The main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is how we all imagine a library should look—large ornate doors and columns with gold designs on each side. You feel as though you are walking into someplace special—as libraries should feel.

But the Brooklyn Public Library, the fifth largest system in the country, isn’t immune to financial issues. The BPL is an independent system with 58 neighborhood libraries, and not affiliated with the New York City or Queens Borough Public Libraries.

The BPL is looking at creative ways to raise money and has struck a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster to do so, according to the New York Daily News. Simon & Schuster will make its entire collection of e-books available to the Brooklyn Public Library in a pilot program, starting at the end of the month. It will eventually roll out to the New York City and Queens Borough Public Library systems.

“We are thrilled to be working with one of the big publishers,” Charlene Rue, BPL’s director of collection development, told the New York Daily News. “That means there’s more availability of titles for our general public to choose from.”

Just one e-book will be available for patrons for one year with no limit to amount of times a book can be checked out in that span. When a patron wants to check out an e-book that is already out, they will be asked if they want to buy the book instead.

In return, the BPL—and other libraries that follow suit—will get 2 percent of the profits.

The BPL told the New York Daily News that money could be used for some of the $250 million needed in repairs at BPL branches.

In March, The Brooklyn Paper reported many of the BPL’s Carnegie Library branches are in trouble:

“Industrialist Andrew Carnegie bequeathed Brooklyn with 21 libraries in a bout of philanthropy that forever changed the borough’s literary landscape — but more than a century later, library officials say the aging Carnegie branches are a struggle to maintain, a challenge to operate, and, in the case of the Pacific branch, better used as a real estate play than a cultural hub.”

According to the report, the Pacific Branch needs an $11 million roof restoration and access improvement for the disabled; the Williamsburg Branch needs new windows; the DeKalb Branch needs $4.6 million for ventilation system work … and so on.

The list of improvements needed by these branches is extensive, and that’s just 21 of the 58.

The program with Simon & Schuster might help with some of these. But how much could the BPL make up in a year?

Since the BPL is publicly funded, it has to release its fiscal information at the end of the year. This is a story worth watching to see how much the BPL can make under this pilot program.


  1. But BPL is publicly funded. They have been reduced to dealing with the devil through deliberate political underfunding.
    The formula is a simple one. Commercial entities convince politicians to reduce support to soften the resistance, then offer to “save” the targeted victim with an offer to become a branch of that commercial entity. This is actually better treatment than some other publicly funded operations who are viewed as engaging in “unfair (publicly supported) competition” receive. For those poor souls, underfunding is improving the odds that some embarrassing oversight will occur. Inevitably and eventually that gaffe does happen and then the calls for dissolution spring forth.
    It’s all Kabuki dance.

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