The New York Public Library: More Than Just Books

I’ve lived in New York for over 10 years and as a result of my “bustling social life” and “deep knowledge of NYC culture”, my little black book of “hip and credible” places to visit is bursting at the seams. My perennial favorite is the New York Public Library. It offers more than just books – it’s a veritable gateway to an entire network of experiences to meet your literary, cultural, educational, entertainment and social needs.

Did you know that your NYPL membership gives you FREE access to: in-person events, e-books, passes to NYC cultural institutions, movie streaming, online learning resources and more.

Our handy guide gives you an overview of the NYPL and its offerings. Find out about:

pile of assorted title book lot selective focus photographt
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

NYPL Offerings

In-person Events
The NYPL has 92 locations across Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island, collectively offering 93,000 free programs per year, spanning:

  • Music and dance performances, such as the classics, jazz and adult karaoke
  • Career and business workshops covering topics such as job search methods, resume building, career change strategies and LinkedIn skills
  • Arts and crafts classes, like knitting, crochet and sculpture
  • Health and wellness classes, including meditation and ballet
  • Kids’ programs, such as Lego, homework help, STEAM/STEM, story time and play groups

SimplyE Reader App
The SimplyE reader app can be downloaded from Google Play and the App Store and provides access to over 30,000 titles including bestsellers and classics.

Culture Pass NYC
Culture Pass NYC enables members of NYPL, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library free access to 45 museums and cultural institutions across the 5 boroughs, including Intrepid Air & Space Museum, and Brooklyn Kids Museum. You’ll need to reserve a pass online ahead of time, which you receive upon arrival at the institution by showing a valid form of ID. You can redeem 1 pass per institution each year, which enables admission for 1-4 family members depending on the institution.

Kanopy Movie Streaming
The Kanopy movie streaming service offers more than 30,000 feature films, shorts, documentaries to stream onto your smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC or smart TV with a maximum usage of 10 titles per month. You’ll find:

  • Kids movies and TV shows, such as our household favorite, cross-generational Australian mockumentary series, Little Lunch
  • Classics such as The Bicycle Thieves and Alfie
  • Docos including Embrace by Aussie filmmaker Taryn Brumfitt and my recent favorite, Minimalism
  • Music performances by LCD Soundsystem, Prince and Fela Kuti
  • Business and career guides such as the Stamford Executive Briefings
  • There’s even an Australian Studies section including cinematic breakouts: My Brilliant Career, Puberty Blues and Skippy

LYNDA LinkedIn Online Courses
The LYNDA online course website by LinkedIn offers over 5,700 video courses taught by industry experts in technology, creative, and business, such as animation, education, IT, marketing, media production, photography, project management, web design. It even offers music and vocal lessons.

Mango Languages
Mango is an interactive language learning resource offering over 70 different languages, including ASL, Hebrew, Japanese and Spanish. Don’t forget you’ll need to use the link from NYPL to register for a free account.

IDNYC is an identification card, issued by the NYC Government and available to all NYC residents. You can use your IDNYC card at any public library in New York including NYPL, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library Systems. It also offers benefits including free 1-year memberships at selected city institutions like museums and zoos, as well as discounts on movie tickets, sporting events, health centers and more. You can enroll for IDNYC at selected NYPL branches. For more info check the NYC gov site.

woman reading whilst sitting on a pile of books
Image by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

How To Access FREE Resources Via NYPL

To access the free subscription-based resource, you will need to first log on to your NYPL account, search for the resource link and check “search”, locate the “subscription database” result, then once you are redirected to the resource you will need to verify your NYPL membership as you create an account.

New York Public Library
Step 1: Use the NYPL search function to “Search”.
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Step 2: Locate the link to the “Subscription Database” in the search results.

NYPL Membership

Who is eligible for a NYPL card ?
Any person who lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State is eligible to receive a New York Public Library card free of charge. There is also a temporary card available to national and international visitors to New York State. Learn more.

How can I get a NYPL card ?
You can apply in person at any NYPL branch or submit an application online. When you apply in person or validate a card you’ve applied for online, you’ll need to provide proof that you live, work, attend school, or pay property taxes in New York State. Learn more.

I am a cardholder of the Brooklyn and/or Queens Public Library, do I need to get a separate card for the NYPL?
As a courtesy to other New York City library ​users, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library cardholders may use their existing card once it is linked to ​their ​NYPL​ account​. However you must return materials to the respective public library systems from which they are borrowed. Learn more.

Why do Queens and Brooklyn have their own public library system?
In his article for The New York Times, Different Boroughs, Different Library Systems, Keith Williams explains that the Queens and Brooklyn public libraries were founded before the 5 Boroughs consolidated into New York City. He reports that although there have been attempts to merge the public library systems, pushback from Borough representatives as well as logical challenges due to incompatibility across the tracking systems have prevented a single citywide public library system from materializing.

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What Does the NYPL Mean For You?
Where’s your favorite NYPL location? What hidden gems have you discovered there? Tell us in the comments below.

Author: Angela Tohl

Adelaide-born Angela came to New York in search of the ultimate adventure, by way of Australia and Japan. She juggles technical and copywriting projects, with chasing her kids around (usually on roller skates). Find Angela on Twitter @angelatohl and at Image credit: Susie Lang

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