Free Resources from the New York Public Library: Get Them No Matter Where You Are

During this week's spring break, I'm writing furiously. This post is an earlier one--and probably the most popular--that many new readers may have missed.

 We all know that libraries are undervalued. But did you ever consider that you might be missing out on what's available on your library's website? Turns out, similar to the dusty research section few of us frequent, there are huge amounts of undiscovered, free information just waiting for writers looking for inspiration.

And it's free.

The best part, is that you can browse a library website located thousands of miles away, taking advantage of the information they offer. Occasionally, you'll find some access restricted to local library members (meaning you'd have to type in your library card number), but if you really need that information, some libraries don't mind giving library cards to non-locals. Or your local library might be able to obtain access for you. Just ask.

I grew up in New York City. But it wasn't until last year that I actually set foot in the New York Public Library. Back in January 2010, I had a wonderful time wandering the halls of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. You know, the building where they filmed Ghostbusters. The soaring painted ceilings, carved woodwork, and sheer size of the place were breathtaking.

So I figured their website had to be amazing.

It was. This blog post almost didn't get written. I got so absorbed in the wonderful collections at the NYPL, that time got away from me. Happily, I ended up with a few dozen historical images that will be instrumental in finishing my manuscript.

The home page of the NYPL is deceptive, with only a few links to click on. I'll give you the highlights to save you some time.

If you click Find Books, Dvds & More, you'll get to choose from Articles and Databasesebooks, digital Images & More, Collections, and Recommendations.

I spent a little time in Articles & Databases. I did a search for English and American Literature. One of the great sites that came up is a database called the Jane Austen Info Page. On it you can find links to all her novels, plus her minor works. Another intriguing site that I found is the Victorian Women Writers ProjectThis is a site where Victorian women authors' work is transcribed onto the internet.

You can also search journal articles, browse the special collections and archival materials, check on their ebooks, audio books and digital images, and fill out an interlibrary loan form if there's something you must see in person.

Not sure where to begin? Try clicking on Places to Start Your Research. 

The Digital Gallery alone has three-quarters of a million images, from illuminated maps to vintage posters. I could spend a few days in that collection alone. Historical research, anyone?

I didn't have much time left to explore Blogs, Videos and Publications. The library hosts its own blog, prints numerous publications, and has a surprising number of audio, video and digital projects. 

If you have a specific question, or need help with research, there are specialized librarians waiting to assist you. Go to Ask NYPL.

I'm sure I barely scratched the surface of what's available. But I'm glad I took some time to virtually browse on a rainy afternoon. I'm curious. What's did you uncover?


  1. Wow Debbie! I had NO idea.
    See? This is why I follow your blog-- all the great info you put out here.
    I've never been to NY, but I have been to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
    It is awe inspiring in its architecture and ornamentation, but the resources! We spent a wonderful, drizzley spring day just wandering throughout, revisiting Bob Hope and showing our boys vaudeville history, gawking at Ira & George Gershwin's piano and handwritten music (our boys type and text-- their script is awful), perusing Lincoln's life and the contents of his pockets the night he was shot....
    Thanks you for showing me this. Eye opener!

  2. Thanks for posting this! wow indeed! what an amazing source of information you are :)

  3. Pamela-I'm so glad you got a chance to see it in person. It really is an amazing place. I need to schedule a whole day there next time.

    Nutschell-You know,it's funny how I come across things. Sometimes I wonder if I'll run out of resources to mention, but they just pop up in my journeys around the web. :)


  4. You're Mrs. Resource.


    Thank you so much for sharing your awesome tips and inspiration, Debbie.

  5. That's one title I hadn't heard yet--hopefully I'll live up to it. Thank you, Kelley!




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