Why Isn’t the Brooklyn Public Library Open on Sundays?

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07/23/2008 11:18 AM |

None of the branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, and almost none of the branches of the New York Public Library, are open on Sunday. This is some bullshit. There is of course first of all the same problem working adults have with places like banks and the post office — the weekends are when we have time to run errands, for the most part, or else evenings aren’t exactly convenient — but mostly I’m thinking, as always, of the children.

Obviously I’m writing this as someone whose mother used to drop him off in the children’s section of the Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland, Maine whenever she had errands to run and couldn’t find anyone to watch him (thus sparking a lifelong affection for Tintin), but it strikes me that the library could be a really important community resource, if we’d only let it. Parents who are busy on Sundays, as many are, especially ones who work hard for not much money, need a place where their kids can be, and I don’t see why your local public library couldn’t be at least as helpful as a neighborhood church in providing (free of charge) childcare in a stimulating and positively reinforcing environment. These kids, whose parents are often not around, are the ones most in need of additional inducements towards a life of literacy; it seems like age-appropriate reading groups and supervised browsing would be right up there with the best thing a kid could possibly do on a Sunday, and I would imagine, or at least hope, that there would be no shortage of volunteers willing to give up a couple hours to make sure that kids aren’t running around yelling and burning the place down, and are reading or getting read to. (Yes, I’m volunteering.) Write your city councilperson, I think.

11 Comment

  • Seriously?

    While I agree to the premise that the library should be open on the weekends, librarians are not child care workers and should not be treated as “free of charge” babysitters.

    There are certain library activities where it might be appropriate to leave a child (say a special activity hour or story time where there are lots of non-librarian adults/volunteers to help). Otherwise, children left alone in a library should be considered abandoned, and child services should be called.

    Would you leave your kid at Macy’s toy section because the workers there should watch them? I don’t think so. Same thing applies to librarians, who are highly trained, and not in babysitting.

    If however, you were to suggest adding child care to the library – even if it’s free to the parents but subsidized by the government/library budget, that would be a different issue, and a different program all together. But even then you’d be taking money from the budget for books and library programs to support parents’ need to run errands child-free.

    (My mom is a librarian who deals with this issue often)

  • I think it should be open on Sundays for ME to go to! I’m always having trouble trying to schedule my library drop offs and pick-ups. The library is an amazing resource and I’m amazed how few New yorkers I know use it. If not for the access to books, the DVDs and CDs should really have people interested, but they take it for granted. Especially with the ability to reserve whatever you want and have it delivered to your nearest library via internet.

    I do agree it’s a great resource for children but it’s definitely not the librarians’ responsibility to watch them.

    Full disclosure: I used to work at a library all through high school and loved it.

  • your libraries would be thrilled to open Sundays, evenings, all that: but NYC libraries are facing tighter and tighter budgets. Indeed, write your councilperson. Join the friends group at your local branch.

  • Mari (and Nate to a certain extent): no, I’m not talking about the libary as a free childcare resource slash pretty much dump-off place. In an ideal world, there’d be the budget to have the library open on Sunday, and a lot of that budget, past utility bills and per-hour employees, would go to the people who coordinate volunteer efforts. Because of course this should be structured, and of course librarians aren’t trained for it; I’m optimistically suggesting that with a commitment to a volunteer-based infrastructure, the library on Sunday could become a great place for kids.

  • I actually wrote to Bloomberg when the hours were cut even shorter a few years back and since then they extended again (though still not on Sundays). It definitely can’t hurt to write.

  • Mark, I totally appreciate the optimism and the fact that you are presenting a potential solution, not just griping. I’ll tell ya tho, its tricky, much tricker than you might expect to pull off a completely volunteer run library open on a Sunday. Here’s links for you and all the readers to the volunteer services departments at all three of NYC’s public library systems. Its a good pace to start.

    New York Public (serving Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island:

    http://www.nypl.org/support/volunteer/

    Brooklyn Public Library (serving Brooklyn)

    http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/support/volunteer/

    Queens Library (serving Queens)

    http://www.queenslibrary.org/index.aspx?page_id=114

  • Parents need a place for their kids to be and I don’t see why it can’t be the library… I’m optimistically suggesting that with a commitment to a volunteer based infrastructure, the library on a Sunday could be a great place for kids.

    While I am all for expanding the definition of the modern library, I’m have trouble with this one…

    I don’t want to go on a self-indulgent rant, so I won’t. But this potential solution, despite its optimism,is ill-conceived.

    Oh and the majority of the BPL/NYPL employees who would benefit from overtime pay are probably the same parents who could benefit from free day-care.

  • Mari, off topic, but do you have a favorite Penguin Classics cover design?

    Also, as far as Sundays it would be great to have the libraries open not only for kids, but for adults as well (few Queens libraries are open, I see from the list). But I would hope that at least on Sunday, parents and kids could do something together? The thought that kids get sent off to the library while parents do who knows what is just so depressing.

  • i think the central branch of the BPL is open from 1-6 pm on sundays. could be wrong, though

  • scratch that. looks like they’ve changed the times. used to be open a couple of hours on sundays…

  • BPL always closes on Sundays during the summer. Take heart, they’re still open on Saturdays, and the Sundays will start up again in September. Running on Sundays costs money, and I guess that because there’s more weekend activity in the library during the school year, that’s where they’re going to spend their limited funding.