " and Franz Kafka's novella, "The Metamorphosis."

The idea is to use Instagram to promote reading in general and the NYPL brand in particular, library officials said. It also aims to show that libraries are changing with the times and fully adapting to the digital era.

"We want people to understand that libraries aren't just those brick-and-mortar places full of dusty books," said Christopher Platt, the NYPL's chief branch library officer.

The library joined with Mother in New York, an advertising and creative agency, on the project. The agency donated its staff resources and time.

The technology works in such a way that when readers are on the Instagram app, they hold the page of a book by resting their thumb on the screen, library officials said. They turn the page by lifting their thumb.

The experience is "unmistakably like reading a paperback novel," Corinna Falusi, Mother in New York's partner and chief creative officer, said in a statement.

The Instagram service cost under $10,000 to develop, library officials said. The NYPL has an annual budget of $345.9 million.

The Instagram project is the latest effort by the NYPL to find new ways to engage the public.

Last month, the NYPL joined New York City's other library systems to introduce Culture Pass, a program that provides free admission to more than 30 museums and other institutions.

The Instagram service has at least one library fan questioning if the NYPL is taking the right approach.

Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a New York City-based watchdog group, said the emphasis on online reading works against the idea of libraries as physical spaces where books are curated and knowledge is shared.

"It diminishes the sense of place and purpose," he said.

Write to Charles Passy at cpassy@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 22, 2018 00:15 ET (04:15 GMT)

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