Brooklyn Library
Brownsville Branch

One hundred years ago Andrew Carnegie was in the middle of his massive effort to place libraries everywhere they were needed, anywhere around the world. In the end he built 2,500 of them including 67 in New York City and 21 of them in Brooklyn. The Brownsville Children's Library, now called the Stone Avenue Library (but not actually on Stone Avenue) just got a reimagining, trying to create a system for the modern library.

By shifting the entrance slightly we created a whole new reading room, this is turn freed the large central space to filled with new forms of library activity. Kids, who come to the library after school, have one entire side of the space by the beautifully tiled fireplace, plus a central chessboard for other organized activities.

The ideas in play reflect the 100 year old library's changing role. No longer a simple reading room with open stacks (another Carnegie innovation) the library is a data hub in every neighborhood, especially where computer ownership is low. Homework, job search and resume creation, afterschool childcare mixed with lending for free a huge variety of DVD's, books and magazines of every stripe.

A variety of seating types give individual character: tufted bright blue wingback chairs, powered oak tables and chairs for reading and computer use, original 'Bunny Benches' given a waiting room feel near a glass wall, bright little cube 'poufs', all where a single monotonous pattern of tables once deadened the library's central spaces.

All this is very nice, but the main attraction is an amazing idea conceived by Lonni Tanner and designed by Carin Goldberg. The Room of Words is nearly 1,000 of the Fry Words every child should know. Blanketing the three sides of an 'apse' formerly filled with stacks. By removing the middle pair we created a new sitting/reading room amidst a stunning array of...words. The words are all made with the same parts you see cruising by the local drive-in or movie theater; plastic tracks with individual letters spelling words placed in random. Rather than drowning in words it feels like floating inside the brain of a writer. Absolutely sublime.

It's what can happen if a well made building meets an adventurous Brooklyn Public Library Chief Strategy Officer and a tireless NYC See Change Chief Change Officer and they all come to an architect and graphic designer who love books, words, buildings and the greater good.