In the weeks since the 2016 presidential election, librarians across the United States have taken actions to foster dialog, confront intolerance, and reaffirm public libraries as safe spaces for all patrons. Whether as a reaction to the need to initiate community conversations or as a response to incidents taking place within the library, library employees are looking at ways to get people talking—and listening.
Update: On July 7, Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jiminez-Salta ruled against Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc.’s challenge to the Brooklyn Heights Branch sale and development. The project will proceed as planned.
The controversial sale of Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) Brooklyn Heights branch to a New York real estate development group remains up in the air. The latest speed bump in the library’s sale, which was proposed by BPL, is a report suggesting the library system is getting a raw deal on the real estate, which is situated in one of the borough’s poshest neighborhoods.
In a June 25 session at the ALA Annual conference in Orlando, John Bracken, VP of media innovation for the Knight Foundation, said that the foundation has been focused on three key questions when working with libraries: What can be done to foster cross-discipline collaboration, possibly learning from projects in other civic sectors such as Code for America, 18F, or the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews collaboration; how can community be put “even more robustly” at the center of the foundation’s work; and how can the foundation help libraries tell their stories to wider audiences? “To succeed, particularly in a time of reduced public investment, it is vital to tell our stories in ways that people can understand the breadth of our work, and on platforms” where the public is present and listening, Bracken said.
Ten libraries and museums were presented with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service in a ceremony at the White House on June 1. First Lady Michelle Obama joined IMLS director Kathryn K. Matthew to honor institutions from across the country for outstanding service to their communities, including one academic and four public libraries: North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh; Brooklyn Public Library, NY; Madison Public Library, WI; Otis Library, Norwich, CT; and Santa Ana Public Library, CA.
Urban Libraries Conference Highlights STEAM for Kids, Programs for Adults, and DC Makers in Residence
Despite the advent of Google and other tools that have simplified access to information, public libraries have maintained their relevance by responding to complex problems within their communities, said David Lankes, professor and Dean’s Scholar for New Librarianship at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, during his keynote address at the the fourth annual Urban Libraries Conference on May 6 at the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) central branch. Lankes elaborated on this thesis throughout his “Rocket Science Is Easy” presentation to kick off a day filled with presentations and discussions on current issues affecting urban libraries.
As part of its new BKLYN Incubator project, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is inviting librarians from across the system to come up with creative new programming at their branches. With the help of a $25,000 Sparks Ignition Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), BPL has set up a framework for branch librarians to develop and promote their own ideas for programs and services—from an ethnic music performance venue in Coney Island to ballroom dancing for older adults in Carroll Gardens to a Russian literature club in Sheepshead Bay—and for their communities to help vote on the ones they want to see implemented.
In Fall 2015, the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) strategy team gained two codirectors, David Giles and Story Bellows—urban innovators with strong backgrounds in government policy. Giles joined the library as chief strategy officer in November 2015, after serving as research director at New York’s Center for an Urban Future (CUF), which in 2014 published Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries, a report examining the physical and economic challenges facing the buildings that make up New York City’s three library systems. In his new role, he will provide strategic leadership around program development, partnerships, advocacy, and capital planning, among other aspects of BPL’s mission. Leading the strategy team with Giles is Bellows, who became BPL’s chief innovation and performance officer in October. Before arriving in Brooklyn, Bellows cofounded and directed the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Philadelphia, an in-house research and development lab aimed at supporting innovative approaches to civic problem solving.
A controversial proposal to turn a Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) Brooklyn Heights branch into condos with a branch on the bottom floor cleared a hurdle in late July, when the local Community Board approved BPL’s proposed sale. Next, the deal goes before Borough President Eric Adam at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, August 18. If it passes that hurdle, it still needs to move through the City Planning Commission and New York’s City Council before becoming final.
In partnership with local nonprofit arts and media organization Brooklyn Information & Culture (BRIC), the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) in July opened a state-of-the art, three-camera television studio in its Coney Island branch. Outfitted with equipment including HD cameras, a TriCaster switcher, a green screen, and professional lighting and audio gear, all provided by BRIC, the studio will serve as a set location for BRIC’s community access television network, as well as a classroom for regularly scheduled, hands-on studio production courses.
A unique partnership between New York’s Department of Education and the city’s three public library systems, MyLibraryNYC has made its way into 488 pre-K–12 schools across the city this past school year, serving more than half a million students and over 60,000 educators.