N.Y. Public Library puts its 'Treasures' online

— -- The New York Public Library quietly rolled out a new video series last month. Titled "Treasures," it showcases 11 gems of the library's vast collection of more than 50 million items.

And since then it has joined Facebook, broadening an online reach that already included YouTube and iTunes pages to gain more of an audience — which, for one of the world's largest public libraries, includes "everybody from preschool toddlers to the greatest writers in the world," says president Paul LeClerc.

Curators and administrators whittled a list of hundreds of ideas to record videos of the most "visually grabbing," says director David Ferriero.

The library has made the videos available on its site, nypl.org, as well as on YouTube— where its photography piece is by far its most popular with more than 13,000 views. The video, "Knowing What to See" is the only one featuring current events: the drug trade in Afghanistan as photographed by Stephen Dupont.

His works "you can appreciate both aesthetically and for its relevance in what's happening in the world today," curator Stephen Pinson says in the video, comparing it to photos from the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Depression.

Dupont's images as well as pieces featured in the Art Deco video are currently on exhibit at the library. Yet while the number of people walking through its doors has remained steady at about 16 million a year, according to the library, it allows people to "check out" e-books, audio books and music on its site, which then disappears from a user's computer or iPod on the due date.

But LeClerc says it's important to "break the naïve bubble where people assume eventually everything's going to be online."

"There's just too much stuff, especially the non-book materials," he says, though he expects most books to be available in the "near term" through Google, which already offers the full text of more than 7 million books. Looking online "is really like the first lick of an ice cream cone and then if you want to eat the ice cream cone you have to come to the library."

While many use the library for academic research, the videos are meant to be "more entertaining than scholarly," says marketing director Susan Halligan, who participated in the production. "It's meant to reach people who may be aware of the library as a brand but not the incredible collection."