The Pratt Institute Free Library, as it was originally named, is Brooklyn’s first free library and was also the original home to the country’s oldest library school in continuous operation. The library opened on January 4th, 1888, began with a reading room located in the Main building and contained 150 periodicals, encyclopedias, and other general reference materials.

In February of that same year, the Circulating Department opened with 10,000 volumes and by July, close to 300 people had registered as members. The Library was so popular that two branches were opened: The Astral Library in Greenpoint and the Long Island Branch in Boerum Hill. By 1896, the collection had grown six times and approximately 300,000 books were circulated per year.

Designed by William B. Tubby and featuring interiors by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, a new library building opened in 1896. This new building included a children’s room, a museum, classrooms, and several reference areas dedicated to the Institute’s academic offerings. In the years since, the library has undergone major changes, both in its physical plant as well as its services, as it keeps up with a technological landscape in a constant state of change. This exhibit documents the first 100 years of the library, from its beginnings as a public library with multiple branches, to the renovations that gave way to the library as we’ve come to know it today.

Explore the Exhibit