The institution of the public library has been a part of American life since the 17th or 18th century and, to this day, remains a rich classroom and playground for curious minds. What were once parish libraries of books and scrolls have evolved into state-of-the-art facilities with computers, microfilms, DVDs, CDs, ebooks, magazines and newspapers, and, of course, books.
Here in Brooklyn, it is clear that libraries are as important as ever, a source of free academic resources and recreational activities for children and parents of all ages. The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) offers a wide range of workshops, classes, databases and educational events for everyone who visits, particularly its members – anyone who signs up for a library card to borrow books.
Armed with a virtually indefinite range of material, BPL’s 60 neighborhood branches reach just about every corner of Brooklyn, from Sheepshead Bay and Canarsie to Dyker Heights, Greenpoint, and of course, Grand Army Plaza’s massive Central Library. Between them all, they’ve got every day of the week covered for events and programs.
“One of our goals is to remain a critical and free resource,” explained Sacha Thompson, a marketing and communications associate with BPL. “And we do this by offering… a host of cultural events” and technology, literacy training and instruction, family and children’s programming.
As part of its continuing efforts to bring resources to people, the BPL recently unveiled the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons — in which “students and researchers will have access to the Library’s growing suite of electronic resources, while small groups will find private areas for collaborative thinking, working, and creating,” said Thompson.
While the Central Library features regular music and art events and exhibits, each individual library branch also offers its own, unique services and activities for nearby residents.
What better way to exercise your mind than to play a game of chess? The Carroll Gardens Library Chess Club is open to members of all ages and meets on Wednesdays from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. until September 25. Club members must bring their own chess clock. Studies show that chess enriches a child’s ability to focus, visualize, think ahead, comprehend consequences, analyze, plan, and think abstractly. The chess club is only a fraction of the myriad academic recreations the Brooklyn Public Library has to offer.
On a more lighthearted note, this library branch also lets kids have a free for all with their board games every Saturday from 11 a.m. to Noon until August 31. Bring your children to play a game of checkers, Candy Land, Connect4, Yahtzee, and more.
The youngest set of early readers also have something to do here and usually at every library branch. Check out Toddler Time on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. for children from the age of 18 months to 36 months. Toddlers can enjoy stories and interact with one another. The first 20 toddlers get tickets from the Customer Services Deck and the program is held every week in the basement storytelling room. For further information on Toddler Time, refer to http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/first-5-years.
The Carroll Gardens Library is located at 369 Clinton Street at Union Street and can be contacted at 718-596-6972.
At the Greenpoint Library, adults can attend free “Computer Basics” classes every Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. — no prior experience necessary. Children can take advantage of its free after-school homework help program from 3:30 to 5 p.m. every Thursday until May 23. And for children under age five, the Greenpoint branch hosts “Pre-School Story Time” on Fridays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
If you’d like to exercise the body instead of the mind, then stop by Greenpoint Yoga Nights every Saturday from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. The classes are described as a safe and guided experience with trying yoga.
The Greenpoint Library is located at 107 Norman Avenue. Call 718-349-8504 for more info.
More nourishing of the body happens over at the Williamsburgh Library branch – which happens to have been the first Carnegie library built in Brooklyn, in 1903, and is a designated landmark of New York City.
Not only do yoga, zumba and aerobics make an appearance at Adult Exercise classes that are held from 10 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday up until July 24, but on Thursdays, children are welcome to join in an Arts and Crafts Workshop to cut, paste, and create cool projects – open to all ages from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays through July 4.
The Williamsburgh Library is also a satellite location of 826 NYC, a nonprofit based in Park Slope that provides educational and writing skills support to students aged 6 to 18. After-school tutoring is available from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. Visit www.826nyc.org for more info on this program.
The Williamsburgh Library is located at 240 Division Avenue at Marcy Avenue and can be reached at 718-302-3485.
At the newly renovated Park Slope Library’s weekly “Teen Time,” adolescents have the opportunity to unwind after a long day of school through socialization, games, reading and listening to music, every Monday from 3 to 4 p.m.
Babies, toddlers and pre-school students also have something to do, with weekly story times: toddler and pre-school story time is every Wednesday from 10:30 to 11 a.m.; “Babies and Books” – which features songs and rhymes in addition to stories – is on Fridays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
From now through March 20, there is also a Storytelling Collage workshop every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to Noon, where seniors and anyone who doesn’t have work or school at that time to tell their stories through visual images and the written word. The workshops are taught by Lifetime Arts grant winner, poet and author, Dave Johnson. Registration is required in advance.
The Park Slope Library is at 461 Sixth Avenue and can be reached at 718-832-1853.