New York Public Library (NYPL) and big-five publisher Macmillan have reached an agreement that will see Macmillan release children’s and adult print and ebooks inspired by and sourced at the library, making NYPL’s famed collection available to a broader audience. Adult works will be overseen by St. Martin’s Press executive editor Michael Flamini, while publisher Jean Feiwel and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers editorial director Christian Trimmer will oversee the children’s part of the program. “This partnership with Macmillan is a new, wonderful way to share our collections and celebrate the role of libraries with the public, said NYPL President Tony Marx. Macmillan expressed similar pleasure, with CEO John Sargent commenting, “What a great pleasure it is to be the publishing partner of the NYPL…It is an honor both personally and professionally to work with them to disseminate this great wealth of content.”
The deal was negotiated by Macmillan EVP Will Schwalbe and NYPL Chief External Relations Officer Carrie Welch. In a phone call with LJ, Welch explained that Schwalbe approached her in mid-2014 with the idea of beginning a publishing partnership. “The library used to have a publications department,” said Welch. “It published a lot of great books, mostly scholarly and non-trade books. I became interested in the idea of using trade publishing to increase access to our collections outside of New York. Will’s idea found a happy home because it was the kind of thing I was thinking about in the first place.”
The agreement is not an exclusive one, explained Welch, who noted that scholars in the library can continue to publish scholarly works with any press or independently. The library will also continue to produce catalogs of its exhibitions and other such materials outside of the Macmillan contract. At the moment, said Welch, NYPL is not pursuing agreements with other publishers to produce trade books. The books will be part of NYPL’s collections, and will be widely available to libraries and bookstores as well; NYPL hopes they will be collected by other libraries, said Welch.
Welch explained that the plan involves publishing library-related books, such as a title about libraries by Maira Kalman and Book Face, which will present photos from the library’s successful #bookface Instagram posts. The program will also release works that showcase the library’s rare and specialized materials, drawn primarily from material that is in the public domain or out of copyright, including a book on New York restaurant life that will feature some of NYPL’s 45,000 menus. Children’s titles will be available too; the first such title planned is Coloring in the Lions, a coloring book starring the library’s iconic entryway lions, Patience and Fortitude. A middle grade novel, telling the story of a real family who lived at NYPL, is also forthcoming. Rerelease of rare and out-of-print works is a possibility too, said Welch.
Ideas for books that will be part of the NYPL/Macmillan partnership have come about in various ways. Macmillan, said Welch, “approached the library with preconceived ideas about books they wanted to produce with us. The menu book, for example, was one they had in mind—they wanted to use those menus to tell a story, and the curators here at the library have been a big part of the discussions about that book.” Other titles were planned during talks between Macmillan editors and curators at the library, while the Kalman book, said Welch, was her idea. The library is also open to staff and patron ideas for books to add to the program; those interested should contact the library through its AskNYPL service.