Biblion: iPad app from The New York Public Library

Biblion: The Boundless Library is a new iPad app from The New York Public Library. It aims to connect the public with the extensive research materials of the Library.

The first edition of the app showcases the Library’s 1939-40 New York World’s Fair holdings, one of the collections most consulted by researchers. The records of the Fair Corporation span 2,500 boxes of material, from press releases to 12,000 photographs to correspondence with every country and corporation that participated in “The World of Tomorrow” Fair.

By means of an innovative layout users can swipe their way through a virtual map of documents, images, multimedia, and original essays by leading scholars who have used the collections to put the raw materials in context.

Readers can jump from story to story, stack to stack through inter-story connection links resulting in a multi-linear, immersive experience.

Original sources are used to recreate the City of Tomorrow, Democracity. It’s a complete, 360-degree approach to navigating the collection and putting its items in context for a new and personalized learning and reading experience.

“The Library has always stood at the forefront of new channels of information,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “We are excited to present Library users with ever-increasing access to our renowned collections.”

The Library is establishing a reputation for itself as a leading innovator in the field of communications by combining different aspects of modern digital media to reach out and connect to its users and the general public in novel and compelling ways.

In a successful campaign called “Don’t Close the Book on Libraries” it used a theatre group called Improv Everywhere to reenact a scene from Ghostbusters in one of the libraries and used a video of a dog skateboarding through its corridors to garner attention.

A clue to the secret of the Library’s success in engaging with the new forms of media may actually be an old media maxim. In an interview with us last year, Deanna Lee, Vice-President of Communications said, “You have to tell a good story that teaches people about things that they otherwise aren’t hearing, that has great, compelling characters that makes a difference in people’s lives and says to them that you need to care about this story because it’s directly related to what is going on with you.”

The design of the app itself was done by Potion, a firm that specializes in interactive experiences. It was founded by graduates of the MIT Media Laboratory. According to Principal Phillip Tiongson, “Biblion transfers the physical library experience… We have given the content a shape, so people can intuitively understand what it looks like and want to dive into the story.”

The new app is available for free at Apple’s iTunes store. A web version will soon be available at nypl.org. It is the first in a series of apps the Library is planning to release in the coming months.

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