Brooklyn Public Library

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Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library logo.svg
Brooklyn Public Library (48291925691).jpg
Brooklyn Central Library
Established1896 (1896)
LocationBrooklyn, New York City
Coordinates40°40′20″N 73°58′05″W / 40.672359°N 73.968146°W / 40.672359; -73.968146Coordinates: 40°40′20″N 73°58′05″W / 40.672359°N 73.968146°W / 40.672359; -73.968146
Size5,045,500 items
Access and use
Population served2,565,635
Other information
DirectorLinda E. Johnson (2010–present)

The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is the public library system of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is the sixteenth largest public library system in the United States by holding and the seventh by number of visitors.[1] Like the two other public library systems in New York City, it is an independent nonprofit organization that is funded by the city and state governments, the federal government, and private donors. The library currently promotes itself as Bklyn Public Library.[2]


In 1852, several prominent citizens established the "Brooklyn Athenaeum and Reading Room" for the instruction of young men. It was as was the practice in those times, a private, subscription library for members, who were recruited and encouraged by the up-rising mercantile and business class of young men, to continue by constant reading whatever formal education they had received through a university, college, high school/private academy, or trade school. Its collections focused on the liberal arts and the humanities such as biography, economics, history, literature, philosophy, and other applications later labeled social studies.

Five years later, in 1857, another group of young men, along with businessmen, manufacturers, and merchants, founded the "Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn", with holdings more pronounced in the business, commercial, economics, mathematical, scientific, and technical fields. The Librarian-in-Charge was Stephen Buttrick Noyes, who later went to the Library of Congress in 1866 but returned to Brooklyn three years later, in 1869. This collection and the previous one were merged in 1869 and later moved to a headquarters building on Montague Street. In 1878, the Library Associations were renamed the "Brooklyn Public Library". Stephen Buttrick Noyes commenced developing an extensive catalog for the collections which he completed in 1888.

The first free public library in Brooklyn was that of Pratt Institute, a collegiate institute founded by Charles Pratt in 1888. Available not only for its own students and faculty, the library was also open to the general public at that early time.

Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library in January 1941 shortly before it opened.

The Brooklyn Public Library system was approved by an Act of Legislature of the State of New York on May 1, 1892.[3] The Brooklyn Common Council then passed a resolution for the establishment of the Brooklyn Public Library on November 30, 1896, with Marie E. Craigie as the first director. The library was re-incorporated in 1902.[4]

The first main branch ("central library") moved among various buildings, including a former mansion at 26 Brevoort Place.[5][6] Between 1901 and 1923, the famous Scotsman, steel industrialist, financier and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $1.6 million, assisting in the future development and construction of 21 Carnegie Library additional neighborhood branches.

In 2020, Brooklyn Public Library made an agreement to merge its archives and special collections division, the Brooklyn Collection, with the Brooklyn Historical Society.[7] The new entity is called the Center for Brooklyn History.


The Central Library at Grand Army Plaza in October 2005, during construction of a new entrance plaza and underground auditorium.

There are 60 neighborhood branches throughout the borough, of which many are Carnegie libraries. The library has four bookmobiles, including the Kidsmobile, which carries children's materials, and the Bibliobús, which carries a Spanish language collection.[8]

Central Library[edit]

Located at Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway on Grand Army Plaza near the Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Park Slope neighborhoods, Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library contains over a million cataloged books, magazines, and multimedia materials.

The Brooklyn Collection holds the manuscripts and archives for the Brooklyn Public Library and is located at the Central Branch.[9] The Brooklyn Collection holds over a million individual items including Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia, a collection for the Brooklyn Eagle, which Walt Whitman edited, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other ephemeral items.


The Bookmobile is a 32-foot (9.8 m)-long, 11.5-foot (3.5 m)-high vehicle housing a mobile library. Carrying up to 6,000 books, the Bookmobile serves communities whose local branches are closed for renovation. The Bookmobile offers many of the services available at other branches.

The Kidsmobile is a smaller, more colorful version of the Bookmobile. During the school year, the Kidsmobile visits schools, day care centers, Head Start, after-school programs and community events. In the summer, the Kidsmobile also travels to parks and camps. In addition to books, the Kidsmobile offers storytelling and arts and crafts.

The Bibliobús is a mobile Spanish-language library. It brings books and other media to Spanish-speaking communities in Brooklyn. The Bibliobús serves sites such as schools, daycares, community-based organizations, senior centers, nonprofit organizations, and community events.[10]

The Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons opened at Central Library on January 15, 2013. It features an open workspace with 25 computers and seating and outlets for more than 70 laptop users; 7 meeting rooms, including one that doubles as a recording studio; and a 36-seat training lab.[11]

The library's Learning Centers provide adult literacy and adult education services for free.[12][13]

Civil rights support[edit]

The Brooklyn Public Library has a Free Speech Zone. This was created in response to the attempt to ban several 20th century texts. The increase in attempts at restricting free speech has prompted this installment at the library. The display includes two sets of illuminated triptychs and backlit portraits of individuals from the library's community who are affected by the censorship. The display also includes passages from the challenged books, including Ulysses, Naked Lunch, The Well of Loneliness, Lysistrata and Tropic of Cancer. Recently challenged books, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Color Purple, Native Son and Heather Has Two Mommies are featured as well.


Brooklyn Public Library's governing board is the board of trustees, consisting of 38 members, all serving in non-salaried positions. The Mayor and the Brooklyn Borough President each appoint eleven of the trustees. These appointed trustees elect twelve additional board members to serve.[14] The mayor, New York City Comptroller, Speaker of the City Council and Brooklyn Borough President are ex officio members of the board. All non-ex officio members of the board serve three-year terms.[15]

Linda E. Johnson was named president and CEO on August 16, 2011, after having served as the institution's interim executive director since July 1, 2010. She replaced Dionne Mack-Harvin, who served as executive director from March 2007. Mack-Harvin was the first African American woman to lead a major public library system in New York state.[16][17] Previously, Ginnie Cooper had been the executive director of the BPL since January 2003. Other notable executive directors include Kenneth Duchac, who ran the system from 1970 until his retirement in 1986. Duchac is the father of John Doe, founder and lead singer of seminal 1980s punk band X.

List of directors[edit]

Other New York City library systems[edit]

The Brooklyn Public Library is one of three separate and independent public library systems in New York City. The other two are the New York Public Library (NYPL), serving the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and the Queens Public Library, serving Queens. The Brooklyn and Queens Public Library cards can be accepted by the NYPL, once they are linked to the NYPL system at any NYPL branch.[23]

Books Unbanned Initiative[edit]

In April 2022, the Brooklyn Public Library instituted a new initiative known as Books Unbanned. Going forward, anyone in the United States between the ages of 13 and 21 will be able to apply for a digital library card. Once approved, teens and young adults will be granted free access to the Brooklyn Public Library ebook catalogue. This waives the $50 fee typically required by the Brooklyn Public Library for out-of-state applicants. According to a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library, this offering is intended to counteract the “increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves.” [24] The Brooklyn Public Library has cited the American Library Association's Freedom to Read Statement as a driving force behind the decision, noting the "729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals."[25]

The president of the Brooklyn Public Library, Linda E. Johnson, was quoted as saying: “Access to information is the great promise upon which public libraries were founded. We cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all. Books UnBanned will act as an antidote to censorship, offering teens and young adults across the country unlimited access to our extensive collection of ebooks and audiobooks, including those which may be banned in their home libraries."[26]

To further combat the recent spate of banned books, the Brooklyn Public Library has also made a selection of frequently banned audiobooks and ebooks available to cardholders. The list, which includes titles from well-known authors such as Ocean Vuong, Angie Thomas and Toni Morrison, is available through the Brooklyn Public Library website.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LibGuides: The Nation's Largest Public Libraries: Home".
  2. ^ "BKLYN Library". Twitter.
  3. ^ Chapter 441, Laws of 1892; Chapter 497, Laws of 1897.
  4. ^ Chapter 606, Laws of 1902.
  5. ^ "Building of the Day". Brownstoner.
  6. ^ "Brooklyn's Municipal Library System". New York Times. December 15, 1900.
  7. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (February 27, 2020). "Brooklyn Public Library and Brooklyn Historical Society to Merge". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 3, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "About Brooklyn Collection". Archived from the original on May 24, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons". Brooklyn Public Library. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  12. ^ "Brooklyn Public Library to expand hours of service across borough". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. September 8, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  13. ^ "Adult Literacy | Brooklyn Public Library". September 8, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  14. ^ Travers, S. (June 18, 2014). "New scrutiny of city's library trustees". City Limits.
  15. ^ Board of Trustees Archived June 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Our Executive Director Archived June 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Brooklyn PL Director Mack-Harvin Resigns After Three Years; Interim Director to be Named; Board Meeting Tonight Archived 2010-03-07 at the Wayback Machine", by Norman Oder, Library Journal, March 4, 2010.
  18. ^ "Made Managing Director". Brooklyn Eagle. January 30, 1898. p. 10. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  19. ^ "New Librarian's Career". Brooklyn Eagle. March 12, 1899. p. 7. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  20. ^ "Frank P. Hill Will Take Position of Librarian". Brooklyn Eagle. March 26, 1901. p. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  21. ^ "NAME BROOKLYN LIBRARIAN :Trustees Elect M.J. Ferguson of California to Succeed, Dr. Hill.". New York Times. April 30, 1930 – via ProQuest.
  22. ^ "BROOKLYN LIBRARY INDUCTS NEW CHIEF :Francis R. St. John Becomes Its Fifth Director -- Staff's Pay Discussed by Mayor". New York Times. May 25, 1949 – via ProQuest.
  23. ^ "Brooklyn and Queens Libraries".
  24. ^ "Books Unbanned". April 5, 2022.
  25. ^ "The Freedom to Read Statement". July 26, 2006.
  26. ^ "Brooklyn Library Offers Access to Banned eBooks to Teens Across the U.S." April 13, 2022.

External links[edit]