A line-up of all loaned materials would circle the globe 3.8 times; cross the Brooklyn Bridge 129,131 times
Other major milestones: eliminating fines for good and opening Adams Street Library, the borough’s first new branch in over 40 years
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As we look back on 2021—a year in which we continued to combat a pandemic and fight for justice—we were fortunate to be able to once again fully reopen our doors. Patrons came to browse and borrow, use computers, meet their neighbors, work, read and reflect. We loaned books and movies, telescopes, board games and musical instruments, and librarians reconnected with patrons in person, outdoors and online. As we look back on the last year and look ahead to our 125th anniversary, there is much to celebrate.
We Marked Our Billionth Loan
In July, the Library marked its one billionth checkout with the loan of The Time of Green Magic by award-winning author Hilary McKay. The book, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, centers on a newly-blended family making their way in eerie ivy-covered house filled with magic and of course, lots of books. “I am absolutely thrilled and delighted,” McKay told BPL, adding, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a library parcel or library card…the library was really my second home.”
We Eliminated Fines. Forever.
In October, the Library permanently eliminated late fines, making a momentous shift toward realizing BPL’s ideals of access and equity. Removing this antiquated barrier in partnership with The New York Public Library and Queens Public Library, all New Yorkers can now freely access knowledge and opportunity.
We Released a New Library Card Celebrating Black Americans
To celebrate Juneteenth, BPL issued a new library card illustrated by college student Jneyde “Nehemiah” Williams. A panel of community members, librarians, graphic designers and academics selected her design from over 400 artist submissions. The card depicts historical figures—including Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson and Astronaut Mae Jemison—along with a young girl who represents a new generation of library patrons. “We hope it will inspire readers of all ages to explore the special collections and dynamic programs at our African American Heritage Center, and remind them that Black lives have always, and will always, matter,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.
We Opened Adams Street Library, the First New Branch in Brooklyn in 40 Years
The first new branch in the borough since 1983, Adams Street Library is the first ever BPL location to serve the DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Farragut communities. The branch offers stunning views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and downtown Manhattan from its 15-foot windows and the playful, warm interior provides the perfect place to read, work and gather with neighbors.
We Fought for Justice
Brooklyn Public Library’s Center for Brooklyn History (CBH) launched Brooklyn Resists in June, the first major initiative for CBH since joining with BPL. The ongoing, multifaceted public history project explores racial protest in Brooklyn from the beginning of the civil rights era to today and was mounted in response to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the long history of Black Brooklynites experiencing the persistence of racism and state violence, including police brutality.
We Dressed Up and Started Up
In February, after a long pandemic-related delay, the Library’s BKLYN Fashion Academy presented a virtual runway show from the historic Othmer Library on Pierrepont Street. Now in its third year, the free, 16-week intensive program for aspiring fashion designers provides practical education and studio time to help designers produce, market and sell their clothing. The unique partnership between the public library and the fashion industry is the only one of its kind in the nation. BPL also hosts a long-running business pitch competition, PowerUP!, which awarded $40,000 to aspiring Brooklyn entrepreneurs in 2021. This year, the Library’s Business and Career Center continued to offer job search and resume workshops for job seekers, as well as finance and marketing workshops for small businesses and nonprofits navigating a new normal.
We Opened Modern, Revitalized Spaces
This year, we completed the largest restoration and renovation in Central Library’s 80-year history. The newly accessible spaces are: a Civic Commons for community engagement, including a passport office and city services; the New & Noteworthy book gallery with librarian-curated titles; a contemporary Business & Career Center for job seekers, entrepreneurs and small business owners; and the Major Owens Welcome Center, dedicated to Brooklyn’s own “Librarian of Congress.” Rugby, Windsor Terrace and Cortelyou libraries were also modernized and renovated in 2021.
We Turned the Library Inside Out
This spring, we established outdoor reading rooms at 30 branches and added curbside seating at Crown Heights, Walt Whitman and Kensington libraries. Through our Bklyn Reach program, we boosted our Wi-Fi signal to extend up to 300 feet outside of more than 50 libraries, with laptop loans available at selection locations. We launched our first-ever self-guided audio literary walking tour, created Whispering Libraries, and welcomed Brooklynites to the fourth semester of University Open Air. StoryWalks®—picture books posted page by page—were installed outside of neighborhood libraries so families can read and discuss the story together as they stroll the sidewalk.
We Created Pathways to Leadership
Driven by BPL’s renewed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we awarded the first scholarships in the newly established Pathways to Leadership program, designed to help BPL staff earn their master’s degree in Library Science. The program fully covers the cost of tuition at Queens College and provides opportunities for mentorship and leadership training. More importantly, Pathways to Leadership aims to diversify librarianship to reflect the patrons we serve and ensure generations of Brooklynites will know the joy of reading.
Throughout the year, the Library partnered with the Test & Trace Corps to provide testing, vaccination and information about the pandemic at community centers and houses of worship around the borough. In March, as we approached one year of living with the pandemic, librarians and staff at Greenpoint Library marked the moment by folding more than one thousand origami cranes with the help of the community. Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods and the cranes are often given to a person who is ill, to wish for their recovery. The cranes were displayed in Greenpoint Library’s windows as a way for the neighborhood to memorialize their collective grief.
About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st-century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 60,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.