6. Many libraries started inside local stores

A woman browses the bookshelves at Brooklyn Public Library
Photo by Gregg Richards, Courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

Many libraries got their start in the back of neighborhood shops and drug stores. Before official branch buildings were built, mini libraries operated whereever they could in order to serve the rapidly growing population of Brooklyn in the early 1900s.

Neighborhoods like Canarsie, Coney Island, Kensington, Midwood, Kings Highway, and Clarendon all opened unstaffed delivery branches inside local stores. In 1939, McKinley Park Library operated out of a deposit station inside Smith’s Pharmacy on Ft. Hamilton Parkway while the branch building was being constructed.