Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Central Library
Established 1896 (1896)
Location Brooklyn, New York City, NY
Coordinates 40°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
Branches 60
Size 5,045,500 items
Access and use
Population served 2,565,635
Other information
Director Linda E. Johnson (2011-present)

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.[1] 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 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. He later commenced developing the extensive catalog for the collections which he completed in 1888. The two collections 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".

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. Carnegie had been earlier inspired by the bequest, construction and maintenance by local merchant, banker and financier who became a famous philanthropist in his adopted city of Baltimore in Maryland. Enoch Pratt, entertained Mr. Carnegie at his mansion/townhouse on West Monument Street and Park Avenue, during the mid-1880s and toured him around his new public library and its four regional branches, presented to the City in 1886 after four years of planning and construction, along with an endowment to continue its support if supplemented in perpetuity by the City of Baltimore, which it agreed and thus was born the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the oldest public library system in America and affected and inspired many others around America by the examples of Pratt and Carnegie.


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

There are 58 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.[7]

Central Library

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]


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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13][14] 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

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

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 and Queens Public Library cards are also accepted by the NYPL, once those cards are linked to the NYPL system. The cards can be linked at any NYPL branch.[20]

See also


  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
  6. Brooklyn's Municipal Library System New York Times 15 December 1900
  8. About Brooklyn Collection
  10. "Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons". Brooklyn Public Library. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  11. Travers, S. "New scrutiny of city's library trustees". City Limits.
  12. Board of Trustees
  13. Our Executive Director
  14. "Brooklyn PL Director Mack-Harvin Resigns After Three Years; Interim Director to be Named; Board Meeting Tonight," by Norman Oder, Library Journal, 4 March 2010.
  15. "Made Managing Director," Brooklyn Eagle, Sunday, January 30, 1898, Page: 10, retrieved 12/14/2010 from
  16. "New Librarian's Career," Brooklyn Eagle, Sunday, March 12, 1899, Page: 7, retrieved 12/14/2010 from
  17. "Frank P. Hill Will Take Position of Librarian," Brooklyn Eagle, Tuesday, March 26, 1901, Page: 2, retrieved 12/14/2010 from
  18. "NAME BROOKLYN LIBRARIAN :Trustees Elect M.J. Ferguson of California to Succeed, Dr. Hill.." New York Times (1923-Current file), April 30, 1930, (accessed December 14, 2010).
  19. "BROOKLYN LIBRARY INDUCTS NEW CHIEF :Francis R. St. John Becomes Its Fifth Director -- Staff's Pay Discussed by Mayor." New York Times (1923-Current file), May 25, 1949, (accessed December 14, 2010).
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