The cultural landscape of New York City will be vibrant outside this summer—it’s going to be all about outdoor activities, open-air socializing, and pop-up events. And Brooklyn Public Library is going to add to this by creating an aural landscape of the city. Throughout the summer, you may stumble upon music, poetry, oral histories, podcast excerpts, and spoken literature near all 10 branches of BPL.
The program, called Whispering Libraries, is a curated audio experience that will reflect the neighborhood that each branch serves—that includes locations in Bay Ridge, Brownsville, Bushwick, Clarendon, Flatbush, Kensington, Kings Highway, New Utrecht, Park Slope, and Sheepshead Bay (plus a special program at BPL’s Center for Brooklyn History).
The playlists will be streamed in areas outside each location via hidden speakers, starting as early as 7:30 a.m. and playing up to five times a day on weekdays and select Saturdays. In addition, BPL will have volunteer cyclists biking throughout the borough broadcasting the playlists, and occasionally stopping at random locations to play them for a more extended period.
As for what you can expect to hear, the sounds include 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. There will also be words from writers Naomi Klein and Fran Lebowitz; novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday; and writer and sociologist Dr. Ruha Benjamin, winner of the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize.
“A library is more than just a building, it is the repository of our accumulated knowledge and memory. 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,” said László Jakab Orsós, Vice President of Arts and Culture at Brooklyn Public Library. “As we engage the public safely outside, look for BPL cyclists carrying small speakers, myself included, riding throughout the borough, amplifying the Whispering Libraries experience for everyone.”
The project launched on April 1st. You can get more info about the project here.