INSPIRED BY A NEWLY ISSUED LIBRARY CARD from the Brooklyn Public Library and by a tip from Madeleine Appell, an instructor at Kingsborough Community College, I went to visit two branch libraries to look at the architecture and design of the buildings.
The Kensington Library branch opened on November 15 in a newly built, LEED-certified green, sustainable and fully ADA-compliant building. The new building replaces an older location that was a few blocks away in a former catering hall from the 1960s. This light-filled open space is cool as can be, yet warm and appealing, even as it stands out from the surrounding residential neighborhood of traditional-looking low-rise homes and mish-mash storefronts. I love the daylight that streams in from the glass walls and skylit atrium, along with the arty Calder-like mobiles suspended from the second floor. This would be a fun, cheery place to spend a few hours reading or surfing the web.
Sustainable features of lighting, heating and cooling systems, and thoughtfully-selected materials and finishes are invisible in such a well-designed and people-friendly space. The Kensington branch has been one of Brooklyn’s most active library locations with over 100,000 items in circulation. It’s hoped that this beautiful new space will provide an energy-efficient and healthier environment for users and staff. Unfortunately, according to the Daily News, this may be the last branch built from scratch. Due to budget realities, the Brooklyn Public Library is considering preexisting storefront locations for new branches.
Back in Brownstone Brooklyn, the Park Slope Library, known as “Prospect Branch,” reopened in September after nearly three years of renovations. As befits the neighborhood, this building is replete with the columns, paned-glass, and details found in the landmarked homes surrounding it. Renovation has brought new lighting, technology, climate control, and accessibility to this 1906 building that was part of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy. It was all in use when I visited this afternoon—kids, parents, caretakers, and the occasional grown-up, all gently engaged with books and computers, in comfy, well-lit spaces. A row of strollers were parked neatly by the entrance.
City Councilman Brad Lander notes that libraries routinely provide internet access and computers to the 50% of New York households without high-speed internet, as duly noted by the activity I observed in both branches today.
Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekend to-do lists.