The New York Public Library Opens a ‘Virtual Branch’ on Instagram to Launch #NYPLSummerBookshelf, A Reading Recommendation Project Using Augmented Reality Technology

Participants record themselves “inside” the Library’s new virtual lending library (accessible via Instagram Reels) to recommend at least one summer read

Rachel Bloom, Min Jin Lee, Eva Chen, and other authors, celebrities, and influencers to participate



JUNE 23, 2022—The hot spot to be this summer is The New York Public Library’s new “virtual branch” on Instagram—where anyone can drop in and share a book recommendation to get people reading this summer. 

The virtual branch—a custom designed interactive AR (Augmented Reality) Effect accessible via Instagram Reels—is the centerpiece of #NYPLSummerBookshelf, a new initiative to spark a love of reading, encourage summer reads, and promote public libraries. 

More information can be found at

Celebrities, authors, and influencers including actress Rachel Bloom, author Min Jin Lee, influencer and author Eva Chen, Meta chief business officer Marne Levine, and others are participating, sharing video reading recommendations from the virtual lending library. Those videos will be shared on the Library’s channel (@nypl) as well as their own channels throughout the summer.

This is how to participate:

  • Open Instagram Reels. Click the three stars above the record button and search "NYPL" in the effects library.
  • You will see yourself inside of a virtual branch, designed with inspiration from the Library’s newly transformed central circulating branch, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL). The space also nods towards the Library’s research collections. For example, a stuffed bear on a shelf is meant to be the original Winnie-The-Pooh: the bear that was once owned by the real-life Christopher Robin and inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh stories. That item—as well as millions of others—are part of the Library’s research collections; Winnie is currently on display at the free Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures at the 42nd Street Library.
  • Look around to find your favorite spot in our virtual branch to use as a background.
  • Press and hold the record button. Tell us who you are and what your favorite summer read is. Even better, show us your book! 
  • When you’re done filming, post the video to your account. Make sure to tag it with #NYPLSummerBookshelf so @NYPL can help spread the word!
  • As always, don’t forget to add closed captions to make sure everyone can enjoy your post. Before uploading, click on the square with a smiley face, then select the “Captions” icon, and Instagram will do the rest.
  • All of the recommendations taken together create what the Library believes to be the first-ever virtual “bookshelf” of recommendations on Instagram. 

“This project is a new, exciting, innovative new way for The New York Public Library to further spark excitement about books and reading,” said Brian Bannon, the Library’s Merryl and James Tisch Director of Branch Libraries and Education.“To use Instagram’s incredible AR technology to create a welcoming digital space where everyone can discuss books, share recommendations, and possibly connect with their next great summer read—that’s right up our alley. We’re always trying new things to encourage reading and further the work we do in our branches every day. We hope people visit our virtual branch and try this one out.”

The #NYPLSummerBookshelf is a virtual addition to NYPL’s Summer at the Library initiative ( to offer New York kids, teens, and their families a series of free programs, challenges, and book giveaways to entertain, spark a lifelong love of reading and learning, and help students combat “summer slide”—when they forget what they learned in the summer months while outside the classroom. 

About The New York Public Library

For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at 

About Meta

Meta builds technologies that help people connect, find communities, and grow businesses. When Facebook launched in 2004, it changed the way people connect. Apps like Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp further empowered billions around the world. Now, Meta is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.