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Andrew Heiskell Library: Ahead of Our Time


We're sometimes asked to explain what we do to individuals or groups of people interested in or in need of the library services we provide. In the past, this often meant long, even tedious descriptions of how we put the right books in the homes of our patrons. There was little if anything to which we could make comparisons.

But now, thanks to online services like Amazon, the explanation has become a snap. The following is from a presentation made by Mark McCluski, Head of the Andrew Heiskell Library. We thought you would enjoy reading it.

Cast your minds back to 2008: George W. Bush is in the White House. The economy tanks, stores close, and industries collapse. In the middle of all that, grows. Why?

  • People felt they needed access to books and media, even as they were realizing they could do without many things they used to think they had to have.
  • They could order their books around the clock.
  • Their books were delivered to their door. Free shipping.
  • Downloadable content was available for people who wanted it.
  • New titles were recommended based on user-entered preferences or past order history.

Who wouldn’t want that? It was an effective model that gave people something that was important to them.

Mailing Carrier and Braille BoxesMailing Carrier and Braille BoxesIf you were using that as a model for modern library services, what would you add?

  • It would be free.
  • You could talk to a human being if you like.
  • There would be an onsite alternative that would offer, in addition to basic book services:
  1. Instruction in the use of what we offer.
  2. Cultural, entertainment, or informational programming targeted to your interests.

There would be alternative ways to submit orders: Telephone, including 24-hour Voicemail; Fax; US Mail; Email; and now, Online Ordering.

Add it all together: this is the service model for the Andrew Heiskell Library. And we did it before there was an Amazon.



Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

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