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Pratt Digital Exhibits

Pratt Institute Free Library

Published on

Above: Main Building

At a time when many libraries were private and for those of means only, Charles Pratt created one within his Institute to serve not only students of the Institute, but the general public as well, regardless of sex, racial, or ethnic heritage, or social and economic condition.

The library opened on January 4th, 1888 with a reading room located in the Main building of campus. In February, the Circulating Department opened with 10,000 volumes. By July 1888, 284 persons had registered as members of the Library, which was free to Brooklynites over fourteen years of age. By 1896, the collection had grown to 61,000 volumes, and over 300,000 volumes circulated a year.

Enoch Pratt was a businessman who, in 1882, gifted five library branches along with a million-dollar endowment to the city of Baltimore in order to create a free library for “rich and poor without distinction of race or color”. These letters document advice given by Enoch Pratt to Charles Pratt on how to accomplish a similar mission in Brooklyn.

On opening day, the reading room had 150 periodicals, a collection of encyclopedias, and other general reference materials. The library was open to Institute students and the general public regardless of gender, race, or economic status and was the first of its kind in Brooklyn.

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