New York Public Library spoofs patrons for Black Friday

New York Public Library lion mascot holding iPhone with NYPL app.

The campaign touts “free books for all” through the NYPL and emphasizes its new fine-free policy.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is back with a spoof campaign this Black Friday, touting deals “for the books.”

In its fourth Black Friday campaign, created in-house by the library’s communications team, the NYPL is offering books that are “freer than ever” with “0% interest loans” and “free returns.” 

This year, the tongue-in-cheek campaign also calls attention to the library’s new policy of eliminating all late fines, announced in October. 

Digital ads shared on social media and emailed to the library’s more than 1.3 million subscribers point out that “the Library’s prices have always been fine, but now they’re “fine free.” The ads mimic Black Friday retail emails that have calls to action with phrases “show me the free” and “did someone say free?” 

Readers that click through will be taken to a microstate with information about how to sign up for a library card and “unlock the deal” for free books. The library will also recommend books from its list of more than 300 considered the Best Books of 2021, released earlier this week. 

Unlike prior years, the NYPL will not run a full-page New York Times ad. 

The campaign aims to remind people of the value that libraries can offer with free knowledge, said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library in a press release. 

“These ads, of course, generate an always-needed chuckle, but they also call attention to the best deal of any season: public libraries, and the worlds of knowledge, adventure, opportunity, and fun that they offer all people every day,” he said.“It’s a funny but important reminder that libraries are here and will always be here for whatever the public needs – good books, expert recommendations, helpful classes, fascinating programs, and, sometimes, a good laugh.” 

Since the decision to remove fines, visits and circulation to the NYPL have increased by 10% across the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. 

The NYPL began its Black Friday spoor campaign in 2018. Since then, each iteration has contributed to spikes in library card signups, web traffic and donations. In 2020, for instance, the campaign drove 543 virtual library card applications, an 84% daily average increase. Last year, the library also received 130 donations on Black Friday, compared to 78 in 2019.


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