What to Catch at the New York Public Library This Fall

By Alison Durkee

The New York Public Library’s free public programs have something for everyone, with a dense fall slate that runs from the sizzling Paris of the 1920s to the maelstrom of the ’68 U.S. elections. Our picks for the best of fall at the NYPL follow.


The New York Public Library has several government and election-themed events that will get you excited to go to the polls. 2016 may be a divisive election, but an event at the Mid-Manhattan Library on November 10 will focus on another contentious election of the past: the 1968 Presidential Election. Hamilton fans can build on their knowledge of the choice between Jefferson and Burr at Hamilton and the Election of…1800 on September 12, which will focus on the Treasury Secretary’s influence on that impactful presidential election. Hamilton, of course, was known for his outspoken opinions, and the October 19 event Revolutionary Dissent will explore how Hamilton and other Founding Fathers created our idea of freedom of speech through their own dissenting opinions. Presidents aren’t infallible of course, and the event Why Presidents Fail on November 29 will explore how our next president can achieve success in her (or his) administration.


In the context of a milestone election, several NYPL fall events celebrate womens’ achievements and stories. Those inspired by the recent Olympic swimming events can learn about another record-breaking swimmer at Swimming in the Sink (September 19), an illustrated lecture with International Swimming Hall of Famer Lynne Cox, who has held open-water swimming records around the world. On November 4, head to the Library of Performing Arts for Take Me Out to the Ball Game, an interactive program on the unexpected connections between baseball, music—and women’s suffrage. The Schomburg Center, meanwhile, will host upcoming discussions on Black Women and the Criminal Justice System (September 1) and When Sugar Hill Was Sweet (September 22), a look at some of the women of Upper Manhattan’s past who have been outshined by their famous husbands, including Shirley Graham DuBois and Eslanda Goode Robeson.

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The Schomburg Center will also host a discussion on the history of black internationalism from the 1950s through the present on September 13, and the Mid-Manhattan Library will feature upcoming talks on Paris in the 1920s (October 24) and Tong Wars (October 13), an illustrated lecture on the Chinese gang fights that engulfed the neighborhood from the 1890s through 1930s. The Library of Performing Arts, meanwhile, will reflect on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 with Bikeman (September 12), in which journalist Tom Flynn recounts his own experiences as a survivor of the tragedy.


For more information on New York City and its specific history, head to the Mid-Manhattan library for events on such wide-ranging New York topics as Soho’s gentrification (September 22), New York in the Gilded Age (November 7), Ground Zero and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan (November 8), and a celebration of subway buskers (November 14). To learn more about what makes New York City (and other cities around the world) so essential, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building will host the lecture What Makes a Great City? on September 21. On November 2, the Schwarzman Building will also host The Well-Tempered City, a discussion on how cities can adapt to the problems of the future, including climate change, income inequality, and migration.

Part of what makes New York City so great, of course, is its food, and culinary aficionados have several events to attend this fall. Vitamania, at the Mid-Manhattan Library on November 3, will explore the past, present, and future of human vitamins. A few days before, you can celebrate Halloween (October 31st) by looking forward to Thanksgiving at an illustrated lecture of the food-filled holiday. To hear directly from the people responsible for NYC’s great food culture, head to Food and the City, an October 18 book talk that gives a behind-the-scenes tour told by chefs, line cooks, waiters, restaurateurs, and street vendors.


There’s plenty by way of culture at the library this fall. Theatre fans can learn more about the craft from Tony Award-winning playwright and performer Sarah Jones at the Schomburg Center on September 12, or sit back and enjoy one of the greatest plays ever written for themselves, when the Public Theater’s Mobile Shakespeare Company arrives at the Library of Performing Arts for a performance of Hamlet on September 9. Fashion fans can learn more about the men and women behind the camera at Focus (November 1), an illustrated lecture on the antics and passion of fashion photographers. And for those just looking to know more about how to view art in the first place, head to How to See at the Schwarzman building on November 9, where painter David Salle and poet, critic, and novelist Ben Lerner will converse about how to interpret and appreciate contemporary art.

These events at the New York Public Library are all free, but some require advance registration. For more information and a complete schedule of events at the New York Public Library, visit nypl.org.

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