Although the pandemic has temporarily stopped us from visiting new libraries in person, we can still appreciate their amazing architecture and creative amenities from afar. This fall, we’ve been geeking out over the newest branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), which is as innovative and sustainable as it is beautiful.
The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center will engage community members of all ages about science, nature, and environmental activism. The building has eco labs and rooftop gardens in addition to traditional library offerings like books, computers, and meeting rooms.
The Greenpoint neighborhood has a fraught environmental history: an oil spill in local Newton Creek is among the most devastating oil spills in United States history. In response to the disaster, ExxonMobil paid millions of dollars to New York State, much of which went to the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund—which funds projects like the groundbreaking new BPL branch.
“The hope is that the library can act as the hub of history, activism, science, and stewardship in protecting defending and remediating the environment in this extraordinary community,” Dewey Thompson, a member of the Greenpoint Library Community Advisory Committee, explained in a video from BPL.
The library’s design includes a cistern for capturing rainwater to use in the gardens and for lab experiments, windows that act as sundials, and an interactive screen that lists the library’s energy use and the energy generated by its solar panels in real time. Marble Fairbanks designed the building and are targeting a LEED Platinum certification; the landscape architecture was provided by SCAPE.
The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center’s cistern, bookstacks, and children’s area. Photos by Gregg Richards, courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library.
“Our goal was not just to make this building a model of sustainable building practices, but to have it be a teaching tool,” BPL project manager Ames O’Neill told Next City.
At more than 15,000 square feet, the library is twice as large as the branch that used to be at this location. Due to the pandemic, it’s currently operating with a grab-and-go checkout model, but staff and locals are excited to gather for gardening events, sustainability classes, and more once it’s safe to do so.
“The new Greenpoint Library models the enormous potential of public libraries in the 21st century,” Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library, shared in a press release. “In 2020, in Brooklyn and beyond, we need more libraries like this one: that make vital knowledge and beautiful design accessible to all, that empower people from all walks of life to come together and build a more sustainable, more just world.”
Photos by Gregg Richards, courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library.
Searching for the perfect presents for the book lovers in your life? We’ve curated some of the coolest posters, accessories, activity books, and more for readers and librarians.
The best part: the profits from all of these items support the American Library Association (ALA)’s efforts to promote equity and access to information for all. Your purchase helps our nation’s libraries get the resources, training, and funding they need to help their communities thrive.
Great literature has been a bright spot in this challenging year, with an impressive slate of new releases offering thought-provoking perspectives, meticulously researched information, and much-needed entertainment.
We asked I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share their favorite books from 2020. Responses included fiction and non-fiction titles for kids, teens, and adults, with promising debut authors mixed in with longtime favorites.
Here are the 10 books readers mentioned most often:
Back in the early 1980s, ALA’s Yoda READ® poster graced the walls of libraries and schools across the country, reminding Star Wars fans that The Force is strong in those who read books. Over the years, other franchise fan favorites like C-3PO, R2-D2, and Princess Leia also starred in posters promoting libraries. (Pro tip: while the original Yoda poster is no longer for sale, you can still buy it on shirts, mugs, and notebooks from Out of Print.)
The best part? Proceeds from the items’ sales fund the American Library Association’s work supporting for our nation’s libraries. Your purchase helps ALA keep libraries strong through advocacy, grants, and training that promote access to information for all.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere are turning to the web for school, work, and community—but for the 33 million U.S. households without a home internet connection, getting online isn’t so simple. Since lockdown began in March 2020, libraries have gotten creative to promote digital equity and access; supporting the American Library Association (ALA) is a powerful way to ensure that even more people in need can get online.
Americans have long relied on their libraries for access to the internet. When COVID-19 first hit the United States early this year, libraries sprung into action to keep their communities connected even when their doors were closed to the public. Many libraries loaned out mobile hotspot devices to those in need, and an amazing 93% of libraries reported leaving their Wi-Fi on so that people could connect to the internet from their parked cars. Plus, librarians have been sharing their technological expertise with their communities, offering personalized assistance to those who need help navigating digital access during the pandemic.
Throughout this unprecedented year, the American Library Association has been hard at work advocating for libraries to get the resources they need to continue bridging the digital divide. Thanks to ALA and other library advocates, the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act included $50 million of funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital inclusion projects. And looking ahead, ALA will continue to push for a federal COVID relief package that includes much-needed funding for our nation’s libraries.
You can help make internet access for all a reality by donating to ALA. Your gift will support training, resources, and advocacy for libraries to champion digital equity in their communities.
The Library of Congress is home to a vast collection of archival audio and video recordings—and now, thanks to the innovative Citizen DJ project, musicians of all skill levels can remix this extensive historical material into unique beats and songs.
After debuting as a demo in May, Citizen DJ is now fully launched and available to the public. The project website features an intuitive interface for combining video and audio samples: you can cue, solo, and mute tracks just with a click of a mouse.
In addition to an enormous library of archival music clips from a variety of genres, you can also sample from radio interviews, movie dialogue, political speeches, advertisements, oral histories, and more. Every audio clip on the site is free to use and distribute (even commercially), so the creative possibilities are truly endless.
Citizen DJ is brainchild of Library of Congress 2020 Innovator in Residence Brian Foo, who brought the project to life with help from LC Labs. A long-time fan of hip-hop, Foo calls the genre “an artform and culture that weaves together references, quotations, and history into something brand new and culturally significant in its own right.” Citizen DJ celebrates rap’s rich history of sampling, allowing creators to dive deep into the Library of Congress collections and recontextualize their findings into contemporary music.
While developing Citizen DJ, Foo worked closely with the experts at Library of Congress to identify copyright-free samples and develop a guide to intellectual property laws relating to sampling. He also partnered with hip-hop–focused non-profit organizations across the country, engaging the music community in vital conversations about identity, creativity, and social justice.
“I hope Citizen DJ can represent just one of many technologies in the long line of innovations that has pushed hip hop into new and exciting spaces throughout the decades,” Foo shared in a blog post. “I hope it inspires younger generations to ask what their Library, the Library of Congress, has that speaks to them.”
‘Tis the season for Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions everywhere you turn—but amid all the ads for once-a-year sales, don’t forget that your local library offers the biggest savings of all.
Your library card is far more powerful than any coupon code: every day of the year, your library can save you tons of money on entertainment, education, and more. Even during the pandemic, libraries are offering extensive free online resources that anyone can access from the safety of their home.
Here are a few of the best values you can get from your library:
All Kinds of Books
Readers can save big by checking out free books from their libraries’ collections, which include titles for people of all ages and interests. In addition to physical books, libraries lend out ebooks and audiobooks, which you can download instantly at home or on-the-go. Plus, your librarian is an excellent source of personalized reading recommendations if you’re wondering what book to try next.
Newspapers and Magazines
Libraries offer free access to countless newspapers, magazines, and other publications; these resources are great for staying on top of the latest news without breaking the bank. Convenient digital access lets you read your favorite publications on your phone, computer, or tablet.
Did you know many public libraries offer free access to streaming services? Check out your library’s website to see what films are available for free for your next family movie night—your library card could help you save big on pricey streaming subscriptions.
Classes and Training
From cooking and arts and crafts to tech skills and career preparedness, libraries host a wide variety of free workshops and trainings. While in-person activities are off the table during the pandemic, libraries are still offering virtual programs online and over the phone—visit your library’s website to see what’s on available.
Many libraries also offer passes for free or discounted admission to museums, performances, national parks, and more. Once it’s safe to gather in person again, check out your library’s website to see what savings are available for these entertaining and educational cultural experiences.
In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to reflect on why they’re grateful for their libraries.
Responses ranged from cherished childhood memories to stories of how libraries have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a few of the highlights:
“Growing up in a military family and moving a lot meant my best friends were library books. We always found the local library first. School librarians befriended me.”—Kerstin C.
“I am grateful for my library and all others because they serve the total population. From the smiling faces of the youngest to the thoughtful ones of our seniors, from story hours to reading rooms with the latest newspapers, all are welcome. Library staff are some of the kindest people I have met.”—MaryEllen C.
“I set myself a challenge to read a book a week this year. With COVID, my budget is limited, so having access to my local library has allowed me to continue on my goal.”—Melissa E.
“My library, wherever I have been, has saved me thousands of dollars in entertainment spending by hosting workshops and readings as well as providing my entire family with books, music, and videos. Currently, my reference librarians help make online teaching successful for me and my students and are keeping us aware of what is available, though we cannot physically go to the library right now.”—Carolyn C.
“I love Los Angeles Public Library’s local and global community support and overall friendly, supportive sentiment, especially this year. Libraries are all that’s right with the world.”—Julie B.
“I believe libraries are sacred places. They hold the history, science, and imagination of the ages. From first holding a book which I could read on my own, at age four, to now seventy fours years later, I have discovered information, travel, novel perspectives, the past, innovative ideas, and so much more. My life has been enriched beyond measure.”—Kathryn F.
“The public library is a magical place. It's where I discovered peace of heart and a stronger self-identity for the first time. Growing up in a white blue-collar suburb, I was the only Japanese-American girl in my entire school. The teasing seemed relentless and I felt like a lost sparrow. My first visit to the local public library felt like I went from rags to riches. I could borrow any book I saw! It was there I found Little Plum by Rumer Godden, the first book that uplifted my Japanese heritage to something of valuable fascination. I love my library for giving me a hope-filled first look at the specialness of my background.”—Joanne M.
“[I’m grateful to my library] for having books I desperately needed as a queer kid in the late 70s. The Carnegie Library saved my life.”—Michal S.
“I am thankful for libraries because every single library I've set foot in has helped me learn and grow. Whether I stopped by to check out books, movies, or CDs, or hunkered down in a study room or at a public computer to read and write papers for my degrees, or attended a program just for fun, the libraries I've visited have had a strong impact on me as a human being. I am thankful for the free resources that libraries have offered to me throughout my life and to their communities.”—Kelle B.
“I am thankful for my library because during the upheaval of 2020, my library never missed a beat and fed my heart, mind, soul and spirit; making quarantine, uncertainty, suffering from COVID, and isolation so much easier.”—Kristin S.
Shortly after lockdown began, Virginia’s Arlington Public Library launched a weekly “quaranzine” full of community creations about life during coronavirus. Content includes poetry, illustration, photography, collage, painting, and more; contributions come from people of all ages and reflect the complex emotional landscape (from anger and grief to humor and hope) of living in 2020.
Earlier this year, librarians from the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association's Social Responsibilities Round Table put together a list of their 10 recent favorite feminist books for youth. Some recommendations are for kids as well as teens.
Librarians from the Library and Information Technology Association recently assembled an out-of-this-world list of sci-fi books for young people. The list also offers recommendations for children in addition to teens.
Books for Kids
The Newbery and Caldecott Book Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious honors for children’s literature. Curated by librarians and dating back to the early twentieth century, these awards have highlighted dozens of stellar kids’ books over the years.
This list of social justice kids’ book recommendations from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children offers 60 picks for having challenging but necessary conversations with children from pre-K through eighth grade.
For more great reads at an amazing price, shop the Be The Change collection from Humble Bundle, the American Library Association, and the Freedom to Read Foundation; the set is full of diverse books and proceeds help support library social justice initiatives.