Brooklyn Public Library: More Than Checking Out Books

Brooklyn Public Library
The Ditmas Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Photo by Colin Mixon for the Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has shown itself to be versatile when it comes to being a local community asset. There’s no better example than the BPL’s role in acting as a resource for the coming 2021 citywide primary and general elections. 

The BPL partnered with Schneps Media to host debates for every contested city council race in Brooklyn as well as for the Brooklyn Borough President. The debates took place over Zoom and can be found here.

“Our libraries play such an important role in the neighborhoods across the borough, a big part of our responsibility is to provide access to information, and to encourage civic engagement,” said BPL Executive Vice President David Woloch. “Increasingly, we’ve been playing that role in the city electoral process, encouraging people to vote and using many of our branches as polling sites.”

Woloch said several libraries assist in helping people register to vote and about a third of the library’s 59 branches have served as polling places on election day. 

According to Woloch, the challenge this year – aside from the pandemic – was getting people to be aware that the primary date has shifted. The primaries, which usually take place in September, are taking place on June 22nd this year. Woloch said there is also the issue of educating voters in the community about ranked-choice voting (RCV) this year.

“There’s been a lot of dialogue over the past few months and a lot of organizations doing great work around getting information to folks, about rank choice voting. I think our role isn’t to duplicate that work but to make our reach and our resources available to help some of these other civic and community partners,” said Woloch.

With 35 of the 51 city council seats open due to term limits, as well as the open mayor comptroller seats, Woloch says it is imperative that civic organizations work together to foster a greater local democracy. 

“We have a presence in every neighborhood and there’s trust that Brooklynites have in us as an institution, and there are relationships that our library staff have with the communities they serve,” said Woloch. “A big part of our approach has been to work with community partners who are doing this work and to bring them outside of our branches, in our branches, and through virtual programs to communicate with our patrons and others in Brooklyn. 

The BPL has a full slate of civic engagement activities coming up. Here they are listed below.

June 7 — (With League of Women Voters)

June 9 (Spanish) — (WIth NYPL and QPL)

June 10 — (With Brooklyn Voters Alliance)

June 17 (Haitian Creole Interpretation) — (With NYPL and QPL)

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