Back in January of 2016 my colleagues in NYPL Digital + NYPL Labs were conspiring together to generate big excitement around the public domain release of over 180k images. I helped to create some content but also got to thinking about ways to highlight specific weird and wonderful images in the collection, or create a scavenger hunt whereby people would be encouraged to search through it. I spent a part of my day combing the collection for blog-worthy gems and illustrations, so I had a good sense of the many wonders it holds, but also understood the difficulty of finding ways in. So I proposed we try to match each emoji with an image from the collection.

We started by piling our finds into a spreadsheet with one row per emoji. It quickly grew out of control, as more emojis were added and we found multiple examples for the same concept, and worked out the nuances between similar emoji. It took a long time and we weren’t finished but I knew we had to do something with what we had. I am still obsessed with Twitter after all these years and I asked for help from some library bot-makers I knew. I was pointed towards Bingo! @NYPLEmoji was born. I could continue editing the file and making small tweaks. But as soon as it got a little attention, the bot fell over, and editing went from mild inconvenience to a real pain. I called in a backup dev, who also happens to be my spouse, to see if it would be possible to host the code elsewhere. Somehow it worked, and even faster than before.

The bot got some good press and an incredible, international array of positive tweets. I still think it’s funny that some may assume the bot is an algorithm searching the collection or using some kind of AI. I am here to set the record straight: the only intelligence it uses is the librarian kind.

But the best pieces might have been right after it hit the AP Wire: Fox5 Las Vegas and my local pride 1010 WINS, among others across the country, attempted to explain a Twitter bot to your grandpa in less than 30 seconds, and I kinda loved it.

And then, my enterprising, creative, and talented colleagues turned around and made it into a four-volume private pressing reference work! *HEART EYES*

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