Contact: Jesse Montero, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Partners: Hive NYC Learning Network, Coder Dojo, Global Kids
The Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons (Info Commons) is a dynamic center for learning, creativity and collaboration in BPL’s Central Library. It features a workspace, seven public meeting rooms and a lab space equipped with laptops and flexible furniture that can adapt to formal and informal educational settings. It also offers technologies including Makerbots, littleBits kits, robotics sets, design software and recording studio equipment.
Each year the lab hosts dozens of STEM-themed events for children and teens. Regularly scheduled events include a weekly Teen Tech Time that is organized around HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around and geeking out) principles and often spotlights special topics such as coding and iMovie. Additional programs include weekly media production and design workshops for adults.
The lab also hosts other initiatives, such as workshops for BPL’s T4 (Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies) program, which provides technology training and volunteer opportunities for underserved teens at libraries throughout Brooklyn. In the summer it serves as a campus for the Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Programsummer camp, which coordinates a mini Maker Faire, engages campers in scientific discovery and offers digital badging to recognize their achievements.
Finally, the Library leverages its partnerships with other nonprofits to bring additional STEM programming to the space, including CoderDojo NYC (coding workshops for children and teens), BRIC (media education and production) and the Hive NYC Learning Network (a consortium of technology education organizations). These nonprofits are drawn to the Info Commons because it is an accessible, state-of-the-art space in a trusted institution.
During its first 18 months of service, the Info Commons hosted over 1,600 programs and events which were attended by more than 15,000 individuals. Each month over 10,000 unique devices access its free public wireless network, and the public logs thousands of public computing sessions. It has become one of the most vibrant spaces in BPL’s campus.
The Info Commons provides patrons an array of resources to support their educational, recreational and professional needs. For instance, it provides access to advanced design software (including Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and ProTools) through the Info Commons’ iMacs and Macbooks. Public meeting rooms can be reserved to facilitate smaller workshops, tutoring sessions and mentoring opportunities for teens. One of the meeting rooms doubles as an amateur recording studio where patrons are invited to work with and immerse themselves in media production equipment. The learning lab offers an inspiring space for professional development events, which broaden the skills and training of staff throughout BPL. By being an inviting and well-equipped space, the library attracts more volunteers and nonprofit partners that can offer specialized training and services. In fact, since inception the Info Commons has served non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs and students as a co-working space to further their businesses, careers and education.
The Info Commons has also allowed BPL to reintroduce and reinvent itself to Brooklyn’s vibrant technology sector and creative community. It has drawn positive attention from the library innovation community, including a series of blog posts from The Library as Incubator Project.