Brooklyn Public Library unveils remodeled Central branch

Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

It’s a new chapter!

Brooklyn Public Library unveiled a series of interior renovations to the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza Thursday, just days ahead of the book lender’s partial reopening for in-person browsing on May 10.

“The pandemic was certainly a challenge for every library. We are so excited that on May 10 we can bring some people back in,” director of the Central Library, Christine Schonhart, told Brooklyn Paper. “People come in here every day saying, ‘When can I browse, when can I use the computer,’ so we know the need is there and we’re really excited that we’ll be able to meet it.”

Next week, BPL will open 13 of its 60 branches for browsing and computer use for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close in March 2020.

At its flagship location, BPL showed off four newly-revamped public spaces for borough bookworms, which mark the first phase of a five-year, $60 million renovation by Japanese architect Toshiko Mori of the 80-year-old landmark building’s inside launched back in 2018.

“One of the goals of the renovation was to take previously administrative [space] or space that was cut off from the public and return it to public use,” Schonhart said.

The stacks gurus moved the checkout and drop-off desks from the back of the ground floor to the front near the entrance, now renamed the Major Owens Welcome Center after the former Brooklyn Congressman and civil rights advocate, who also once worked as a librarian in the borough during the 1950s and 1960s, according to Schonhart.

The entrance used to host an IDNYC office and a security booth, which BPL, along with the passport office, moved to another new space dubbed the Civic Commons with its own entrance off of Flatbush Avenue.

The passport office has been replaced by a collection named New and Noteworthy, which will focus on a different theme every few months, starting with — naturally — a gathering of works focused on Brooklyn or written by Kings County authors.

A themed collection dubbed New and Noteworthy replaces the library’s passport office, which moved to a different part of the building.Photo by Kevin Duggan

For the May 10 opening, only the ground floor will be open for browsing and computer use, but the redesign also includes a new Business and Career Center on the second floor, which will become available once the library deems it safe to do so.

What once was two separate spaces for magazines, newspapers, and DVDs, along with an adult learning center, will now have meeting rooms, tables to work at and a business-oriented reference library.

The book-lender also upgraded its infrastructure, including elevators, restrooms and a new furnish of the wood panels in the grand entrance hall.

The renovations include a new Business and Career Center on the second floor, which won’t open right away due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.Photo by Kevin Duggan

A new adult learning center, along with a teen space, and restored collections will be part of a future renovation phase, currently slated to happen between now and 2023.

Schonhart said she’s eager to welcome patrons back as the library starts resuming services throughout the borough.

“It’s going to be a slow process, so I hope folks can bear with us while we grow, but that first day on May 10 we’re so excited,” she said.

Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library [10 Grand Army Plaza, at Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, www.bklynlibrary.org, (718) 230–2100]. Opens for browsing and computer use May 10. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 am-4 pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-7 pm. Closed on Sundays.