People are flocking to the Brooklyn Public Library’s 59 branches in record numbers but the buildings housing those branches will need serious upgrades over the next 10 years if the library expects to continue to function at an optimal level in the future, a new study from a think tank has found.
A study by the Center for an Urban Future called “New York City’s Libraries Still Face Daunting Capital Needs,” has estimated that the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) will need $228 million for capital projects to keep its branches in good shape. The figure includes $86 million that will likely be needed to make emergency repairs to broken boilers, leaky roofs and other last-minute projects that crop up.
The center looked at data from all three of the city’s library systems, Brooklyn, Queens and New York, and concluded that the systems have a combined need of $947 million to upgrade their branches. Included in that figure is $434 million that would be required to address emergency situations.
Part of the problem has to do with aging buildings and infrastructure, according to the study. The average library branch in New York City is 62 years old. The Brooklyn and New York library systems have a combined 40 branches that are more than 100 years old.
The Brooklyn Public Library has taken important steps to address its infrastructure needs, the study found.
“BPL has launched new partnerships to rebuild or relocate four branches with significant capital needs: Brooklyn Heights, Sunset Park, Greenpoint, and Brower Park. In addition, two new branches are being planned for DUMBO/Vinegar Hill and in Downtown Brooklyn. BPL is also overhauling five aging branches in Brownsville, New Utrecht, Canarsie, New Lots, and on Eastern Parkway. Full renovations are underway at Rugby and about to begin at East Flatbush, with others planned at Red Hook and Borough Park. Within the next five years, over one-third of the BPL system will have received a recent full renovation or will have been replaced—the largest change to BPL’s footprint in half a century,” the report reads.
The study was conducted at a time when the Brooklyn Public Library is seeing an increasing number of visitors.
In its first annual “State of the Library” report released earlier this year, the Brooklyn Public Library boasted that 8.1 million people visited its branches in 2017.
That surpassed the number of visits paid by patrons to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Statue of Liberty, as well as attendance figures to New York Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets games.
“We are proud to provide a democratic space where patrons from all walks of life can participate in cultural and educational programs in a broad range of disciplines and reflecting a diverse range of voices,” Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said in a statement.
To keep up with the increasing public demand, “The city’s public libraries need branches that are spacious, flexible, and equipped with modern technology,” the report reads. That means, “Reconfigured layouts with more seating and outlets, additional spaces for classes and workshops, and new facilities ranging from music production studios to technology labs,” according to the center.
In its study, the center does give credit to Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for pumping $300 million into the city’s Ten-Year Capital Strategy Plan for libraries.
But experts are also calling on the city’s leaders to fund the three library systems’ capital budget requests fully. And the city should also develop a strategic plan to meet the capital needs of libraries over the next 10 years, the report concluded.
The Center for an Urban Future is a think tank focusing on promoting public policies to reduce inequality, increase economic mobility and grow the economy.
To read the full report, visit: https://nycfuture.org/research/new-york-citys-libraries-still-face-daunting-capital-needs.