Remember the Bookmobile and how exciting it was to see it roll up into a nearby parking lot when you were a kid? Branch is not a library on wheels, but it is bringing books to the people by way of a parking lot repository that sets up each Sunday in Fort Greene. This volunteer-run, temporary public library uses the CitiBank parking lot on the corner of Myrtle and Clinton Avenues, in partnership with the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, to help offset the Sunday closings that the Brooklyn Public Library has had to institute during the recession.
Jerome Chou, one of about a dozen Branch organizers, was interviewed for the Times’s The Local and on Clinton Hill Blog last month to talk about the fundraiser that was held at Melville House in DUMBO on September 16. The group collected money that night to fund its operations through the end of the season and collected books from its wish list to add to its stacks.
Branch first reclaimed the public parking lot on September 6. Since then, over 250 people have become card-carrying members of this outdoor library. As such, they are allowed to borrow one book at a time, to utilize the quiet space set up with chairs and earphones, and to read the Sunday papers during their visit. Branch will be open every Sunday until October 25 and then go on hiatus during winter unless a storefront can be secured for shelter from the weather. For next year, there have been a couple requests for a location change within Brooklyn as well as some interest in creating a similar program in the Bronx. In the meantime, fortunately, two of BPL’s 65 branches have just reinstated year-around Sunday hours and two more have started offering school-year Sunday hours. While Branch is not affiliated with BPL, everyone involved is a big fan of libraries and happy to hear that this valuable public resource is once again available on a daily basis.
As its website indicates, part of Branch’s mission is to pool resources in order to, “…transform underutilized public spaces in partnership with the people using them.” Kids, their parents, and other visitors are invited to help re-imagine the space as they’d like to see it grow this fall. In an email exchange, Chou emphasized again that collaboration is a key element in the concept and success of Branch. For any designers or artists who might be interested in helping build out the space or create installations, there’s plenty of room in the 20×60’ lot. There is a variety of programming offered each Sunday as well. Anyone who has ideas for activities—like readings, classes, performances or skill-shares—is invited to get in touch via the group’s email.
If you cannot make it to Fort Greene before the 25th, there is the Branch Blog, with photos and more information on their future plans. There, you can also find a a link to Paypal for monetary donations as well as updates during the winter months about its plans for re-opening once the weather is warm again.