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Library in Brownsville Celebrates 100th Birthday

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A little library in Brooklyn celebrates a big birthday and continues to serve a special purpose. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

The giant chess set is new. So are the words, 1,000 of the most common you'll find in books, spread out over three walls. But if you ask 12-year-old Carlos, the way children feel about this place hasn't changed in 100 years.

"They're nice to me when I come here," Carlos said. "It's like an invitation to the most best place you could go."

A little castle surrounded by towering public housing developments, the Stone Avenue Library in Brownsville reopened after a few weeks of renovations with a more colorful, more comfortable interior. The modern facelift was done in honor of the building's past, as perhaps the first children's library in the country, and its continued purpose, serving the children of a neighborhood that remains one of the city's poorest.

"It was predominantly a library that was open that children from the neighborhood. Jewish kids from the neighborhood could come and enjoy the library," said Neighborhood Library Supervisor Joycelyn Maynard. "When it was open, there was a line around the corner for the kids to get in. Now, it's pretty much the same. It's not a line, but the kids come and enjoy the space, just as much as they were."

While reading remains the heart of the operation, the library also has new furniture, designed to create colorful modern spaces where patrons can be comfortable doing a range of activities, because despite such a strong connection to the past, this is not your great-great-grandmother's library anymore.

"We provide material in 30 different languages. We are trying to build flexible spaces where people can work together, if that's what they choose to do, and that's, of course, happening more and more," said Linda Johnson, president of Brooklyn Public Library. "We have public access computers, because in today's world, being digitally literate is every bit as important as every other kind of literacy."

Most importantly, they say the library continues to serve as both a safe haven and a window to the world.

"Usually, by the time we open our doors every morning, there is somebody waiting," Maynard said. "There is actually somebody waiting outside to get in every day that we open."

It's proof that even after 100 years, some things don't change.

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