Major Owens Welcome Center

Welcome! The Major Owens Welcome Center is the first point of contact for Central Library’s visitors — here patrons can return and borrow materials and learn about the variety of services and resources available throughout Central Library. The new welcome center is named after Major Robert Odell Owens, the “Librarian in Congress” who was a librarian at Central Library in the 1950s and 1960s before serving as a NY State Senator and US Congressman. In his 12 terms representing Brooklyn, he dedicated his career to providing access to education.

About Major Robert Odell Owens

Photo of Major Owens
Congressman Major Owens, U.S. House of Representatives, 1983-2006. 
Major Owens Collection, Brooklyn Public Library – Center for Brooklyn History

Born in 1936 in Collierville, Tennessee, Major Robert Odell Owens was a community information librarian at Central Library from 1958 through the late 1960s. He was known for placing BPL collections in public spaces such as laundromats, stores, bars and anywhere else people gathered. Later, Major Owens went on to represent Brooklyn neighborhoods as a Congressman. He took office in the NY State Senate in 1975, and in 1983, the “Librarian in Congress” became the first professional librarian elected to the House of Representatives. 

Upon retiring in 2006, Owens was appointed distinguished visiting scholar at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, and completed a case study on the Congressional Black Caucus entitled The Peacock Elite. He was also Senior Fellow for the DuBois-Bunche Center for Public Policy at Medgar Evers College, located in the heart of his congressional district. Major Owens resided in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood with his family until his death in 2013. In 2021, BPL dedicated the Major Owens Welcome Center in his honor. 

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This space was part of Phase One of Central Library's renovations.

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Learn More About Major Owens

From his roots as a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library, to his ascent to the New York State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Major Owens' legacy is defined by his work as a tireless antipoverty reformer and as an advocate for education, civil rights, Americans with disabilities, workers' rights, and immigrants. Read More at Brooklynology »