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An old library’s new look: Access ramp and other upgrades rolling out at BPL’s Pacific branch

Easier access granted: Brooklyn Public Library bigwigs closed the historic Pacific Library this month to install a temporary ramp and other upgrades at the branch, following locals' demands for an incline to aid disabled persons' entry.
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Changes are ramping up at this book lender!

Workers are preparing to install a temporary access ramp leading to a historic Brooklyn Public Library branch after locals begged reading-room leaders to make it easier for disabled residents and stroller-pushing moms to scope out its stacks.

Officials shuttered the Pacific Library on Fourth Avenue earlier this month to renovate the ca. 1904 branch — the first to open in Kings County with funds donated by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie — by adding the incline and a fresh coat of paint along with a new floor and ceiling, air-conditioning system, and visual equipment including a projector, according to a rep.

“We are thrilled to be able to begin making improvements to the Pacific branch, the very first Carnegie branch to open to the public,” said Madeline Kaye. “In addition to cosmetic improvements like new lighting and furniture and a substantially improved patron experience in the auditorium with temperature control and new technology, we will also make the library increasingly accessible with a ramp to the building.”

The new ramp will arrive sometime in May, following the rest of the $250,000 facelift, ahead of the branch’s scheduled reopening later that month, Kaye said. But it will only be temporary until the public book-lender can raise enough moolah to pay for a massive capital project that would include constructing a permanent incline and elevator at the library on the border of Boerum Hill and Park Slope, according to the rep, who could not confirm a timeline for those upgrades or how much money is already set aside for them.

Last October, however, a library spokeswoman said the book lender amassed $3.5 million toward accessibility improvements at the Pacific branch, but still had $10 million in unmet capital needs there, and couldn’t confirm how long it would take to raise more cash.

Locals successfully fought to save the ancient reading room regarded for its classical- and tudor-revival styles — whose architect, Raymond Almirall, also designed the Eastern Parkway and Park Slope libraries — after officials tried to hawk it to developers in 2013 to avoid shelling out the millions needed to repair the building.

Readers displaced by the Pacific branch’s makeover can visit a bookmobile that will park outside the 114-year-old facility on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 am to 4 pm during the renovation, according to Kaye, who also directed patrons to the book lender’s nearby locations, including those in Park Slope, Crown Heights, and Fort Greene — where Brooklyn Public Library leaders are also putting a new roof on the nabe’s Walt Whitman Library, but don’t expect to close those stacks for a significant stretch of time to do the job, she said.

And over in Brooklyn Heights, library officials are overseeing the construction of that neighborhood’s new reading room inside a luxury residential tower in the works by a developer who bought the city-owned land in 2014. Locals in search of a good book before the new space’s planned 2020 debut can browse a temporary lender within Remsen Street’s Our Lady of Lebanon Church, according to the spokeswoman.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:47 pm, July 9, 2018
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