You’ve probably seen the beautiful Stephen A. Schwarzman Building dozens of times. The main branch of the New York Public Library is often featured in movies. Its entrance is guarded by two iconic lion sculptures named Patience and Fortitude. It houses 15 million items, from contemporary novels to baseball cards to ancient Japanese scrolls. It’s also the home of a program known as “the city’s most cerebral happy hour.”  

NYPL hosts The Library After Hours, where community members ages 21+ are invited to come to the library — after hours, of course — to enjoy music, snacks and drinks, performances, and behind-the-scenes access to the library’s collections. Each program has a theme; past event themes include “Icons of Women’s History,” National Poetry Month, and the “Pride” edition. 

Emily Pullen is Manager of Reader Services and Engagement in the Patron Services department at NYPL. She and her team have twice lent their expertise to the After Hours series as part of an overall goal to make book browsing a great experience for all 88 branches in the NYPL system.   

“The idea is to come to the library and have fun!” said Emily. “There’s often a DJ and drinks. You get to visit a different part of the library and do different activities in each area. Usually, the activity is related to or inspired by the services of the library.”

In December 2023, the theme for the program was “Uncensored.” Attendees learned about the “long history of censorship across the globe,” heard readings of censored work and films, and could take part in librarian-led “book matchmaking,” with help from NoveList Plus.  

Aidan Flax-Clark, the Director of LIVE at NYPL, the department that runs the After Hours series, said the program aims “to help people find the next book they didn’t know they’d love, to get more library card signups, and to get people excited about reading.”  

Emily adds that there is value in creating positive associations with the library, and human connection via recommendations."Even if they don’t check out a book that night, they may remember it next week when they walk by their neighborhood branch.” 

A librarian wearing a green shirt and a bowtie talks to two female patrons in the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library

Emily Pullen, far left, helping attendees at the December 2023 "After Hours" event. Photo credit: Alice Proujansky 

So, how did NoveList help? 

When Emily and their team took their places in the Bill Blass Cataloging Room, the antechamber to the magnificent Rose Main Reading Room, they sat with their laptops and got ready for lines of readers to form. 

For two hours and forty minutes, Emily and their team recommended books to a stream of eventgoers — and when they weren’t ready with an immediate answer from their own reading experience, they had NoveList Plus right there to help them.  

“We’d say, ‘Tell me a book you like, and I’ll suggest another one to you,’” recalled Emily. “Eight out of 10 times it’s not a book I’ve read, so that’s when NoveList Plus comes in. It is like a Wizard of Oz tool!”  

“It was exhilarating and exhausting, you know,” Emily continued, “to be doing five-minute recommendations for over two hours. I definitely wanted to sleep late the next day. But it was super fun. It’s really fun to introduce [NoveList Plus] to people who you know are book lovers. It’s useful for librarians but it’s also fun.  

“Readers may not know they like ‘atmospheric’ books but now they do because all these different books they enjoy fall under that category. I sort of think of it as someone who gets into wine tasting — you’re developing this language, but this is doing it with books. And NoveList Plus is useful, in an important way, so librarians and anyone who is a reader can really build out that vocabulary.” 

Emily described spinning their laptop around and showing patrons how to use NoveList Plus right there at the event. It’s another example of how this great tool can help library staff elevate the service they offer readers. You don’t have to rely on your own knowledge, which as we know for library staff, is nothing to sniff at — library staff know their stuff! But none of us can know everything, so having a tool like NoveList Plus is key to enabling library staff to do their job with excellence. 

A librarian with a laptop helps to two female patrons in the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library

Chasity Moreno, left, helping two attendees at The Library "After Hours" in December 2023. Photo credit: Alice Proujansky

Aidan said that about a thousand people came to their last two programs. An after-hours program like this is something that could be adapted to any size library. 

Even if you can’t host a program with DJs and drinks, you can offer reading recommendations as an add-on to another program. We think that’s a cool idea, and NoveList Plus is ready and waiting. If you want more information, click below to reach out.  

Leigh Gaddy is the Lead/Demand Generation Marketing Specialist for NoveList. She is currently reading The Upstairs Delicatessen: on Eating, Reading, Reading about Eating, and Eating While Reading by Dwight Garner.