May 24, 2010

$3,250,000 Grant to Create the Leon Levy Information Commons at Central Library
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced today that it has received a $3,250,000 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to establish a new kind of learning hub known as an “information commons.” It is the first resource of its kind in any of New York City’s three library systems. The Leon Levy Information Commons, designed by award-winning architectural firm Pfeiffer Partners Architects, will be a flexible, technology-rich center for learning, research and training, with a strong emphasis on BPL’s wide range of online resources. This gift represents the largest private donation ever bestowed upon BPL.

Representing the first crucial phase of Central Library’s new master plan for public service, the Commons—scheduled to open in early 2013—recognizes the evolving needs of library users by facilitating individual and small-group research, collaborative learning and staff-led training. In the dynamic new space, BPL librarians, working with partner organizations, will be able to conduct workshops, from one-on-one workforce development counseling sessions to coordinated visits from community college students for advanced bibliographic instruction.

“Fostering lifelong learning is one of BPL’s core commitments, and thanks to the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation, the Leon Levy Information Commons will be a striking learning center that provides a gateway to education and technology, and adapts freely to meet the diverse and ever-evolving information needs of Brooklyn,” said Dionne Mack-Harvin, Executive Director of BPL. “Visitors to the Commons will be able to connect to the world around them, learn and apply life skills and stimulate their intellectual development.”

Shelby White, Founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, said, “Building this 21st century information commons at Central Library will reinforce the Brooklyn Public Library’s position as a learning institution. It will provide the latest online technology and allow people to use information sources that are not available to them at home. When I was a child, the BPL was a home to me. Now, the Foundation is pleased to make a gift that will help make the library as central to visitors today as it was to me when I was growing up in Brooklyn a half-century ago.”

The Leon Levy Information Commons will feature the following amenities:

•A 30-seat wireless training center where library staff will conduct information literacy workshops as well as training on the library’s extensive suite of online databases, a number of which are only available onsite.

•Seven private study rooms equipped with electronic whiteboards and other technologies to facilitate group and one-on-one research consultation sessions.

•Bar-style seating for 60 laptop computer users to accommodate the thousands of laptop and other mobile device users who use Central Library’s wireless network each month.

•Twenty-five PCs equipped with traditional software packages, as well as higher-end, memory-intensive graphic design and video editing programs.

•A centrally-located help desk to provide reference and information services in addition to innovative on-demand training.

“With a more than 400 percent increase in the number of people turning to BPL to acquire new skills and enhance their academic and professional credentials, we’re excited about the many ways the Commons will allow BPL to continue to enrich the lives of learners and other information seekers across the borough,” said Anthony Crowell, BPL Board Chair. “BPL’s commitment to being at the forefront of delivering the most innovative and cutting-edge urban library service is unparalleled. Launching this type of innovation would not be possible without private support, and we’re truly thankful to the Leon Levy Foundation for its confidence and generosity in joining BPL in this venture.”

Popularized in new and renovated academic libraries during the last decade, the information commons concept allows libraries to take advantage of contemporary information-seeking habits by providing comfortable and exciting spaces in which library users can access, interpret and share information. Additionally, the Commons at Brooklyn Public Library will fundamentally change the way librarians interact with their customers. It will encourage active participation on the part of reference librarians who will work with schools and other organizations to anticipate customer needs, provide training and facilitate research.

Each year, one million people visit Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library, and it offers those visitors thousands of free cultural, educational and informational programs and workshops. The landmarked facility, which opened in 1941, houses millions of items, including books, DVDs, CDs and materials in over 30 languages. Its local history division, the Brooklyn Collection, houses countless photographs, maps, manuscripts and ephemeral items pertaining to the rich and fascinating history of the borough.


The Leon Levy Foundation (, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, a legendary investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to continue the tradition of humanism characteristic of Mr. Levy, by supporting scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large.

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries around the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a huge selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and live reference assistance, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website:

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Brooklyn Public Library is an independent New York City library system serving the borough of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest in the United States. Its Central Library, Business Library, and 58 neighborhood libraries offer free information, programs and computer access to people of all ages. You can reach the Library's resources of over 70 reference databases, catalog information and news 24 hours a day at