Connecting with Readers Through Photography

In our public libraries, we see people reading every day. So, perhaps weve become so accustomed to it that we no longer think about it. Maybe, if we let ourselves, we envision people reading on a bench in the park, or curled up in bed, or on the window seat next to a plate glass streaming with rivulets of rain. All are pleasant, warm images.

Reading is special. We think of it as an intimate activity. But when we immerse ourselves in a story in the park or on a train, were engaging in our own little PDA for the book. Suddenly, reading is simultaneously intimate and public.

And nothing represents that more than reading on the subway. Ourit Ben-Haim is a New York City photographer who has been taking pictures of people reading on the subway and taking note of what theyre reading.

Her photos are poetic, capturing the underground literary society that exists within cars rumbling between stops.

Ben-Haim calls the members of this club the Reading-Riders and publishes the photos on her tumblr blog Underground New York Public Library. From time to time, shell share the story on how she got the photo. For book covers she cant interpret or identify, she turns to the tumblr community, which is happy to help.

Its a great marketing tool for reading, and by extension, for the library. Theres opportunity here for NJ libraries to create a marketing campaign that promotes reading, books, and the library. One option is to take photos of people in your library, but even better would be sending a photographer into the community to photograph what local citizens are reading. If you dont have a public venue handy like the subway you can schedule time with patrons in the places they most like to read.

Theres also the opportunity to build closer relationships with business owners. Ask local business owners to be photographed in their shop with the latest book theyre reading or their favorite book. Its an opportunity both to promote their business, reading and the library.

Theres no end to the variations on this campaign: local heroes (firefighters, police), educators, politicians, and more.

What I love about Ben-Haims photos is how absorbed all of the readers are. Theres no better promotion for reading than that image.


About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.