VIDEO: Biking for a Mission: Brooklyn Public Library’s 3rd Annual Bike The Branches
Brooklyn’s bookworms swapped their pages for pedals to bike through the borough in support of their favorite public libraries. The Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) annual Bike the Branches event on Saturday drew nearly 1,000 participants for a day filled with music, dance, food tours and, of course, bike riding between each library branch. BPL consists of a Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, a Business Library and 58 neighborhood libraries.
“Many people may be aware of only their local branch, but this day allows them to experience the entire footprint,” said Cheryl Todmann, director of special events and membership for the Brooklyn Public Library.
Now in its third year, Bike the Branches offered patrons an array of tours to choose from. The 11 custom routes included a Smorgasburg foodie tour, which involved gastronomic pit stops at restaurants that participate in the popular weekend food market.
Brooklynite Sara Strickland was particularly excited to try this tour.
“I’ve been a member of the Central Library since I moved to Brooklyn about 10 years ago. When I first moved here, I taught and mentored students,” said Strickland, an amputee who was doing the tour for the first time with a friend.
Todmann added that in addition to the foodie tour, the event offered “a literary tour that highlights branches and points of interest that support the literary history of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Public Library.”
There was also Curious George family-friendly tour, a BRIC Media Makers tour and a Galleries, Museums and Maker Spaces tour.
Citi Bike, which co-sponsored the bike tours, had a tent set up outside the Central Branch near Grand Army Plaza. A variety of nearby tents had volunteers on hand to distribute booklets, T-shirts and bags, and even stamp a “branch passport” for those riders who made pit stops at each branch along the map.
Public Libraries At Risk
While participants enjoyed a day of biking and sightseeing, the bigger issue at hand was fostering more community involvement and support for public libraries that are at risk of being downsized.
“We want to urge the city to restore funding to the libraries; libraries are very important. More than ever people are using libraries; branches are being used,” said Naila Caicedo-Rosario, government relations and advocacy manager for the Brooklyn Public Library.
In 2014, one-third of the branches were able to add six days of service, according to Caicedo-Rosario.
“If we can get the funding we can get the other third done, and it would make a difference,” she added.
Libraries are a safe haven for many. John Huth, who works as a teen and young adult librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, interacts with children and young adults on a daily basis. Huth works with students with disabilities and says public libraries give these students an “opportunity…to engage in… recreational learning that is really validating for them and validates their experience.”
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