Courtesy of Svetlana Negrimovskaya, the supervisor at the Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn Public Library (2636 East 14th Street), here are April’s events at the local branch.
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Still haven’t filed your taxes? Me neither. Fortunately, qualifying applicants can have it done for free at the Sheepshead Bay library this Saturday. See the flier above for details.
Courtesy of Svetlana Negrimovskaya,, the supervisor at the Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn Public Library (2636 East 14th Street), here are March’s events at the local branch. Personally, I can’t wait for Intellectual Club “What? Where? When?”
Svetlana Negrimovskaya,, the supervisor at the Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn Public Library (2636 East 14th Street), asked us to start passing along the monthly calendar of events for the local branch. Lots of good stuff to do at our local libraries, especially if you’ve got kids!
City Hall’s budget battles and shortfalls are constantly putting a strain on the city’s library system, including Southern Brooklyn’s libraries, where they serve large immigrant populations. The New York Times is reporting that the library squeeze has consequences for the city’s immigrant population, which relies on the institutions for learning and cultural integration.
Since 2008, funding for New York City libraries in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens was cut by $65 million, increasing the strain on the system by decreasing hours and limiting the hiring of much-needed employees. Brooklyn Public Library executive David Woloch told the Times that the borough’s 60 branches need $300 million in capital improvements. According to Woloch, only $15 million was available in 2013.
Julie Sanford from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, which recently awarded the Sheepshead Bay Library $10,000, summed up the problem to the Times:
“The libraries often can’t plan beyond a year because they don’t know what the budget is going to be,” said Julie Sandorf, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation… “It’s not like schools or parks, who start with a set budget. The libraries start from zero.”
Ms. Sandorf said that for $50 million more each year — “a rounding error in the city’s $70 billion budget” — all of the city’s libraries could be open 50 hours a week, instead of the current average of 43 hours. “If we are talking about a knowledge-based economy, this is what we need to do,” she said. “The problem is there is a huge gulf between the decision makers in this city who can pay for books or iPads and what is going on in every single library branch in the city.”
As the budgets for libraries shrink, demand for their services have increased, especially for the ever-growing immigrant population that uses them as cultural and learning centers. The Times described the cross-cultural services offered at the Sheepshead Bay branch:
Despite these challenges, branches like Sheepshead Bay offer countless services to an unending stream of people, including language and citizenship classes, arts and crafts, preschool story time, chess and even a Russian literature fan club.
Last Wednesday, a couple played Scrabble at a table while another couple studied for a nursing test. Nearby, a man browsed a selection of Korean movies, while another thumbed through recently arrived books in Russian. Upstairs, children did their homework or checked their e-mail
“If you are going to be educated, you have to be in touch with the culture,” said Laura Sermassan, an immigrant from Romania who meets her three sons at the library each day after school. “It’s a point of integration into American culture. It’s a support.”
Ms. [Svetlana] Negrimovskaya, in her office — where the shelf behind her desk has dictionaries in Yiddish, Russian, English and Chinese — was already looking forward to Tuesday’s gathering to mark Hurricane Sandy’s passing and the community’s rebound. She said people came alive when they were able to come back.
Congratulations are in order for the fine folks at the Sheepshead Bay Library (2636 East 14th Street) and the Kings Bay Library (3650 Nostrand Avenue) for receiving cash prizes from the Charles H. Revson Foundation as part of their first ever NYC Neighborhood Library Awards. According to a press release, Sheepshead Bay Library took home a top prize of $10,000, along with four other institutions, and Kings Bay Library brought back $5,000 for being considered as a finalist.
Earlier in the month, we reported on the nominations of Sheepshead Bay Library and Kings Bay Library, both selected by thousands of voters across the city to be finalists for the top prizes. The release described the voters participating and the qualities the foundation was looking for in their nominees:
The 4,310 nominations were cast from May 20th to July 1st by New Yorkers who identified themselves most frequently as parents, students, seniors, artists, teachers, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs. The nominations illuminated the libraries’ extraordinary dedication to serving their communities in a myriad of ways:
- Library staff members make the library feel like a second home – often greeting patrons by name as they enter and making all visitors feel valued.
- The libraries are highly attuned to the neighborhoods they serve – both in terms of the needs of residents (especially youth, seniors, and immigrants) and their cultures and languages.
- Libraries are often the only source of books and Internet in a city where 36 percent of residents – including 75 percent of residents of the NYC Housing Authority – have no broadband Internet access at home.
- The libraries play a crucial role as community centers – free and accessible to all; safe for children and for seniors; a crossroads for positive inter-generational, cross-racial, and cross-ethnic interactions. They also provide personal quiet space in a bustling city where housing is typically cramped.
- They offer a remarkable range of programs and activities – from those traditionally associated with libraries (e.g., story time for children, arts and crafts, and book clubs) to programs addressing contemporary needs (e.g., computer classes, English as a Second Language, workforce development, and tax assistance) and offerings tailored to more specific community interests (e.g., a Russian poetry club, Spanish-language film screenings, senior acting clubs, Zumba classes, exercise classes for seniors, and even belly-dancing).
- Many of those activities are potentially transformational: from preschool literacy, pre-GED training, resume-writing, and assistance with job searches to healthcare screenings, exercise classes, and citizenship test preparation.
Julie Sandorf, President of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, expressed the special roles these winning libraries play in their communities.
“These five libraries are truly outstanding and reflect the extraordinarily important role that neighborhood libraries play in communities all across the city. It was especially moving to see, throughout the entire selection process, the passion of the nominators and their gratitude for the often life-changing contributions of the neighborhood library,” Sandorf said in the release.
Brooklyn Public Library President Linda E. Johnson was grateful for the nominations and recognition of the Brooklyn-based institutions.
“Hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites depend on their neighborhood libraries for story times, homework help, computers, and access to books, DVDs and electronic resources. We are grateful to the Charles H. Revson Foundation not only for its generous donation to Brooklyn Public Library, but also for raising awareness about the many ways our libraries contribute to the well-being of their communities. Thank you to everyone who played a part in helping BPL win these awards, especially the staff of Sheepshead Bay, Macon and Kings Bay,” Johnson said in an email.
Kings Bay Library (3650 Nostrand Avenue) and Sheepshead Bay Library (2636 East 14th Street) are among the finalists for the Revson Foundation’s NYC Neighborhood Library Awards. According to a press release, a panel of judges will decide which of the nominated ten libraries will win a $10,000 prize.
The finalists were elected by voters, with over 4,000 New Yorkers participating. Overall, three Brooklyn libraries made it into the top 10, making Brooklyn the most well-represented borough when it comes to libraries in the city. The other Brooklyn library selected was the Macon Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
If Kings Bay Library and the Sheepshead Bay Library don’t make it into the top five, they will still receive $5,000 for being included in the top 10. Pretty good. The Revson Foundation’s release included excerpts accounting for each library’s nomination:
- Kings Bay Library – Sheepshead Bay/Gerritsen Beach/Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn) – “I remember needing help with my resume and two of the employees went out and beyond to help me have the best resume I needed for employment. Well the following week I was hired at St. Lukes Hospital for an L.P.N. position. I am currently attending Kingsborough College and always come back to Kings Bay Library if I need help for anything.”
- Sheepshead Bay Library – Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn) – “Last fall I was able to overcome my psychological stress caused by Hurricane Sandy only thanks to Sheepshead Bay Library. Those workshops helped me to come back to myself and get back to my daily routines and reality as a human being.”
Congratulations to the two institutions. Here is hoping they both land in the top five and bring home a big $20,000 from the fine folks at the Revson Foundation.
The 2636 East 14th Street branch is the first BPL location shuttered by the floodwaters to reopen. When we stopped by yesterday, there was already a short line for computers, and a handful of patrons buzzing about.
“We’re excited – we’re very, very excited – to be back,” said the branch manager Svetlana Negrimovskaya.
Patrons, though, will notice a smaller collection for the first few weeks. That’s because five feet of water inundated the building’s below-street-level nonfiction and reference department, wiping out more than 2,100 books on 80 shelves. The library will be restocked, but they’re waiting to replace a handful of shelving units.
Repairs to the facility carried a $1 million price tag, according to a BPL spokesperson. That includes the water damage to partitions, floor finishes, shelves, collections and equipment.
Besides the library’s three computers for the public, the library also needed to replace brand new self-checkout machines that had been installed only two weeks before Sandy.
The Brighton Beach and Coney Island branches are still closed, requiring more repairs before they can reopen. Brighton Beach is expected to open next.
Here in Sheepshead Bay, though, Negrimovskaya said she’s happy to see her neighbors coming back, and noted that they’ve already continued their events programming. The schedule can be found here. Additionally, the BPL is asking for donations to restore the collection. A monetary donation can be made here.
Five Brooklyn Public Library branches, four of which are in Southern Brooklyn, remain closed after taking severe damage during Superstorm Sandy, and library administrators say they need millions to get back online.
New York Daily News checked in with the library, noting that the Gerritsen Beach (2808 Gerritsen Avenue) and Coney Island (1901 Mermaid Avenue) branches took the worst damage, and will need new electrical systems, doors, chairs, shelves and computers. There is no word on when these branches will reopen.
The Gravesend (303 Avenue X), Sheepshead Bay (2636 East 14th Street) and Red Hook (7 Wolcott Street) branches also saw severe damage. Officials told the Daily News these will reopen in the next few weeks.
In all, the repairs will rack up a $10 million price tag, which includes structural repairs and the replacement of 75,852 books, magazines and DVDs ruined during the storm – piling on top of a $250 million list of backlogged repairs throughout the library system.
According to the News, the Brooklyn Public Library typically receives just $15 million a year from the Bloomberg administration for repairs.
“We were hurt,” said Brooklyn Public Library VP of strategic planning Jeanette Moy. “But we are leveraging every asset we have and every partnership that’s possible to bring services back to the community.”
The library is also requesting donations to help restore the library system. You can donate online.
One hundred and seven years before stodgy ol’ librarians were banning 50 Shades of Grey from public bookshelves, they were banning the great Mark Twain stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. So, naturally, the bondage and wild sex adventures penned by E L James are well on their way to the top of the American literary canon, no?
Well, I don’t know about that.
But I do know that one my favorite websites, Letters of Note, which digs up and publishes letters from notable individuals living and dead, has found a letter that brings us back to that earlier controversy – and ties in a Sheepshead Bay connection, too.
In 1905, Asa Don Dickinson, a librarian at the Sheepshead Bay branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (who established the first blind services in a public library, and later became Brooklyn College’s first chief librarian), wrote to Twain, alerting him to plans underway that would have his books removed from the system’s children’s departments. Dickinson, himself more than a little facetious in his letter, received a few sarcastic words in reply.