New sculpture, ‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue,’ celebrates 125 years of service at the Brooklyn Public Library

Hanging tree sculpture by Jean Shin at the Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Heights location.
The Brooklyn Public Library unveiled a new sculpture, “Something Borrrowed, Something Blue” at their Brooklyn Heights location for 125th anniversary.
Gregg Richards/BPL

A new hanging sculpture by artist Jean Shin has been unveiled at the Brooklyn Heights Library, celebrating more than 125 years of the Brooklyn Public Library and serving as a final addition to the brand-new branch. 

The sculpture, titled “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” is made of denim and recycled tech donated by patrons and librarians and resembles an inverted tree with its roots clinging to the ceiling and branches hanging down below.

brooklyn public library sculpture
From below, the leaves of the tree create a rough map of Brooklyn neighborhoods with BPL branches. Gregg Richards/Brooklyn Public Library

At nighttime, the sculpture’s illuminated leaves and branches glow to resemble a lantern, while during the day viewers can see that the shape of the branches actually forms a map of Brooklyn, with each leaf representing a neighborhood with a BPL location. Every leaf is also inscribed with the title of the most-circulated book the year the branch was opened. 

“With ‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’, Brooklyn-based artist Jean Shin pays homage to public library service in Brooklyn, to the countless individuals who have walked through our doors seeking knowledge, and to more than a billion books borrowed over the last 125 years,” said Linda E. Johnson, BPL president and CEO, in a statement. “Moreover, this beautiful and imaginative piece of art will inspire and uplift a new generation of library patrons for years to come.”

Shin’s work has focused on trees and nature in the past, with the artist saying that the symbolism of trees — and this tree in particular — are connected to human knowledge due to their use in producing paper and books. Even before printed materials, trees were a symbol of wisdom in many cultures, Shin explained. 

“Brooklyn has been my home for the past 30 years and I love its libraries,” Shin said. “They are truly special public spaces integrated within each neighborhood, nourishing the curious minds and hearts of our community.  I am proud to contribute this work along the rich literary traditions and creative force that defines Brooklyn.”

brooklyn public library something borrowed something blue sculpture
The piece is made of donated technology and clothing, mostly blue jeans, to represent the library’s mission to serve all Brooklynites and close the digital divide. Gregg Richards/Brooklyn Public Library

The sculpture’s leaves are made with denim, wire, and lights, and the tree’s trunk is made of electric cord and old donated wires and tech wrapped in and coiled with donated jeans and other pieces of clothing. The donated materials represent the mission of the library to serve its patrons and bridge the digital divide by providing free tech and other services – and draws on the old rhyme traditionally associated with weddings, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”

Shin reimagined the rhyme for the library system — “something old” is the old, donated tech; “something new,” the new knowledge and technology that define the library; “something borrowed,” the books, of course; and “something blue,” the blue color of the materials used, reflecting the blue of the library’s logo. 

Something Borrowed, Something Blue” is the final addition to, and cherry on top of, the new Brooklyn Heights Library, which opened to the public last summer