15 July 2010, 5:00 PM – Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY
“Some space is shared and some knowledge is shared.”
I’ve been in the general vicinity of Coney Island’s branch of the 60-branch (plus two bookmobiles) Brooklyn Public Library – it’s on Mermaid Avenue, a block away from Surf Avenue and MCU Park, home of my favorite minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. In fact, I’ve used the library a couple of times – generally just to read magazines and enjoy the air conditioning before ballgames. (It’s probably the only branch of the BPL I’ve ever used – though I’ve been inside the Central Library a few times.)
(A note about the Central Library, by the way – it’s a beautiful, spacious building, much like its older New York Public Library counterpart in Manhattan. On the other hand – and this needs to be said – the current Central Library of the Queens system is, was (at least in its current incarnation – the old building was quite beautiful and stately), and always will be a dump.)
The Coney Island Branch has two floors – one for the adult and teen collections, one for the children’s collection. I kind of like that sort of structure, which I’ve seen in multiple libraries in the Queens Borough and New York Public Library systems, as it allows the kids to have their own space and keeps the riffraff out of the general collections area so everyone else can work.
This was my second attempt to open the lock at Coney Island; my first attempt was on the 10th of the month, after the Cyclones’ annual Take Your Base 5K Run/Walk to fight cancer (for non-baseball fans, “Take your base” is the phrase used by umpires after the fourth ball, a walk, allowing the batter to run or trot to first), only to find that it was the first day of summer hours, with the hours for Saturday being “Closed.” This time, though, it was late afternoon on a Thursday – there was no way it was going to be closed then.
And indeed, it wasn’t. I made my way to the shelf where the lock was (not a small task, considering I wasn’t sure exactly where it was – it took me about three or four minutes to find it – this in a fairly small area of a fairly average-sized library) to find…another box. A larger and seemingly sturdier box than the one I had encountered at Eddie’s Sweet Shop, mind you, but still another box.
As I opened it, I was hoping it wasn’t going to be just another place for people to put messages inside. And indeed, it wasn’t – what opened were a few artifacts of Coney Island’s past – a late-19th Century electrical conductor (I wonder, in retrospect, if Coney Island ran on Alternating or Direct Current in that time), a can of “Coney Island Hammerhead Shark” (beats finding a Coney Island whitefish any day), and the book Coney Island Lost and Found, supplemented by printouts from different websites on Coney Island’s history. I leafed through the book and the printouts, signed the ledger saying I was there, and left.
I only visited this lock because I was in the area – just passing through towards other things. But I realize how much the library means for the people living in Coney Island. Much like my own library – and I will admit, I’m writing this in my library as I read off my fines (I suppose I’m reading the words I type?) – this library opens up so many doors for the members of the community and is so very important in unlocking knowledge for people of all ages; in fact, this one more so than my own library, as these artifacts were part of a larger, and often exhibited, collection of materials on Coney Island’s history, making it not only a hometown bastion of knowledge but a repository of its history.
Flickr isn’t letting me post pictures for the rest of the month ’cause I’ve reached the limit – so in lieu of that, here’s a video I made:
A week later, my journey left Long Island for Manhattan and Gracie Mansion, which you can read about here.