February 16, 2005


BPL's Williamsburgh Library, the first "Carnegie library" in Brooklyn, Celebrates its Centennial with an Eye-Catching Renovation

Brooklyn, NY, February 10, 2005 - Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) will commemorate the reopening of its Williamsburgh location with an official ribbon cutting ceremony on February 17th, at 10 a.m. Located at 240 Division Avenue, the library is now reopened to the public after undergoing a two-year, $3.5 million renovation. The ribbon cutting ceremony will feature a number of speakers, including: Ginnie Cooper, Executive Director, BPL; Dr. Lucille C. Thomas, President BPL Board of Trustees; Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President; Martin Connor, State Senator; Ed Towns, US House of Representatives; David Yassky, New York City Council; and Joe Lentol, New York State Assembly.

The contents of a time capsule from the library's cornerstone are on display near the library's main lobby. Included in the contents from 1903 are newspaper clippings, admission tickets to the cornerstone laying ceremony, and many other items. Considered the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn, Williamsburgh Library was originally built with funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1902. The renovation and reopening of the Williamsburgh Library coincides with the library's 100-year anniversary.

In coordination with BPL's Planning, Design and Facilities Department, Architect Vincent Benic of New York City has integrated new construction with historic renovation. The change is dramatic. The oak wood paneling, fireplaces, cabinetry and oval windowpanes of the Carnegie era have been restored. Throughout the building the ductwork has been rerouted to open and brighten the ceilings, while fluorescent bulbs have been replaced with pendant lighting. In addition to ADA-compliant structures that make the library more accessible to people with disabilities, a First Five Years reading room offers children below age five a bright and airy space with foam chairs, carpeting and close to 700 board books.

Improvements made during the renovation include:

Restoration of wood paneling, fireplaces, cabinetry and oval windowpanes;

Ductwork rerouted to open and brighten the ceilings;

ADA-compliant structures to make the library more accessible to people with disabilities, including a new elevator, bathrooms and ramp at the front entrance;

The interior entirely repainted;

An electrical upgrade and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system;

Outside restoration of the original limestone parapet walls, stairs and façade;

The addition of two private reading rooms.

New programs and services include:

A First Five Years Reading Room for preschoolers, which offers age-specific furniture, computer software, books and videos, and will host Baby Story Time and other preschooler programs

Babies and Books – a BPL program for babies up to 18 months old and their parents and caregivers

A Technology Center with 25 laptop stations

28 Public Access Computers, with 8 dedicated for adults, 12 dedicated for teenagers, 6 for children between ages 6-12, and 2 for children up to age 5

Wireless Internet access throughout the building

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility throughout the building

Andrew Carnegie donated over $5 million to New York City to build a comprehensive library system in all five boroughs during the early 20th century. Designed as a distinct style, the Carnegie libraries were built with similar materials and floor plans. They share many broad architectural features, such as redbrick or limestone façades, prominent entrances and classical ornaments on the exterior. On the interior, there are high plaster ceilings, fireplaces and glass and metal pendant lighting fixtures.

In 1905, BPL's Williamsburgh library became the first Carnegie library to open to the public in Brooklyn. During its construction, a time capsule was planted in the cornerstone. Designed by by Richard A. Walker, the 26,000-quare-foot Classical Revival building featured a central delivery desk, a radically arranged two-story stack section, a reading room with wood wainscoting, fireplaces and other grand architectural amenities. The plan is likened to that of an open book, with two wings arranged radially around the center atrium. This layout was a favorite for turn-of-the-century libraries as it provided enhanced visual control from the central library desk.

The renovation of Brooklyn Public Library's Williamsburgh Library was made possible through the generous support of the Brooklyn Borough President's Office, the Brooklyn Delegation to the City Council, and The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc.

For information on BPL's "Centennial Celebrations," please call 718.369.9385 ext. 156. For information on all programs scheduled for Williamsburgh Library, please call, 718.302.3485.

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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 www.bklynlibrary.org