New Brower Park Library opens at Brooklyn Children’s Museum

brower park library at Children's museum
A crowd filled the new Brower Park Library on its inauguration day. Kids and adults checked out books, used the computers and visited the space.
Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.

The new Brower Park Library, with seven different spaces filled with an extensive collection of books, DVDs,  laptops, desktops, screens and many objects of cultural and historical value, is now open to everyone at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights.

The Brooklyn Public Library and the museum joined forces to transform a wing of the building devoted to kid’s exploration into a the new library, a multi-part, fully equipped research and reading space for teens, adults and the youngest readers in the borough. 

The site at Saint Marks and Brooklyn Avenue was the first children’s museum in the world when it opened in 1899. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.

The core of the new library consists of two long halls with many stacked-up bookcases, murals along the walls, and mini-exhibits with objects from the museum. Pieces are selected by the museum’s collection curators to illustrate specific children’s stories that are culturally relevant to the community. This way, children can read a text and then examine historical objects that link the fictional tales to actual moments in history.

“I am so glad that we get to dedicate a space here in Crown Heights to books from diverse authors in a time of book bans,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who represents the 39th Council District.

The selection among the 30,000 objects in the museum’s collection will be in constant rotation, according to Hana Elwell, vice president of Exhibits and Education.

“We work with the librarians to choose texts that are relevant to the community,” said Elwell. “Here in Crown Heights, there is a lot of Carribean culture and a high interest in natural history, and we can feed a kid’s imagination and love for reading by showing them that some bits of the extraordinary things they learn about here, were once real.”

pieces from the childrens museum collection at the library
Brooklyn Children’s Museum is one of only four children’s museums in the United States to hold an educational collection. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.
Pieces from the childrens museum
The collection ranges from Paleolithic to ancient to modern day, from across the globe. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.

About 34% of students are below basic reading level when they reach the fourth grade, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. By eighth grade, about 27% of kids are below basic reading level — and 39% are considered below a proficient reading level. Some 36 million adults in the U.S. don’t have basic reading, writing, and math skills above a third-grade level, according to ProLiteracy, an international nonprofit organization that supports adult education. If literacy can be improved during childhood development, learning processes are turn more effective for individuals later in life.

The new library was planned as a public place for all members of the community. Apart from its variety of contents, the space has an area exclusively for teens with a screen, a frosted window that eliminates distractions and buffers external noise, and a second window overlooking the street.

Before even entering, a shaded area with a long stone bench serves as a shelter from the sun and the rain.

“People started using that space, sitting there to chat as soon as that part of the construction was ready,” said Zach McGown, one of the architects in charge of converting what used to be administrative offices into the street front library. 

multisensorial room at the library
A child’s critical intellectual development in the early years includes language acquisition, pre-reading skills and numeracy skills and occurs from birth, according to the National Institute of Health. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.
Toddlers playing at the library
The growth of a child’s ability to think and reason is linked to play and exploring, according to the National Health Association. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.

Adults aren’t left out, either — the library has a separated meeting room for community groups, and desks and and laptops that can be used inside the building. Even younger kids, too young to read, have a place designed to provide a multi-sensory experience, with cushions, small chairs, and  computers with educational games and toys. A window that allows a peek into the museum’s main hall from above connects both spaces in a way that seems like observers are floating.

The inauguration ceremony was co-hosted by Brooklyn Public Library CEO Linda E. Johnson, who also presented a massive exhibition at the Grand Army Plaza branch dedicated to the hip hop producer, Jay-Z, a few days before, and Brooklyn Children’s Museum CEO Stephanie Hill Wilchfort.