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"Whispering Libraries" are coming to Brooklyn this summer

If you walk by a Brooklyn Public Library branch, you may want to listen carefully.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

This summer, you won't need to step foot in a library to hear from poets, writers and great thinkers—all you need to do is find a "whispering library" outside.

The Brooklyn Public Library is launching a curated "audio experience" at 10 library branches across Brooklyn. Each branch will hide speakers outside and play music, poetry, oral histories, podcast excerpts, and spoken literature up to five times a day, sometimes as early as 7:30am.

Each of the branches in the Whispering Libraries experience—Bay Ridge, Brownsville, Bushwick, Clarendon, Flatbush, Kensington, Kings Highway, New Utrecht, Park Slope, and Sheepshead Bay and BPL’s Center for Brooklyn History—will have customized playlists that will reflect the neighborhood they serve. 

Visitors can expect to hear things like the opening lines of "Journal of A Plague Year;" excerpts of speeches by the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis; passages from the writings of award-winning author Edwidge Danticat; classical music from BPL Creatives-in-Residence ETHEL Quartet; and highlights from BPL’s Borrowed podcast and historical audio from the Library’s archives.

Other voices you might hear include Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang; U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo; poet Saeed Jones, the shortlist nominee for the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize; writers Naomi Klein and Fran Lebowitz; novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday; the late poet and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti; and writer and sociologist Dr. Ruha Benjamin, the winner of the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize.

If you're unable to get close to one of these branches, some of the programming will come to you via volunteer cyclists. These bikers will ride through the borough and broadcast the playlists to the masses, sometimes stopping at high foot-traffic locations.

But why go to all this trouble?

"A library is more than just a building, it is the repository of our accumulated knowledge and memory," said László Jakab Orsós, Vice President of Arts and Culture. "Imagine walking by one of our branches before the building opens for service and you hear a poem or a segment of a historical speech—we hope that a whispering library will make you smile and inspire you."

BPL is also bringing outdoor reading rooms to 22 of its branches. You can read more about those here.

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