Taking a page from the success of commercial competitors such as Barnes & Noble, the clever folks who work at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library have revitalized its 10,500-square-foot youth wing. Now flush with colorful seating, cozy reading nooks, and a mother lode of computers and T-1 lines, the BPL has been transformed into a spiffy haven for neighborhood kids.
Working with $3 million worth of grants from public and private sources, the library engaged New York architecture firm Pasanella + Klein Stolzman + Berg PC — best known for designing such hip hotels as the Shoreham, in New York. "There are lots of libraries out there that have tree houses or lighthouses in them," says Elisabeth Martin, the BPL's director of planning, design, and facilities. "But they are considered juvenile by older kids, who just want to go to a place that they think is cool."
The wing's formerly drab floors now sparkle with speckled blue-and-turquoise linoleum, and a 1,200-foot-long technology loft hovers above the main floor. On a recent visit, the loft was abuzz with teenagers chatting and surfing online. Elsewhere, parents and younger kids "shopped" for library books to take home, filling grocery-style baskets to the brim on their way to the checkout.
James, a 15-year-old patron of the BPL, is a true believer. "I just like being here," he says. "It's fun. Plus, nobody bugs me to get off the computer, like at home."
Bonnie Schwartz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Visit the Brooklyn Public Library on the Web (www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org).
A version of this article appeared in the December 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.