Brooklyn Public Library in New York City

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The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is the public library system of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. It is the fifth largest public library system in the United States. Like the two other public library systems in New York City, it is an independent nonprofit organization that is funded by the New York City and State governments, the federal government, and private donors. In Fiscal Year 2009, Brooklyn Public Library had the highest program attendance of any public library system in the United States.


The Brooklyn Public Library system was approved by an Act of Legislature of the State of New York on May 1, 1892. 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. Between 1901 and 1923, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $1.6 million, assisting in the development of twenty one branches.

List of Directors

(may be incomplete)

  • Mary E. Craigie
  • Arthur E. Bostwick (1899-1901)
  • Frank P. Hill (1901-1930)
  • Milton J. Ferguson (1930-1949)
  • Francis R. St. John (1949-1963)
  • John Ames Humphry (1964-?)
  • John C Frantz (?)
  • Kenneth Farnham Duchac (1970-1986)
  • Larry Brandwein (?-1994)
  • Martin Gomez (1995-?)
  • Ginnie Cooper
  • Dionne Mack-Harvin (2007-2010)
  • Linda E. Johnson (2011-)


Brooklyn Public Library's governing board is the Board of Trustees, consisting of thirty eight members, all serving in non-salaried positions. The Mayor and the Brooklyn Borough President each appoint eleven of the trustees. Twelve additional members are elected to serve on the Board. 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.

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. Previously, Ginnie Cooper, now of the District of Columbia Public Library, 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 80s punk band X.


Central Library

Located at Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway on Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library contains over a million cataloged books, magazines, and multimedia materials. Its local history division, the Brooklyn Collection, holds over a million individual items including photographs, maps, manuscripts, Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia and other ephemeral items. The facility, landmarked in 1997, boasts the state-of-the art S. Stevan Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture, a 189-seat auditorium that opened in 2007 and hosts lectures, readings, musical performances, and other events for people of all ages. The library's plaza, renovated during the construction of the Dweck Center, hosts concerts throughout the summer and has become a favorite outdoor destination for free wireless internet access.

Ground was broken for a Brooklyn central library on Prospect Park Plaza (Grand Army Plaza) in 1912. Original architect Raymond Almirall's design called for a domed, four-story Beaux Arts building, similar in style to the nearby Brooklyn Museum. Escalating costs and political in-fighting helped slow construction throughout the decade. World War I and the Great Depression ensured that Almirall's building, whose Flatbush Avenue wing had been completed by 1929, would never be built. In the 1930s, new architects Githens and Keally were commissioned to redesign the building, eliminating all the expensive ornamentation and the entire fourth floor. After much public and critical praise for the comparatively inexpensive Art Deco structure, construction recommenced in 1938. Almirall's building on Flatbush Avenue was largely demolished except for the frame. (Some of the original facade that faces in toward the library's parking lot is still visible.) Completed by late 1940, the Central Library opened to the public on February 1, 1941. It is regarded today as one of America's greatest Art Deco buildings. The second floor opened in 1955, nearly doubling the amount of space available to the public. Occupying over 350000 sqft and employing 300 full-time staff members, the building serves as the administrative headquarters for the Brooklyn Public Library system. Prior to 1941 the Library's administrative offices were located in the Williamsburg Savings Bank on Flatbush Avenue. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.<ref name="nris"/>

Each year, over one million people enter through Central Library’s doors and countless others access its services, such as the Historical Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1841-1902, online.

The Business Library

The Business Library is located at 280 Cadman Plaza West in downtown Brooklyn. Its history precedes that of the BPL itself. In 1852, prominent citizens established the Brooklyn Athenaeum and Reading Room for the instruction of young men. In 1857, a group of young men established the Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn, which shared a building with the Athenaeum. The Mercantile Library attempted to be more practical, placing less emphasis on literature and philosophy. In 1869, the two organizations consolidated their holdings and moved to a new building, the Montague Street Branch Library. In 1878, the Mercantile Library was renamed the Brooklyn Library. By 1943, the Business Reference Department was known as the Business Library. The library outgrew its space, and in 1957, a new building to house both the Business Library and the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood branch was approved by city government. On June 1, 1962, the new $2.5 million library building opened its doors to the public at its current location. In 1993, a two-year renovation and expansion was completed.

Neighborhood libraries

  • Arlington
  • Bay Ridge
  • Bedford, including the Bedford Learning Center
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant
  • Borough Park
  • Brighton Beach
  • Brooklyn Heights
  • Brower Park
  • Brownsville
  • Bushwick
  • Canarsie
  • Carroll Gardens
  • Clarendon
  • Clinton Hill
  • Coney Island, including the Coney Island Learning Center
  • Cortelyou
  • Crown Heights
  • Cypress Hills
  • DeKalb
  • Dyker Heights
  • East Flatbush
  • Eastern Parkway, including the Eastern Parkway Learning Center
  • Flatbush, including the Flatbush Learning Center
  • Flatlands
  • Fort Hamilton
  • Gerritsen Beach
  • Gravesend
  • Greenpoint
  • Highlawn
  • Homecrest
  • Jamaica Bay
  • Kensington
  • Kings Bay
  • Kings Highway
  • Leonard
  • Macon
  • Mapleton
  • Marcy
  • McKinley Park
  • Midwood
  • Mill Basin
  • New Lots
  • New Utrecht
  • Pacific
  • Paerdegat
  • Park Slope
  • Red Hook
  • Rugby
  • Ryder
  • Saratoga
  • Sheepshead Bay
  • Spring Creek
  • Stone Avenue
  • Sunset Park
  • Ulmer Park
  • Walt Whitman
  • Washington Irving
  • Williamsburgh
  • Windsor Terrace

In addition to the above, there are 58 neighborhood branches throughout the borough, several mobile libraries including four bookmobiles, the Kidsmobile, which carries children's materials, and the Bibliobús, which carries a Spanish language collection.


The Bookmobile is a 32 ft-long, 11.5 ft-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. Also during the summer the book mobile is often found labor day during the floats.


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-cased organizations, senior centers, nonprofit organizations, and community events.

Other New York City library systems

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 (serving The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island), and the Queens Borough Public Library (serving Queens). The Brooklyn Public Library card is also accepted by the NYPL and QPL, though they may ask for additional identification.

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