Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL


The New York Public Library has unveiled its fourth annual Black Friday spoof “ad” and it’s a “deal for the books”: a “Black Friday Free for All” where New Yorkers can “buy none, get everything free!” 

The ad itself, plus other “bonus” Black Friday content, can be viewed at

The 2021 installment of the tongue-in-cheek campaign— first launched in 2018 to call attention to the best deal of any season: free books, services, and programs from one’s local library—brags that everything at the Library is “freer than ever,” with “0% interest loans, plus free returns.” It also points out that “the Library’s prices have always been fine, but now they’re fine free,” highlighting the Library system’s historic elimination of late fines in October of 2021 (removing a barrier to access for many New Yorkers). That decision has already contributed to a 10 percent increase in overall visits and circulation across the NYPL system, which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

The non-traditional ad concludes with an urgent call to action: “but don’t wait! These deals won’t last long . . . they’ll last forever!” 

This year’s spoof ad was delivered to the Library’s 1.3 million email subscribers this morning, and is in the format of a slightly-hysterical Black Friday retail email, complete with digital buttons which flash the phrases “Show Me The Free,” “Did Someone Say Free,” “Free! Free! Free! Free!” and “Did We Mention It’s Free?” When one clicks any of the buttons, they’re taken to where they get more information on how to sign up for a library card to unlock the deal: access to millions of free books and e-books, as well as classes and programs. The Library specifically recommends books from its Best Books of 2021 released earlier this week. The lists offer hundreds of recommendations from expert library staff members for kids, teens, and adults, making them the perfect starting point for those looking for their next great read, titlles to take along during holiday travel,  . . . or perhaps stocking stuffer ideas.

The inaugural 2018 version of the Black Friday ad poked fun at traditional department store display ads, the 2019 version played off of busy, electronics ads, and the 2020 version offered a “Black Friday travel deal” – an escape from the pandemic through reading with “the only passport you’ll ever need: a library card.” 

Each year, the campaign has contributed to spikes in library card signups, web traffic, and donations: for example, last year on Black Friday, the Library saw 543 virtual library card applications submitted, an 84% increase over the NYPL’s daily average for the fiscal year. Donations to the library also increased: the library received 130 donations that day, up from 78 during the previous year’s campaign.

“The Library’s Black Friday ads have become a beloved annual tradition that we look forward to every year. These ads, of course, generate an always-needed chuckle, but they also call attention to the best deal of any season: public libraries, and the worlds of knowledge, adventure, opportunity, and fun that they offer all people every day,” said Tony Marx, president of The New York Public Library. “It’s a funny but important reminder that libraries are here and will always be here for whatever the public needs–good books, expert recommendations, helpful classes, fascinating programs, and, sometimes, a good laugh.”  

About The New York Public Library

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at 

Leave a Reply