Friday, November 6, 2009

Branch updates

A lot has happened since our last blog post! After 8 weeks (including 2 rainouts), we opened for the last time at the corner of Myrtle and Clinton Avenues on October 25. Filmmaker Astra Taylor and friends hosted a meeting of the Club of Odd Volumes--people gathered to give dramatic readings from strange and obscure texts.

One of our newest members, Z, who runs a catering business, stopped by with hors d'oeuvres. So we had a party.

In our last few weeks at the parking lot, we reached a critical mass with the number of books and the arrangement of the shelves. Earlier, we'd spent a lot of time calling out to passersby (along the lines of "Hey, we're a library!"); but by mid-October we hardly had to do anything at all. People stopped, browsed, and came over to ask "What is this?" We'd see it at least a dozen times a week: someone would stumble across this unexpected use of public space and participate-- sign up for a card, grab a book, and go.

Last week, we got word that an indoor space we'd had our eye on was available. From now until January, we'll be at the storefronts at 395 Flatbush Avenue Extension on the corner of Flatbush and Dekalb. (It's above the Dekalb Avenue subway and next to the Applebee's.)

To celebrate the move to our new home, we held a small parade. (Boombox + mic and amp + vintage guitar + Branch volunteers and members = parade!) We hit all the laundromats and supermarkets on the way to Flatbush and Dekalb, and passed by Ingersoll and Whitman Houses.

More photos of the parade and the new space to come next week. In the meantime, stop by any Sunday from 1-5pm!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Week 5

It's official--we're a lending library. Hundreds of books came in this past week, mostly from folks in the neighborhood. It felt like another opening day for us.

We've now got three solid sections: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children's. To display our collection, we ended up buying about 25 discounted milk crates from a guy in Poughkeepsie--they're structurally pretty strong, stack well, and at the end of the day the books go into storage in their "shelves."

We stamped each book with the Branch logo. (That's an illustration of George Orwell--not stamped, the actual original illustration--on the inside of 1984, which was one of the first books borrowed.) Everyone who has a free library card can check out up to two books at a time; the books are due the following Sunday.

We also started a new activity called Memory Card. We asked each person who stopped by to fill out a blue index card with a memory of the neighborhood--it could be anything they remember, or a story of something that happened to them. We then placed a copy of the card in a due-date pouch in the back of the book, along with a simple description of the project. It's hard to read in the blurry photo, but it reads: "Most Branch books come from people who live nearby. Memory Card lets your neighbors to exchange their own local stories with you."

That's the main idea: our books are coming from people all over Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, who've sent them out into the neighborhood to be picked up by whoever borrows them. Memory Card allows people's own stories to circulate anonymously.

One other highlight. We contacted Regis Pean of the local architecture firm omni/form. He'd submitted a great entry for Architecture for Humanity's Call for Ideas for Branch. (We blogged about it a few weeks ago.) Regis and his partner wanted to test their ideas for using recycled cardboard to build a hybrid shelving/table/support system for a canopy. They found a bunch of discarded boxes off the street, and within the course of the afternoon produced this:

We plan to use it for the first time this Sunday.

Lots of new program events coming up: kids storytime, author readings, a Closing Party. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Branch in the news

Well, not exactly news. But we have gotten some nice coverage from local blogs. Here's a roundup:

Clinton Hill Blog

New York Times Local


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

designing the temporary library

A few weeks ago, Architecture for Humanity New York (AFHNY) posted a Call For Ideas for Branch: how should we design a temporary, low-cost installation that would provide shelter for the library, and house shelving, tables, chairs, and space for program such as readings or performances. We got a bunch of great proposals; the three shown here demonstrated ways to use common, everyday, or local materials to create a new kind of space. Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 3

Earlier this week, we put out a call for book donations--at our fundraiser (photos to come) and to our 250 members. People responded: we got three big boxes of books at the fundraiser, and yesterday at Branch, dozens of people from the neighborhood stopped by with bags and bags of books. One woman came by twice to donate books. Another group of families put two books on hold, a new service we hadn't even thought of until that moment.

That's been one of the fun things about the project. Everyone is improvising and getting by without a lot of resources or a set plan, but making good decisions on the fly. Seems like a fitting way to operate during a recession.

We're busy cataloging our new books this week. Sunday we'll stamp each one with the Branch logo and hopefully we'll be able to start lending books out. In the meantime, if anyone knows where we can get a lot of milk crates donated, please e-mail us!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 2

Another busy Sunday: more than 250 people now have signed up as Branch members and received their library cards. One woman who stopped to talk asked us what the project is all about; when we said transforming unused public space, she said "We were doing that in the 1970s!" Branch is still a work-in-progress, but we're happy to be thought of as part of that long lineage of public space projects.

More updates tomorrow...

Friday, September 11, 2009

party for Branch!

Our fundraiser is next Wednesday, Sept. 16 from 7-10pm at Melville House, a book publisher in DUMBO. (Flier courtesy of our awesome graphic design partner Rumors.) Whatever we raise from the fundraiser is our budget for the rest of the project. Come on out--we've got great raffle prizes (Tickets to BAM! Tickets to 6 Flags!! $100 gift certificates for dinner!!!), lots of booze, and a very cool space, all for only $5 cover. Perfect place to donate books, too. (See our Branch 100 Books wishlist below.) Hope to see you there.