Books and Ink: The Literary Tattoos of NYPL Staff

By NYPL Staff
July 17, 2019

Tattooing has been around for thousands of years, and it's no surprise that books and literature often serve as tattoo inspiration. To celebrate National Tattoo Day on July 17, NYPL staff members are sharing their literary tattoos and some stories behind them. Do you have a literary tattoo? Tell us about it in the comments!

Matilda tattoo

When I got this tattoo, it was pretty clear that I'd be a book dork forever. Several years later, I wrote an essay about Matilda that helped me get into grad school for library science. Needless to say, she's been a source of inspiration for as long as I've known her.

—Emily Pullen, Assistant Book Buyer at The New York Public Library Shop


Elizabeth Acevedo tattoo

I actually have quite a few literary tattoos, all of which feature strong female characters. This particular tattoo is the only bit of word art I have, and it comes from a spoken word poem by Elizabeth Acevedo. I had my own mother write the words out, which the artist then transferred over to create the tattoo.

—Kaitlin Frick, Senior Children's Librarian at 53rd Street Library


Shel Silverstein tattoo

This tattoo is inspired by two of my favorite poems from one of my all-time favorite poetry collections, Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Both poems (and Silverstein's work, in general) have resonated throughout my life, and have stuck with me as sources of inspiration and encouragement. The candle image graces the first page of the book, alongside a poem titled "Invitation," a beautiful poem inviting people from all walks to come in, suspend belief, expand your imagination, and read! The text comes from the final two lines of my other favorite, "Listen to the Mustn'ts," which reminds all children that, though there are lots of "mustn'ts" in the world, "anything can happen, child. ANYTHING can be."

—Katrina Ortega, Manager for College and Career Pathways


franz kafka tattoo

Franz Kafka's portrait was my first tattoo (I've gotten about 12 more since). I'd always related to his humor, cynicism, and expertly absurd narratives. He is now joined on my arm by ODB and Robocop to signify the holy trinity of literature, music, and cinema.

—Joey Leyko Picciotto, Library Information Assistant at Stapleton Library


Lemony Snicket

When I was younger and immersed in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, I used to draw the symbol for the mysterious group VFD on my ankle with Sharpie all the time. I was in my mid-twenties when I finally got the ink done permanently. It serves as a symbol to put out every fire I can, and always carry a book with me everywhere I go.

—Atticus Sutcliffe, Library Information Assistant and Teen Services at City Island Library


maya angelou tattoo

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”- Maya Angelou. The butterfly is my Zen and describes the essence of Me.

—NYPL Library Information Assistant


card catalog tattoo

I got this tattoo shortly after starting with the NYPL celebrate the culmination of all my work in libraries prior to moving to NYC. It was designed by fellow librarian Andrew Fairweather!

—Allie Affinito, Children's Librarian at Chatham Square Library


book pile tattoo

—Sarah West, Children's Librarian at St. Agnes Library


graveyard book tattoo

My tattoo is of a quote from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. In the scene that the quote is from, Bod is discussing the ghosts of people who have committed suicide with his caretaker, Silas. He asks Silas if they are happier now, and Silas tells him they aren't, because, "Wherever you go, you take yourself with you." I got this tattoo after I finished my thesis (which was about Neil Gaiman's books!), both as a reminder of what I've accomplished, and as a reminder that wherever I go, I'm stuck with myself, so I'd better do things that make me happy. So far, the reminder has proved useful!

—Michelle Vacchio, Children's Librarian Trainee at Aguilar Library


book tattoo

I graduated from library school!

—Jennnifer Minehardt, Children's Librarian at Roosevelt Island Library


lion tattoo

I've been working at the Library since I was 15. I started as a Page, Senior Page, Clerk, Senior Clerk, and now Library Manager. I don't remember how many years I had already worked for the Library when I got this tattoo, but I just hit 21 years in January. The Library has been a big part of my life, even before I started working here, so it just has a lot of meaning to me. Eventually, I'd like to get the new NYPL lion near this one, so I can have Patience & Fortitude.

—NYPL Library Manager


words are life tattoo

When I was a kid, I was an embodiment of the cliché where I would read under a blanket with a flashlight after bedtime. I really enjoy Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, and was watching the film version when "words are life" was said, and I couldn't get it out of my head. After some time in the publishing industry and now attending library school while working for NYPL, the phrase still rings true.

—Colleen Gibson, NYPL Social Media Associate


always tattoo

My college best friend Lauren did not seem like the "nerdy" sort when we first met, but we eventually bonded over our shared love of Harry Potter when she saw me looking at a fan page in my dorm. The fan page post had a picture of Snape, and she said, "I love Harry Potter!" We later decided to get an "Always" handwriting-style tattoo because of that moment, featuring different Harry Potter motifs (the Deathly Hallows, lightning bolt, and stars) because we will always be friends and always love Harry Potter.

—Katelynne Lawson, Children's Librarian Trainee at St. George Library Center