Park Slope residents have been waiting three years for renovations to the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street to be completed. It might seem even longer, as the initial reopening date last fall came and went without the project having been done.
Delays and setbacks are common in any construction endeavor. Even so, a community loses an important component of daily life when a library is closed to the public for several years at a time. Our libraries are not only a resource for books of all kinds but also a community space for celebrating, remembering, and organizing. With the next nearest branches of the Brooklyn Public Library all more than a mile away from the Park Slope branch, borrowing books and coordinating gatherings became a much less convenient affair.
Thankfully, a light at the end of the bookless tunnel appeared earlier this year. Councilmember Brad Lander’s office held a community forum in March with Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson to discuss the progress of renovations and to spread the word — that the library will reopen this fall and will offer more to the community than before.
At the meeting, the BPL staff announced that the Park Slope Library will reopen shortly after Labor Day, and this seems like a hard deadline.
Residents have much to look forward to when the doors finally open. The renovated library will be more accessible, with a new ramp, entrance, and elevator that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The library will also provide ADA-compliant bathrooms. The space will be more comfortable, with upgraded heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, better lighting, and new furniture. Patrons will be greeted by an restored exterior and entrance; the new interior will feature new bookshelves and floor finishes. The library will be easier to use, thanks to computers and space for tablet technology, free wireless Internet, and self-check units now in use at other libraries nearby, including the Windsor Terrace branch.
The physical improvements to the library will also facilitate greater community use of the space. When the library reopens, it will operate six days a week, Monday through Saturday, and will be more user-friendly with updated information and database sources. At the community forum, the councilman discussed the possibility of a partnership between the library and the P.S. 39 community. Lander also hoped that the library will offer new programs to its patrons, including readings from local authors and exhibitions by area artists. The library’s theater space will be updated to seat up to 75 people for community events and meetings.
Participants at the meeting also expressed interest in forming a “friends group” for the library that can work with staff and volunteers to bring programming and other services to the branch. An initial meeting of that group will be convened closer to Labor Day; contact Councilmember Lander’s office at 718.499.1090 if you are interested in getting involved.
“I hope to run into many of you at the library this fall,” Lander said, “as we discover new uses for this important neighborhood institution and celebrate the return of our beloved space and books.”