The plan includes updates to the infrastructure, the creation of new public spaces and to increase publicly accessible space by 50 Percent over the next five years.
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced on Monday an expansive $135 million renovation of the central library branch, the city’s largest lending library. The plan serves as a capstone for the most extensive rebuilding efforts in its history with one-third of BPL branches slated for renovation or overhaul.
“New York City’s largest lending library is also one of its architectural gems,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “A thoughtfully restored, inspiring, flexible space is richly deserved by the 1.3 million people who visit the central library each year. We look forward to working with the community to bring this vision to life.”
BPL’s flagship branch is an education hub attracting 1.3 million users annually who travel from across the borough and the city. The library offers educational, cultural and social services including free programs and events like senior writing workshops and classical music concerts. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 59 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough.
Yet, due to years of underfunding, essential repairs in the central library have been put on hold and its physical space is not keeping up with the demands of a growing borough. The infrastructure is failing; elevators, escalators and electrical systems are in need of repair or replacement. Nearly 60 percent of the building is currently inaccessible to the public, and impromptu repair work inconveniences patrons and strains budgets.
An increase in city funding and project partnerships have begun to stem the tide for BPL. Over a third of the libraries have recently been or will be replaced or overhauled. Thirteen libraries are slated to receive full-scale renovations over the next several years. And two new satellite facilities in DUMBO and the BAM cultural district will bring the Brooklyn Public Library’s total number of locations from 59 to 61.
The renovation of the central library will unroll in four phases over the next eight years. First constructions are set to begin in April with improvements to the library’s layout, the modernization of infrastructures such as elevators and the renovation of the outdoor plaza. During the first phase, the library will create the Civic Commons where patrons can seek services such as the IDNYC office and Passport Services Center, as well as a new constantly-curated and modern popular library, where visitors can quickly check out top titles. The first phase of the project will also include a new Business Career Center on the second floor.
The second phase of the project will create a new Brooklyn Teen Space, an expanded learning and literacy center on the second floor. In the later phases of the project, BPL plans to create a connection between the branch with Mount Prospect Park to create a Central Brooklyn green campus that involves the library, Prospect Park and the Botanical Garden.
“You can always find a good book at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch, but the library is so much more than that—it’s the first access point that many Brooklyn residents have to government services; it’s a school, a concert hall, a social club, a senior center, a resource for new Americans,” said New York State Senator Kevin Parker. “Its physical space should reflect the importance of all those resources to Brooklyn.”
The central library will remain open and operational throughout all phases of the renovation.