January 15, 2013


For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Brooklyn Public Library Opens Innovative New Technology and Creative Space, the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons

Designed by World-Renowned Architect Toshiko Mori, the Info Commons Boasts Computer Space for Interactive Workshops, Tech-Equipped Meeting Rooms, Recording Studio and More

New Space Reflects Library’s Commitment to Providing Technology-Rich, Flexible Spaces to Brooklyn’s Jobseekers, Students and Creative Community


Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) today announced the opening of a new technology and creative space, the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons, located in BPL’s Central Library on Grand Army Plaza. The 5,500-square-foot space, designed by world-renowned architect Toshiko Mori, was made possible by a $3.25 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation--the largest private gift in the history of BPL. Additional funding was provided through NYC Connected Communities, a program coordinated by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. NYC Connected Communities expands the availability and capacity of public computer centers in New York City’s highest poverty areas. The program particularly emphasizes job readiness, and a diverse array of outreach efforts.   


The Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons marks a new era of public service for Brooklyn Public Library, offering Brooklynites the up-to-date resources they need to succeed in an inviting, dynamic and multifunctional space that is the first of its kind in a public library in New York City. Students and researchers will have access to the Library’s growing suite of electronic resources, while small groups will find private areas for collaborative thinking, working and creating. Writers, designers and creators will discover a focused space to work on laptops or library computers, and jobseekers and professionals will find the classes, training and expert Library staff they need to advance their skills.


The Information Commons’ features include:

  • Seating and outlets for 70 laptop users;
  • A 36-seat wireless learning lab where patrons can take workshops led by library staff or conduct their own training sessions;
  • Seven private meeting rooms equipped with electronic whiteboards and other technologies for group seminars and one-on-one research;
  • 25 workstations with desktop computers offering traditional software packages, as well as advanced graphic design and video editing programs;
  • A recording studio equipped with video DSLR camera, microphones and iMac editing station.
  • Programming on digital photography, podcasting, video production and more taught by BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn, BPL’s lead media education partner.
  • A help desk providing information and on-demand training.


As the cornerstone of the Library’s efforts to advance digital literacy and engagement across the borough, this technology-rich, flexible space embodies BPL’s new strategic plan. From bringing the self-publishing and book printing Espresso Book Machine to Brooklyn’s creative community, to installing self-check technology in branches throughout the borough, to making iPads and e-readers available to Brooklyn’s youngest readers, Brooklyn Public Library is committed to innovating and expanding its services for the 21st Century library user.


“The Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons will transform the way Brooklyn Public Library supports digital literacy and learning. We worked hard to design a modern, collaborative, technology-rich environment that will help our patrons gain the skills necessary to be competitive in school, work and life,” said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “The classes and technology we offer will benefit all Brooklynites—from those just learning to use a computer, to those who wish to create advanced multimedia projects. We’re deeply grateful to the Leon Levy Foundation, and especially to Shelby White, for making this space possible.”


Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, said, “The Information Commons is equipped with the latest digital technology, access to databases and training programs. It will ensure that Brooklyn Public Library remains a vital part of the community and will continue to serve students, the broad general community and the specialized researcher. And it will mean the Library remains an indispensable, central source for knowledge, not a Dickensian relic.”


The Leon Levy Foundation and Ms. White, a native Brooklynite, have made an extensive commitment to the borough’s cultural enrichment with recent gifts in excess of $20 million to Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others.


In September 2010, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) secured $14 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology to administer NYC Connected Communities. More than $1 million of this total is being used to fund the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons. By investing in libraries, public housing facilities, senior centers and community centers across the five boroughs, NYC Connected Communities now serves 40,000 new users weekly at more than 100 fixed and mobile computing centers across the five boroughs. The initiative also provides more than 1,000 new workstations and offers an array of new resources for digital literacy, employment support, and other critical services.


“DoITT leads the Bloomberg Administration’s efforts to expand access to the vital infrastructure of the 21st Century – broadband technology,” said Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant. “By investing in public housing facilities, senior and community centers, and libraries – like the Brooklyn Public Library’s Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons – our NYC Connected Communities initiative continues to build bridges by which New Yorkers are linked to all the services and information the digital world has to offer.”


BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn will be Brooklyn Public Library’s lead media education partner in the Information Commons, offering advanced media training in digital photography and photo enhancement, podcasting and digital storytelling, and short-form video technique.


“We are thrilled to partner with Brooklyn Public Library to bring our innovative media education courses to the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons and to deliver training at other branch locations in 2013,” said Leslie G. Schultz, President of BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn. “Through this partnership, we hope to significantly enhance the impact of our work by making it more accessible to the millions of people who use BPL each year.”



About Brooklyn Public Library

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 located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large 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 free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our

About The Leon Levy Foundation

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


About BRIC

BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn presents contemporary art, performing arts and community media programs that reflect Brooklyn’s creativity and diversity. BRIC also provides resources to launch, nurture and showcase artists and media makers. They advance access to and understanding of arts and media by presenting free and low-cost programming, and by offering education and other public programs to people of all ages. Learn more at

Marketing & Communications
Brooklyn Public Library

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