Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Branch opening day

Last January, the Brooklyn Public Library was forced to cut its Sunday hours throughout the borough. In response, a group of volunteers organized Branch, a temporary Sunday library free and open to all. We saw that people were being asked to accept budget cuts that affected all kinds of public space (libraries, parks, subways); Branch is about pooling resources to reclaim those spaces, in partnership with the people using them.

Back in August, we got an e-mail from the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, a nonprofit community organization in Clinton Hill/Fort Greene. They were organizing a month-long arts festival called Move About Myrtle that would close 7 blocks of Myrtle Avenue to car traffic, and they wanted to know if we could open Branch for their festival. We'd been looking for a vacant storefront all summer with no luck, and it didn't seem like there was anything available on Myrtle Ave. But there was an unused Citibank parking lot on the corner of Myrtle and Clinton.

That's where we were this past Sunday, setting up our first temporary installation for Branch. At the end of the day, more than 150 people signed up as members and received Branch library cards. We'd brought a suitcase full of discarded hardcover book covers, donated by a Boston-area printer; we asked people to write down the name of a favorite book or author on the book covers, and we installed over 100 of these on the fence around the site. (Councilmember Letitia James visited and recommended Simple Justice: A History of Brown v. Board of Education and I'm Down.) We set up a Quiet Zone, covering a 10' by 10' area of asphalt with a canvas sheet, and adding lawn chairs, plants, free Sunday newspapers, and earplugs.  We had to share the space with a few parked cars, but we're told that next week we'll have the lot to ourselves.

We'll be open again this Sunday (and every Sunday until the end of November)  to offer a workshop on planning and designing a larger installation. We'll also be showing drawings and images from local architects who've reimagined the space. Contact us at if you want to volunteer or donate books. 

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