The Cortelyou branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is getting a lick of paint, new shelves, and new lighting later this year – all part of a $250,000 capital grant requested in 2016 by our former Assemblymember Jim Brannan, who retired in 2017, and was replaced by Robert Carroll, that just came through.
Given that the renovations are expected to be completed before the end of the year, Friends of the Cortelyou Library are holding a fundraising event tomorrow, Thursday, February 27, 6:30-9 pm at the library (corner of Argyle and Cortelyou Roads). They are hoping to raise $40,000 that would allow the library to also replace all the furniture on the main floor, move the computer stations to a better spot, renovate the children’s area and create an area for teens, Elisabeth Parker of the Friends group told us.
One neighborhood family, the Goulds, have already donated $15,000 – can the rest of the neighborhood raise $25,000? Writer Amy Sohn will talk about libraries, books and writing at the fundraiser on Thursday night, there will be drinks, and music by Vicci Martinez and Emily Traver from Orange is the New Black, and you get to meet lots of neighbors (if you can’t make it details on how to contribute are below).
The library is expected to close briefly, but it is not yet certain when, before it reopens before 2020 is out, officials tell us.
This is not the only project that the library is working on. Currently, the Cortelyou branch is the last new branch that was built in the city in the “Lindsey Block” style of the time, the library staff say. It finally opened in February of 1983 – a functional if unremarkable building compared to the grand Carnegie Libraries that we have across the borough that took 14 years to be built.
It was unique though. At the time, it was the first branch of the library to display books in what’s called a “merchandising format” – imitating a bookstore more than a traditional library, with books grouped by popular subject areas that encouraged easy browsing. To all the neighbors out there pining for a book store – we have one! It’s free. But you do need to return the books.
The stocky, almost windowless one-story building, was cheered up by the 2012 addition of a ribbon of blue triangles by local artist Kathryne Hall – initially a temporary installation that ten years later feels rather permanent.
Its meeting room got an upgrade in 2017, but the roof needs replacing, library staff says, and the little plaza in front is pretty broken up. Councilmember Mathieu Eugene did allocate $850,000 for roof repairs, but given how expensive public projects are, that is unlikely to be sufficient officials say, and since more money needs to be raised, no start date has been set for the project.
Efforts to repair the plaza got a boost through the Participatory Budgeting process, which allocated $350,ooo for improvements. That project is in the scoping phase by the City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and provides for the addition of an external water fountain and ADA accessible doors.
Last time improvements to the library plaza took place was back in 2010/2 through the efforts of the then brand new Friends of Cortelyou Library and Sustainable Flatbush, and resulted in the addition of the red benches and planters. It took renegade staging the area with the street furniture by members of both groups on a cold December Saturday to show the Library it was worth it.
It took another two years to get the benches and planters legally installed. The library did get a refresh inside and the addition of self check out machines back in 2012 as well – back then it had to close for 5 months. A year and a half later, the unstoppable Friends of Cortelyou Library had raised enough funds to install an external book drop.
There really is no limit to what determined neighbors can do when they come together for a good cause. Please consider a donation to help refresh Cortelyou Library and provide a welcoming space for all.
Any amount is extremely helpful to reach our goal, but three specific examples are:
- $200 will buy a new chair –our library needs 50.
- $700 will buy a new reading table – our goal is 15.
- $6,000 will create the new teen area or refresh the children’s area.
You can donate online at bklynlibrary.org/donate — be sure to Direct the Gift to Cortelyou Library and mention “Refresh Cortelyou Library” in the comment section of the donation form.
Likewise, you can also make your gift via check to Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238), again please be sure to note “Refresh Cortelyou Library” in the memo.