A gala that drew a crowd of pols, literary figures, and donors to the old Williamsburgh Savings Bank event space on March 4 raised $636,000 for the Brooklyn Public Library system.
The libraries’ head honcho took a break from the revelry to address criticism from bookworms over her administration’s selling off library buildings to private developers, lending out space to a private arts group for unspecified sums, and swapping out books for digital media.
“The mission we are delivering on today is the same as it was 100 years ago when the public library movement started. We’re responsible for the literacy of the borough of Brooklyn, but we’re defining literacy in a much broader way,” said Linda Johnson, president and chief executive of the system. “We’re focusing on whatever platform people feel most comfortable on, so we’re all about making sure people are digitally literate, but we also still have microfiche and everything in between.”
Guests of honor at the gala included New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Brooklyn novelists Dinaw Mengestu and Emma Straub, and celebrity disk jockey and drummer for the Roots Questlove.
The library’s 60 branch buildings are in need of a whopping $230-million in overdue repairs, according to library trustees, and have seen their cut of the city budget shrink repeatedly in recent years.