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Snapshots from NYPL

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.


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.

Photo Booth Pics

This very much reminds me of JR's recent project in Times Square where he set up a photo booth and took pics of passers-by. Regardless, I feel that the white background in the above pics is a bit harsh. I would use something of a darker color. It would add a bit of richness to the photo and also help absorb the harsh lighting. Otherwise, I think that this is a great idea to get patrons involved and make the library more of a personal experience. Rudy

Thanks for your comment

Thanks for your comment Rudy, As the photo booth project continues to evolve and grow, feedback from patrons like you will help us make it a continued success. So, I really do appreciate you taking the time to write a comment. I hope you'll be able to stop by and take a photo soon if you haven't already. Best, Richert

A Couple of Ideas to Make a Great Idea Greater

Love this idea, but I think in addition to flickr, the NYPL Photobooth should have its own Instagram feed. I tagged my photo on IG, but only spotted a couple of other booth pics on IG. Also what would be great if there were some props - like copies of most loved books, library cards, etc. for people to use in their pics. It's the library and it's an awesome place - think it should be more incorporated/represented in the pictures!

Thanks for your comment! We

Thanks for your comment! We are continuing to experiment with how to get our users to share their photos in many ways, including Instagram. We will definitely take your suggestions into account as we continue to refine the booths and make them even better. -Richert, New Media Designer for NYPL

I took my photo last week can I find it by my name


Thanks for your

Thanks for your question, Currently you cannot search the Flickr feed by name. That's a feature that we're looking at adding in our next round of software updates, possibly next month. Many of the improvements we're looking into involves how to more easily use the data, such as the date the photo was taken, and name and location of the user. Currently, the Flickr stream displays the images by most recent photographs. -Richert New Media Designer for NYPL

Photobooth set-up

What a great idea! No doubt other libraries and museums may be interested in creating a similar opportunity. Did you use actual photo booth equipment or design your own system to take the snapshots and post them?

We worked with MVS Studio

We worked with MVS Studio ( on the production of the booths. They were great to work with and their experience in the field was invaluable.


This project is forward-thinking and a lot of fun. I'm very curious about the staff requirements to keep it running, the equipment, etc. Would you consider sharing that information with museums and galleries as well as with other libraries? It would make a fascinating presentation at a conference, or maybe a google hangout for other people in the industry. Thanks for sharing.


Greetings from one of your greatest admittedly amicable admirers! Cliques aside, your whimsical project truely portrays the incredible insight into one of societies greatest pastimes and dare I say in a "Disney" way, fetishes; that of self-proclaimed voyeuristic whimsical which we all enjoy and thrive in its delightful, delicious and delectible delights (Again another clique I could not resist). This funfilled treasure of an idea of your's instintly conjured up in my own cognition an idea that I certainly can not claim as my own for it has been done for years, AND with all the advancements in modernized editing technology Could easily be persuasive in its content. The suggestion I speak of is that of post cards or even regular seasonal or occasional two sided cards that one could send to Grand Ma Ma or a long lost love or just a good the library has been to so many of us! Of course its just a silly suggestion that I myself would enjoy for years to come and gladly pay for as apposed to a prefab sentiment from the drug store...just a thought¿♡♥


This is awesome!

Great Idea!

I am totally in LOVE with this idea. I actually stopped by for a meeting and I saw the photobooth. I might have been a little loud when I saw it because I was so excited. So I stopped and I took a picture. LOVE! Thanks for the blog post! <3

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