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New York Public Library: Return this Book to a Park Bench
By Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press

NEW YORK, NY (AP).- The New York Public Library is encouraging bookworms to pass around 25,000 free copies of a new paperback it will distribute in subway stations, on park benches and in other public places.

The book celebrates the library's vast collection — and patrons — by featuring a diverse group of celebrities, including Stephen Colbert, the Harlem Globetrotters and Yoko Ono, posing with or discussing their favorite library treasure. Its distribution is part of the library's centennial celebration.

Starting May 19, the limited-edition paperback, "Know The Past, Find The Future," will be dropped off at park benches and in five subway stations: Grand Central, Times Square, Columbus Circle, Bryant Park and Union Square. Copies will also be distributed in front of the landmark Fifth Avenue library building and all its branches, as well as in some bookstores.

A note inserted in the book will instruct readers to leave it in another part of the city for someone else to enjoy when they're finished.

Colbert selected to highlight a group of J.D. Salinger letters, while Ono chose a book edited and published by composer John Cage.

The Harlem Globetrotters are pictured holding up globes in the library's map room, and the Radio City Rockettes are photographed striking a pose in its ornate reading room.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of 100 luminaries who submitted essays for the book, chose to highlight "Johnny Tremain," a children's story by Esther Forbes about Paul Revere and a daring teenager messenger he said he read a hundred times growing up.

Like the character, Bloomberg writes, it taught him to "stand up for what is right, and make a difference in the world."

Paul LeClerc, the library's president, said the paperback "embodies the thrill of discovery happening every day, in every room at the library."

Poet and essayist Anne Carson is pictured holding up a booklet with a poem by William Wordsworth that fits in the palm of her hands.

"The Little Maid and the Gentleman, or, We are Seven," written in 1798, contains woodcut illustrations of trees, ships and coffins that "are astonishingly simple and beautiful," she says.

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter focuses on the library's collection of 40,000 menus, many produced during the golden ages of typography and illustration. He highlights a charming children's mid-20th century menu for the New Haven Railroad that is die-cut in the shape of a circus elephant and allows "its small diners to order by jungle animal," he writes.

Singer Rosanne Cash talks about being thrilled to find "in my library, my New York, my home," her mother's ancestors on a passenger list of 18th-century ships and to be able to hold the original copy of Walt Whiteman's "Leaves of Grass."

A voucher valued at $400 for 25 Penguin Classics books will be hidden in eight copies of the book.

An online version will be available in about a month.

The library's official celebration of the 100th year of its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue begins May 20.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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