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What a bright idea! Green library opens in Kensington

The Brooklyn Public Library’s first new branch in decades: the sparkling Kensington Library.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Who needs iPads if you have windows?

As libraries across the borough are stocking up on the latest electronic readers, the new Kensington public library is bringing back the age-old tradition of reading by sunlight — with a “green” building that will provide borough bibliophiles a windowed space to read and work.

Library officials say the new Kensington branch uses 30 percent less energy than other buildings its size thanks to its huge skylight and windows built on both sides of the 18th Avenue building.

“There should be enough daylight coming from the windows that we won’t even need lighting,” said David Burney, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

The building’s lights will automatically turn on and off based on how much light is flooding the space, designers say. The branch also has several solar-powered sculptures created by artists Carol May and Tim Watkins hanging from the ceiling that will rotate on bright, sunny days.

Longtime library lover Gladys Kunen peruses one of the library’s 40,000 tomes after the grand opening.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The new home for the Kensington branch, which was on Ditmas Avenue before the move, will have 24 new computers, more than 40,000 books, three iPads for children, and four self-checkout machines.

Its opening comes as the Brooklyn Public Library closed down five branches heavily damaged from Hurricane Sandy.

Borough officials were ecstatic about the completion of the new branch building.

“This is not your grandparent’s library!” Borough President Markowitz exclaimed, assuring a group of children attending the 18,000 square foot library’s opening that nothing will ever replace the printed word. “When I used to go to libraries they were always dark, so dark!”

Others savored the new building knowing it could be decades before the city built a new library branch.

The $16 million dollar project is crowned with a large skylight — making natural light one of the main attractions for the branch.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

“We are literally here in the library of the future,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D–Borough Park) who called the new $16 million branch the “first new library in decades and possibly the last.”

Residents of Councilman Brad Lander’s district voted to allocate $80,000 for books and equipment for the library during a participatory budgeting meeting the Kensington legislator held last year.

Patrons using the library for the first time were quick to extoll the sunny new space, especially when they compared it to the Ditmas Avenue location, which was an old catering hall before becoming a hall of knowledge.

“I love all this light,” said Mike McKegney, a retired librarian who worked in the old Kensington branch for 23 years before retiring in 2010. “The old building was in bad shape.”

The Brooklyn Public Library has worked hard on modernizing its branches, many of which now have self-checkout machines, gaming programs for children, and e-readers. The Brooklyn Public Library also has a self-publishing book machine in its Central Branch.

Three-year-old Yefim Modz is in it for the books.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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