Libraries may not be the main tourist attraction, but to residents and avid readers such as myself, they are an important part of the city. There are 58 neighborhood libraries throughout Brooklyn, one enormous Central Library, and a Business Library in downtown Brooklyn. Some have a wider selection than others and some have a friendlier staff. Every library is different, which is why whenever I’m in a new area, I make sure to drop by the neighborhood library.
The most impressive and largest library in Brooklyn is, of course, Central Library, located just outside Prospect Park, on Grand Army Plaza. Opened on February 1, 1941, this library now contains more than 1.5 million books, magazines, and multimedia materials. Central Library accommodates both book-lovers and computer-users by offering free wireless internet access inside the entire building. Since September of 1997, it also offers a Multilingual Center for people who do not speak English. There’s no question about it, when it comes to the top libraries in Brooklyn, this formidable giant takes the lead. It contains the largest selection of reading and multimedia materials in a single building, as well as many information tables with friendly assistants who are ready and happy to answer any questions you may have. This library is worth visiting not only for its books, but for the building itself as well.
Brooklyn contains other great libraries as well. When you are looking for something smaller, the Brighton Beach library has it all. Whether you are searching for non-fiction, young adult fiction, or assignment paperbacks, there are plenty to be found here. Located on 16 Brighton First Road at Brighton Beach Avenue, the Brighton Beach library is a nice place to sit at a table and read. It has many tables, as well as computers for which you can sign up to use. The only places this library is lacking is in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, which takes up about half of a tiny segment of the many shelves that line its walls. In addition, I have come across more unfriendly assistants here than in any of the other libraries I’ve been, but the atmosphere is still nice, and in terms of comfort and selection, Brighton Beach library is a great place to be.
Out of all the libraries that I’ve been to, there is one that’s truly the top in my book. The tiny Ryder branch, located at 5902- 23rd Ave. (between 23rd Ave. and 59th St.) has everything a library should: first and foremost, it has a large selection of any kinds of books you would want, from an entire room devoted to children’s books, to an extensive nonfiction and fiction section (as well as everything in between). There are computers to sign up for, as well as reference computers you may use at any time to find the book you’re looking for (as in other libraries in Brooklyn). There are tables and chairs set up throughout the children’s and adult sections, as well as by the large reference and periodicals areas. But the thing that sets this library apart from others I’ve been to is the welcoming and cozy atmosphere that it creates. The people who work at this library always greet you with a smile on their face, and turn their full attention to you when you need them (unlike in some others I’ve known). There is even a little corner between the mystery and horror sections where a small table and some oversized armchairs have been set up. I could spend hours there.
Brooklyn’s libraries are always being improved on. The Highlawn, Macon, and (one of my personal favorites) Kings Highway libraries are all closed for renovations and great additions such as wireless access and reading corners for children. A bookmobile is stationed outside these libraries at certain times to continue service to the neighborhoods, and nearby branches remain open to all. There are so many great libraries in Brooklyn, that going to just one all the time would not be a complete experience. So if you live in Brooklyn – or even if you’re merely visiting – make sure to stop by a library you’ve never been to before. You won’t regret it.
Brooklyn Public Library main website: http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org
Grand Army PlazaBrooklyn, .
16 Brighton First Rd. at Brighton Beach Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11235
5902- 23rd Ave. (bet. 23rd Ave. at 59th St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11204