Thursday, September 15, 2016

Brownsville, New Lots, DeKalb, Bedford Libraries Receive Start-up Funding for New Programs

Patrons Invited to Participate in Workshops on Art, Technology, Music, Writing and More

Brooklyn, NY—The Bklyn Incubator has awarded funding to new programs proposed by librarians at Brownsville, Bushwick, DeKalb and Bedford libraries, Brooklyn Public Library announced today. The purpose of the Incubator is to support the development of new initiatives by librarians and staff, with training and mentoring on how to design successful programs, build outside partnerships, manage projects and document outcomes.

Hundreds of patrons participated in the first round of funded projects this spring and summer; the second round, launching this fall, includes:

  • Bushwick Crossroads (DeKalb Library): Interdisciplinary workshops in art, technology and activism to help participants tell the story and preserve the history of a rapidly changing neighborhood.
  • Green Leaves: Read ’em and Reap (Brownsville Library): Literature and technology workshops highlighting food justice initiatives in Brownsville to cultivate the community’s ownership of its green spaces.
  • Tracing Your Roots (DeKalb Library): A writing workshop series for teens to trace their ancestry and share their families’ stories in poetry and prose.

“The Incubator encourages experimentation and innovation in our branches by giving librarians the tools they need to test their most creative programming ideas,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson.

BPL’s aim is to develop a model that other libraries can replicate to empower their staff and develop more innovative programs at the branch level. In 2015, IMLS awarded BPL an exploratory $25,000 Sparks Ignition grant with the support of US Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The Sparks Ignition program encourages libraries to test and evaluate specific innovations in their operations and services. The Incubator is now expanding with a $322,740 grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation that will allow BPL to offer more staff training and professional development opportunities along with enhanced tools to identify community partners and launch effective programs.

“The Incubator makes it possible for our branches to offer new programs to their patrons, or to provide traditional library services in new ways—everything from reading and writing workshops to horticulture, food justice, podcasting and dance,” said Brynna Tucker, who recently joined the Library as manager of the Bklyn Incubator after twelve years at the Pratt Institute, where she built a successful business incubator for students and alumni.

This spring and summer, more than 500 attended branch programs that received funding during the first round of the Bklyn Incubator. Highlights included:

  • Girls Report Now! (Leonard Library): Men receive approximately 62% of all news media bylines. Girls Report Now! was a biweekly journalism course designed to introduce young women 12-17 to the principles of journalism. Working journalists served as guest lecturers and mentors. Participants chose their own beats and developed their own sources. When they got stuck, they passed each other tips and made editorial suggestions. They became colleagues. Six students completed the program and four composed stories that are now published online. All of the young women now have library cards and can use research databases.
  • Future Leaders Career Awareness Series (Cypress Hills Library): Cypress Hills librarian Abby Garnett observed that young adults visiting her branch were unable to use its most helpful resources; many, in fact, did not even have library cards. Garnett invited working professionals to share their experiences with teens and advise them on the potential career paths available to them. The branch hosted workshops on BPL’s free databases, including Career Cruising and, as well as group brainstorming sessions on developing small business ideas. Checkouts of books and other materials by participants increased 200%, as did public PC usage.
  • Reading the Rhythm (DeKalb Library): Reading the Rhythm was a combination dance class and book discussion program for high school students. DeKalb Library is flanked by two high schools that do not have performing arts programs. The Library partnered with the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center to address this need by hosting a book discussion of Sharon Draper's Panic and a modern dance class. Of the twelve students who participated in Reading the Rhythm, few had library cards or regularly read for pleasure. After the program, the participants’ library visits and usage of library materials increased dramatically.

More information about all of the first round winners is available here.

Public feedback submitted through BPL’s website helped determine which projects were considered for funding by a panel of library professionals. The Incubator will ramp up its professional development this fall for staff at all levels of the Library and will look to the public to consider a new cohort of proposals in January, when the third round of the Bklyn Incubator begins.

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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 website:

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