Brooklyn Public Library to host ’28th Amendment’ town halls online

28th Amendment March 5
A participant at a March 5 town hall event holds a copy of the Constitution.
Photo by Gregg Richards

Brooklyn Public Library will still host town hall meetings to crowdsource ideas for a new amendment to the Constitution online, according to organizers, who have chosen to carry on with the series digitally amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Given the circumstances, we thought that this is one of the projects that lends itself to moving online,” said Jacob Orsos, the library’s vice president of arts and culture.

The book lender will host its free “28th Amendment Town Hall” sessions via the video conferencing platform Zoom twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays from April 4 through April 25.

Book bigwigs are planning more discussions about possible upgrades for the country’s founding document for May, and the unprecedented current health crisis of the spread of COVID-19 will feature heavily in the debates.

“I consider the virus a litmus test,” Orsos said. “It really stunningly indicates some of our most problematic areas.”

Healthcare came up during in-person town halls earlier in the month, along with topics such as voting rights, wealth accumulation, and solidarity, according to Orsos.

Professional moderators and professors of constitutional law will still lead the discussions and law students from the five boroughs will take notes of each session. Those notes will then be provided to a group of “Framers” who will create a draft proposal for the new amendment, with a finalized version due by mid-October, weeks ahead of the November presidential election.

Some of the sessions will be part of select high schools’s online learning programs the city instituted since the closure of all public schools as of March 16.

The Brooklyn Public Library previously moved a lot of its programming online, including children’s story time, creative writing contests, gaming sessions, and career services, after closing all branches due to the pandemic on that same date.

The library will aim to translate some of the Constitutional sessions into Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish to make them accessible to more Brooklynites.

People interested in taking part in the upcoming amendment sessions can register at the library’s website with their email to receive a Zoom invitation.

While the debates will now happen quarantined and behind a screen, Orsos hopes that the current health crisis will galvanize discussion even further.

“This will spark an even livelier conversation about our lives,” he said.

“28th Amendment Town Hall” at Brooklyn Public Library [RSVP here]. April 4-25, Saturdays at 4 pm, Tuesdays at 7 pm. Free.