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Brooklyn Public Library is in the midst of its most significant era of rebuilding in history; within five years, nearly one-third of BPL’s system will be rebuilt or renovated. Now, we’re embarking on an ambitious and exciting plan to meet the needs of a growing borough: a substantial renovation to Central Library!

About the Renovation

Central Library is BPL’s flagship and most visited branch, serving as the foundation for the enitre system. It is a hub to explore new ideas, pursue lifelong learning, access technology, and connect with the community at large. This single largest renovation and restoration in Central Library’s 77-year history is being carried out in partnership with internationally renowned Toshiko Mori Architects. The goals of the renovation are to: 

  • Reclaim and Optimize Public Areas
  • Create Inspiring and Innovative Spaces
  • Restore a Brooklyn Landmark

Construction began in  April 2018 with a rehab of Central Library's front plaza. Work included plumbing upgrades for the plaza fountains and resetting paver stones. The plaza work was completed in June 2018. Read our press release for more details.

Funding for the Project

BPL has secured $60 million for the first phases of the renovation. $35M was allocated by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and $2 million from Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. Funding was also provided by NYS Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley, New York State Assembly Brooklyn Delegation, the New York State Education Department and the New York State Regional Economic Development Council.

Construction Impacts

Central Library will remain open, operational, and safe to visit throughout the construction process. Certain areas of Central Library will be closed at times during construction, but we will do our best to minimize disruptions to the services you rely on and expect.

Get Involved

A community engagement process conducted by Grain Collective and Hester Street, in coordination with BPL, will involve library users. There will be several opportunities to make your voice heard, including:

  • Interactive exhibits throughout the Lobby and around the Central Library
  • Targeted activities with patron groups who will be directly impacted (i.e. young adults and Adult Learning Center students)
  • Patron surveys available online and at Central Library
  • A report back session to present what we heard from the community with materials available publicly online

Timeline

Short-term renovations are already underway or will soon begin. Medium term renovations will be completed in 2023. Beyond 2023, BPL will be focusing on additional ways to better serve patrons in Central Library and will continue to seek public input on the long-term plans for the building, particularly regarding strategies to create and program additional spaces for public use.

Short-Term: Now ⁠— Early 2021

Infrastructure: We’re making much-needed updates to the elevators, restrooms, fire alarm systems, HVAC and wayfinding.

Grand Lobby: We’re restoring historic oak panels, replacing the floors, lighting, HVAC and creating new exhibition cases.

Major Owens Welcome Center: We’re moving the information, check-out and returns desks to Central’s new main entrance named for the beloved Central Librarian and former Congressman.

Popular Library: We’re putting together a new library space on the first floor to serve as a gateway into Central’s diverse collection.

Civic Commons: We’re creating a new space with an entrance on Flatbush Avenue that will house the passport office, IDNYC and bring together all the community services we offer at Central. The public computer center will also relocate from the 3rd floor to this space.

Business and Career Center: We’re relocating the center to a prominent location on the second floor and expanding it to better provide important career and financial programming.

Interim Adult Learning Center: While we work to expand the Adult Learning Center, we’ll be providing a temporary space for lifelong learning on the third floor.

Medium-Term: Early 2021 — Late 2023

Adult Learning Center: We’re building a new Adult Learning Center that will be nearly double in size. The design of the new space will incorporate feedback from current students, staff, and volunteers.

Teen Space: We’re creating a brand-new dedicated space where teens can create, discover, socialize, and learn. The design of the new Teen space will incorporate input from teens in order to best meet their social, and educational needs.

Refurbished Collections: We will restore and renovate the Library’s collection areas to increase functionality and provide patrons with inviting spaces to read, work and learn.

Long-Term: Beyond 2023

After making these short- and medium-term renovations, we will continue to push ourselves to improve Central Library to better serve the broader community. Long term plans include creating additional areas for public use by repurposing lower level storage areas, and connecting Central Library to Mount Prospect Park with an elevated outdoor garden. We look forward to your input to help shape the future of Central Library!

Frequently Asked Questions

Central Library will remain open, operational, and safe to visit throughout the construction process. Certain areas of Central will be closed at times during construction, but we will do our best to minimize disruptions to the services you rely on and expect. We are committed to clear communication, with regular updates to our patrons and supporters throughout the renovation process.

Yes, Central Library will be safe to visit throughout the construction process. You may not be able to access certain areas of Central while they're being worked on, but those areas will be blocked off and clearly marked. Our construction manager, Gilbane, has the highest safety rating and will follow all federal, state and local laws related to safety and hazardous materials.

A community engagement process conducted by Grain Collective and Hester Street, in coordination with BPL, will involve library users. There will be several opportunities to make your voice heard, including:

  • Interactive exhibits throughout the Lobby and around the Central Library
  • Targeted activities with patron groups who will be directly impacted (i.e. young adults and Adult Learning Center students)
  • Patron surveys available online and at Central Library
  • A report back session to present what we heard from the community with materials available publicly online

Major Owens was a community information librarian at BPL 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 in the House of Representatives.

Resources and Fact Sheets

 

Rendering of the Central Library lobby
A conceptual rendering of the refurbished grand lobby.
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