NYC Public Library, MTA team up to boost readership and ridership

New York City Public Library, the MTA, and Transit Wireless teamed up on an initiative launched last week to get younger subway riders more interested in books. How? Surround them with hardcovers.

Image via The New York Public Library's Twitter page
Image via The New York Public Library's Twitter page

NEW YORK: Although it doesn’t mean a quieter commute, thousands of New York City straphangers have been riding to work surrounded by books as part of an initiative from the New York City Public Library, the MTA, and Transit Wireless.

The Subway Library campaign, launched last Thursday, is set to run for six weeks. Its centerpiece is one train, which will alternate between the E and F lines, with its interior wrapped to look like the New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room.

The initiative also gives riders plenty of free reading material. It is enabling commuters to access hundreds of free e-books, excerpts, and short stories during train rides by connecting to TransitWirelessWiFi and clicking on the prompt.

The library is trying to spark a love of reading in younger populations, mainly by targeting parents of young kids.

"We all see parents on the subway with their kids looking for ways to keep them occupied," said Angela Montefinise, director of media relations for the library. "So maybe there is a way for them to read to their kids [on the subway]? There is nothing wrong with Angry Birds and all of that, but we’d love to give them another option."

Transit Wireless is also running a social media campaign encouraging riders to post a photo with the Library Train or a Subway Library poster with the hashtag #SubwayLibrary and tag @TWWiFi on Instagram or Twitter. Those who do will be automatically entered to win an Amazon Kindle Voyager or a special prize from the New York Public Library shop.

The effort, for which budget information was not disclosed, was developed internally. The trio of organizations picked a car running on the F and E trains for the Subway Library because the lines run through Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, noted Montefinise.

The library’s media relations team reached out to TV networks and outlets such as The New York Times, New York Post, and AM New York to spread the word about the activation. was developed with the same technology the New York Public Library used to create the free SimplyE e-reader app, which it launched last year. A library card is needed to access books through the app, according to Montefinise.

At the time, Montefinise noticed that the MTA was partnering with Penguin Random House on a campaign called Subway Reads, with the goal of improving the commute experience by providing riders with free access to content. The MTA also wanted to highlight the availability of free Wi-Fi in underground subway stations and boost awareness of the business it shares with partner TransitWireless.

"We wanted to get in front of more people and give them a taste of what we have to offer," she said. "Our digital team created a mobile version [of the app] using that same tech where people could, without a library card, go online, and download books or a chapter of a book—something they could read on their commute."

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