We all have great memories about our local library—old and new—the favorite book series we checked out when we were young, pictures we drew during a class, or how we used the quiet space for study and research. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to offer our patrons a unique way to capture a moment from their library visit? Will they tell us how they use the library? Could we make it easy for them to share the moment with others?
We ultimately decided to install photo booths at two of our libraries. Photo booths, after all, have a rich history in American culture. There are books written about their legacy and artists have used them for experimentation and expression for decades. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol was seemingly obsessed with the use of photo booths, producing portraits of himself and famous faces of the era.
Even with the widespread use of photo-enabled smartphones and social-networking sites like Instagram, photo booths remain popular today. In the few weeks since installing the booths, we’ve gotten more than 1,900 photographs that represent a fascinating portrait of our patrons, from light-hearted to serious-minded individuals, couples, and families.
One booth is located at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in Astor Hall and the other is at Mid-Manhattan Library, on the ground floor near the entrance. The locations were chosen based on their close proximity to each other and to the office of the Multimedia team responsible for the installation and ongoing maintenance of the equipment. (Huge thanks to Richert Schnorr and other members of Multimedia who spent countless hours on this project!)
We decided to offer patrons preselected options for what brings them to the Library—borrowing, exploring, learning, reading, researching, studying, visiting, writing—and where they are from—Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, outside the New York region. By providing these options, it is quick and easy to participate and it should allow us to easily aggregate the data the way we would with traditional survey methodology. The photographs are sent to the email address provided to us and we hope our patrons will share the image, their library moment, with friends and family.
Visit Mid-Manhattan Library or the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, take your picture, and share with others how you use the Library. Share with us, too, on Instagram by using #NYPL and #NYPLPhotobooth hashtags. We will continue to highlight ones here on the Inside NYPL blog channel, and on Facebook and Twitter.
For a brief history of the photo booth and its inventor, Siberian immigrant Anatol Josepho (March 31, 1894 - December 1980), read this blog post written by Billy Parrott, Managing Librarian at Mid-Manhattan Library, Art and Picture Collections.
View all the images in our new NYPL Photo Booth account on Flickr.