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Give us more books, neighborhood says

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Anticipating 18 months without a library, as the Fort Hamilton branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is renovated, activists in Bay Ridge are asking for more and better mobile library service. Community Board 10 voted unanimously at its March meeting to request three day a week service from the Bookmobile, with hours extended until 6 p.m. to accommodate students. BPL had announced at a meeting last month that it would provide weekly Bookmobile service, only on Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the shuttered library at 9424 Fourth Avenue. “That’s not enough for our community,” contended Dilia Schack, the chairperson of the board’s Education and Libraries Committee, during the meeting, which was held at the Norwegian Christian Home, 1250 67th Street. “It’s not good for children coming from school. It’s basically geared for seniors or parents home with children.” “Three days a week and extended hours, that’s what we deserve,” agreed board member Scott Klein. A further concern, Schack said, was with the selection of a Monday date. “Whenever we have a Monday holiday,” she noted, “that week we would have no service.” Finally, Schack said, there was concern that – with the limited selection of books available in the mobile library – ones that are needed might not be available. To that end, the board voted to recommend that BPL allow library users to reserve a book at advance to be available at the mobile site. However, Stephanie Arck, a spokesperson for BPL, said that there was only one Bookmobile available to provide service to shuttered libraries, and its use was being split between the four branches now closed – Kings Highway, Canarsie, Macon and Fort Hamilton. “We have two branches that are going to reopen before summer,” Arck added. “Possibly at that time we can add service, but we won’t know until those branches are reopened.” The Kings Highway branch, said Arck, gets two-day-a-week service from the Bookmobile, as well as having a stationary library vehicle parked outside. The other branches all get one-day-a-week service, she said. Why the disparity? The Kings Highway branch, Arck explained, was the second most utilized library in the system before it closed for renovation, while Fort Hamilton, she said, is “one of the smallest branches we have.” The $3.36 million library renovation, the funds for which were secured by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, will result in a 50 percent larger library. Overall, the rehabilitation of the century-old library, which is one of the borough’s 18 original Carnegie libraries, strives to increase usable space in the branch while restoring the elegant beauty of the classical revival style structure. An extension to the original structure at the rear and side will include a new meeting room, and will add 1,700 square feet in usable space to the structure, which will go from 3,300 square feet to 5,000 square feet. Also included in the plans is the creation of a First Five Years area for young children and their caregivers, the installation of 18 computers with Internet access for public use, and new restrooms that are ADA compliant. New lighting, a new ceiling, new flooring, new bookshelves, new windows, upgraded electrical and plumbing systems, and new heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems are also part of the project.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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