Photo: Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Highlights Include the Library’s 125th Birthday, A New Vinyl Record Collection, A Nationwide Campaign Against Censorship and One Very Good Boy

We Led the Fight Against Book Bans
In April, as concern grew about the increasingly coordinated effort to censor and ban books in school and public libraries across the country, we launched Books Unbanned, opening BPL’s entire electronic catalog, with about 500,000 items, to anyone in the United States, ages 13 to 21, making books freely available at any point in time in any community in the country. “We cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all,” said Library President and CEO, Linda E Johnson. The nationwide impact is written in the numbers. Over 6000 teens from all 50 states have applied. To date, the program has loaned over 50,000 titles and received over 100 media mentions in national and local press. Books Unbanned even caught the attention of former President Obama, who called attention to the library’s efforts to combat censorship in a tweet from his official account.

We Celebrated 125 Years 
On November 30, 1896, the Brooklyn Common Council passed a resolution to establish Brooklyn Public Library to nurture “the minds of the people and lay the foundation of a better civilization for the future.” Now, more than a century later, the mission is more important than ever. To celebrate 125 years of serving Brooklyn, we announced our 125 Most Checked Out books ever. Where the Wild Things Are by Brooklyn-born writer Maurice Sendak took the top spot.

We Opened Brooklyn Heights Library 
At over 26,000 square feet, the new Brooklyn Heights Library is now the second-largest library in the system and features a children’s area, a teen library, public meeting rooms, and plenty of bright, airy spaces to browse, read, write, create, watch, and think. In addition, the innovative redevelopment project which funded the new library provided 114 affordable housing units in Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 and helped to fund renovations in nine additional branches.

We Launched a State-of-the-Art Teen Tech Center 
We opened a new Teen Tech Center at Crown Heights Library which serves as a hub for teens in the neighborhood and for the Library’s boroughwide program Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies (Teen Techies). The center was made possible by a partnership with Google.org and offers a wide range of technology instruction including web design, graphic design, programming languages, video game design, podcasting, and robotics. In addition, Crown Heights Library will serve as a pilot location for Brooklyn Public Library’s Teen Takeovers—teen councils from different branches are planning programs for several weekend nights throughout the school year for which Brooklyn Public Library will keep the libraries open for extended hours. Across the borough, the Library is making teens feel welcome with spaces designed just for them and programs like Bookmatch TeenCollege Connect and more.

We Hosted the First-Ever Lenape Curated Exhibition in New York 
In partnership with the Lenape Center, we presented Lenapehoking, featuring masterworks by Lenape artists past and present. Hosted at Greenpoint Library and curated by Joe Baker, enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians and Co-Founder/Executive Director of the Lenape Center, the exhibition featured a mix of contemporary and historical objects, telling the story of a vast and vibrant community, and reframing the narrative of indigenous tribes told in more traditional settings, which too often overlooks the genocide of the Lenape people and their living legacy today. As part of the exhibition, indigenous fruit trees that were historically cultivated by the Lenape in Manhattan were planted in the Greenpoint Library’s rooftop teaching garden, creating continuity between the ecological past and present. After the exhibition closed, the trees were moved to Prospect Park to continue growing and will be marked by a plaque.

We Introduced Our Vinyl Collection 
Brooklyn Public Library launched a vinyl collection this year, complete with listening stations, and over 400 records to borrow. The vinyl collection is the newest edition to the library’s musical collections. Patrons can also borrow musical instruments and over 17,000 pieces of sheet music or use their library cards to reserve a recording studio at Central Library. 

We Hit the Road with Our Bookmobiles 
Our bookmobiles traveled over 2000 miles this year bringing books, computers, and library cards to community centers, places of worship, shelters, and parks all over Brooklyn. In June, the bookmobiles became cakemobiles, just in time for our 125th birthday, distributing 2000 cupcakes all across the borough. And in September, two special guests hopped on board to help distribute books: Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo, the bookworm.

We Helped Brooklyn Stay Healthy 
BPL distributed nearly 150,000 free COVID test kits and hosted health fairs and flu vaccine clinics across the borough. From Brighton Beach to Bushwick, we helped Brooklyn get fit, strong and well, offering free classes in nutrition, reproductive health, diabetes management, and much more, including Tai Chi for Fall Prevention and Arthritis, which welcomed nearly 1000 participants this year. And to help older adults remain active and engaged in the community, the Library launched Senior Debate, a lively tournament engaging patrons, ages 54 to 94, to consider issues ranging from teacher tenure to compulsory voting.

We Walked the Red Carpet 
On the night before the Met Gala, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered in the grand lobby of BPL’s Central Library at Grand Army Plaza to celebrate democratized fashion. People of all backgrounds came together to share in the festivities and showcase the colors, textures, and styles that make up the city’s urban runway. In June, the Library’s Fashion Academy, the only library-based fashion education program in the country, presented a runway show from the Central Library Plaza, showcasing the collections designed by the class of 2022.

We Shared the Love of Reading 
As part of our Summer Reading program, we gave out 20,000 books for kids, ages 0 to 18, in English and Spanish, for keeps! More than 4500 people participated in our Brainy Babies program, an interactive series designed to provide caregivers tips and tools in early literacy; and our teen book match program—for teens by teens, provided over 400 hand-picked personalized reading lists. This year, the Library also welcomed Flash Gordon, an adorable terrier and certified therapy dog, to encourage children to read and improve their literacy, communication, and social skills. Flash takes over for Angel, who retired after six years of hard work at the Library to enjoy more time in the park.

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.