Top suggestion: Books … and places to read them

 Print story by Mary Frost

Video by Dipti Kumar


Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and Marvel Architects held the first of two workshops on Monday evening which allowed the community to contribute ideas for a new library that will replace the present Brooklyn Heights branch located on Cadman Plaza West.

At the end of a 45-minute discussion period moderated by representatives from Marvel, each table presented their suggestions.

Many patrons asked that books and places to read them be a top priority of the incoming branch.

“We want lots of books, we want a librarian, we want periodicals, we want people to be able to come and sit and read,” said Deborah Hallen, president of the Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library.

“One of the major things we want is books,” Heights resident Mike Jenkolsity emphasized. “It’s a library.”

Another patron commented that people come to libraries because they’re “a respite from the digital world.”

Other tables, however, stressed the need to beef up digital offerings.

“Computers for public use. Business areas to help people perhaps looking for jobs or looking for advice on how to start or maintain a business,” said Claude Scales, contributor to the Brooklyn Heights Blog.

“As far as more computers, we definitely want laptops, which would give us more flexibility,” said a fellow participant.

However, “These computers, copiers, checkout facilities should work,” a patron warned.

One man said his group foresees “a healthy mix of print and digital media. We certainly don’t want books to go away – and not only books, but newspapers, periodicals and the like.”

A survey being conducted by Marvel and BPL ranked bookshelves and material storage highest on library users’ wish list, followed by quiet spaces for reading and studying. Patrons are being encouraged to contribute to the survey online or at the branch.

 

Librarians, space, Business Library

The human side of the library was stressed by some. Scales said his table noted that one of the resources that brings people to a library are “kind librarians.”

Another table reported that they wanted “enough staff that’s properly trained, and that’s welcoming.”

While some requested a larger multi-use auditorium for local performing groups and arts and craft displays, others were worried that would cut into the space available for books and core research materials.

The new library has less square footage than the current one. BPL says the usable space will work out the same or better after the Business Library, which shares the building, moves to Grand Army Plaza. But doubts remain.

“There is a limited amount of space in any facility and particularly in this facility, and while ESL classes and performance space and display space and education spaces are all desirable, there are other facilities that provide these spaces, but there is no space other than a library that provides space for books,” one patron said.

“If you cut research and civic facilities too much here, that eats into exactly the people that are the most vocal supporters of funding for the library. You’ve got to be careful in this critical area not to discourage your best friends,” said local activist Jeff Smith.

Other requests included more natural lighting and open spaces, separate areas for adults, teens and kids – with quiet spots to do homework — and soft seating in the kids’ area.

One young man suggested shades because “on a rainy day you don’t really want to see it.”

The meeting was chaired by Marvel’s Guido Hartray. The next workshop on April 20 will focus on “what should be on the ground floor, what should be on the second floor, and where things should be located in the space and … the characteristics of the space,” Hartray said.

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