Know the Past, Find the Future

Check out for NYPL's free Centennial book -- 25,000 copies have now been distributed on the streets and in the libraries of New York!

From Laurie Anderson to Vampire Weekend, Roy Blount Jr. to Renée Fleming, Stephen Colbert to Bill T. Jones—more than 100 luminaries reflect on the treasures of America’s favorite public library. Marking the Centennial of The New York Public Library’s Beaux-Arts landmark at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Know the Past, Find the Future harnesses the thoughts of an eclectic assortment of icons as they ponder an even more eclectic assortment of objects. From among the Library’s vast collections, these writers, artists, philosophers, scientists, musicians, athletes, architects, choreographers, and journalists—not to mention some of the curators who have preserved these riches—selected an item and describe what it means to them. The result, in words and photographs, is a glimpse of what a great library can be.

Know the Past, Find the Future is available at all 90 NYPL locations! Or download it now in eReader version.







Graydon Carter, Zadie Smith, Lou Reed, Jonathan Franzen
Photos: Boewulf Sheehan


Who’s in the Book

Laurie Anderson
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Reza Aslan
William F. Baker
Ishmael Beah
Samantha Bee
Michael R. Bloomberg
Roy Blount Jr.
Eric Bogosian
George Boziwick
Karen Burke
Ian Buruma
Gabriel Byrne
Hannah Cabell
Peter Carey
Anne Carson
Charles Carter
Graydon Carter
Rosanne Cash
Ron Chernow
David Christie
Stephen Colbert
Katherine Cordes
Kathryn Court
Elizabeth C. Denlinger
Kiran Desai
Jim Dine
Nathan Englander
Will Eno
Rebecca Federman
James Fenton
Rebecca Filner
Renée Fleming
Jonathan Franzen
Meredith Friedman
Jonathan Galassi
Anne Garner
Isaac Gewirtz
Margaret Glover
Barbara Goldsmith
Alvaro Gonzalez-Lazo
Adam Gopnik
Annette Gordon-Reed
Philip Gourevitch
Vartan Gregorian
The Harlem Globetrotters
Blake Hazard
Jonathan Hiam
A.M. Homes
Siri Hustvedt
Michael Inman
Uzodinma Iweala
Bill T. Jones
Sharon Jones 
Michael Kimmelman 
Lithgow David
Lowe Larissa



Zarela Martinez
Colum McCann
Patrick McGrath
Mark Morris
Yoko Ono
Eric Owens
Orhan Pamuk
Mary Louise Parker
Caryl Phillips
Jessica Pigza
Darryl Pinckney
Stephen Pinson
Martha Plimpton
José Manuel Prieto
Francine Prose
Annie Proulx
Lisa Randall
Lou Reed
David Remnick
Frank Rich
Josh Ritter
The Rockettes
Philip Roth
Oliver Sacks
Robert Silvers
Zadie Smith
St. Vincent
Wesley Stace
Vicki Steele
Tom Stoppard
Elizabeth Streb
Colm Tóibín
Calvin Trillin
The Tuck Family
Neil deGrasseTyson
Vampire Weekend
Harold Varmus
Madeleine Viljoen
Sarah Vowell
WABC-TV Eyewitness News Team
Diana Williams
Sade Baderinwa
Bill Ritter
Liz Cho
Lori Stokes
Ken Rosato
Jay Walder
Matt Knutzen
Robert Kosovsky
Nick Laird
Thomas G. Lannon
Imam Khalid Latif
Fran Lebowitz
Paul LeClerc
Maya Lin Maira
Liriano John


 Photo Courtesy of Penguin Classics

Humorist Roy Blount Jr. ponders the original Winnie-the-Pooh. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Choreographer Bill T. Jones listens to Jesse Fuller’s, “San Francisco Bay Blues.” Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Actress Mary Louise Parker explores “The Wild Swans at Coole” by William Butler Yeats. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Extended through March 4

  • Visit a free Centennial exhibition, Celebrating 100 Years, featuring 250 of the Library's most fascinating artifacts!

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