“A rebuilt branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is opening with a new feature: on the seven floors right above the library, there will be 49 affordable housing units. Michelle de la Uz, executive director of Fifth Avenue Committee, a nonprofit that builds affordable housing and which partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library on the project, said she’s excited to see how those tenants engage with the library, and that the branch’s programming and resources could help people feel less isolated.
Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, and de la Uz hope to see it replicated, throughout New York and beyond. “There’s an urgent need for affordable housing, and there are a lot of underutilized libraries that need modernization anyway,” de la Uz says. ‘Why not kill two birds with one stone?'”
Chris Indorf, the assistant superintendent for schools in Biddeford and Saco, said that before the pandemic, student homelessness was typically temporary — just a month or so — as a relatively ample housing supply made it somewhat easier for families to find a new apartment.
“Now the homelessness seems to be endemic. It’s lasting an entire year, or it’s spanning years,” Indorf said. “Most of those cases aren’t destitution — aren’t tents out behind the Starbucks. They tend to be intergenerational, families living with other families. Part of that is due to the economy. And a good part of that is owing to just extremely limited housing stock in Biddeford and Saco, and what is available is exorbitantly expensive.”
“This is going to be getting more materials into the hands of more Scott County residents, which brings us closer to the library’s mission — connecting all residents with resources, support and opportunity,” Scott County Library Director Jake Grussing said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to create a penalty-free, welcoming environment for anybody who wants to use the library.”
In announcing the new policy, the library said its board of trustees “is dedicated to creating a library that is more open, equitable and understanding of our community,” and explained that “eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to the Library’s vital materials, resources and services.”
“Every day is a day for learning. Chicagoans need and deserve access to information and technology every day of the week. Adding Sunday hours in libraries across the city is an important step in our commitment to equity and access,” said CPL Commissioner Chris Brown. “Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership and support for expanded Sunday hours has been instrumental in bringing this opportunity to all Chicagoans.”
“Equal and equitable access to information is a core value of libraries,” said Director of Libraries Eva Poole. “Removing overdue fines from youth accounts is a first step in removing economic barriers to accessing library materials, especially for children who may need us the most. Inability to pay fines may prevent families from returning materials or visiting the library at all. The goal is to get the materials back into our collection, and to encourage families to continue using the library.”