If you like biking, like seeing new neighborhoods, and like the Brooklyn Public Library, then Bike the Branches on May 20 is the event for you.
Bike the Branches, which raises money for the Brooklyn Public Library, started in May of 2013 and has included the Red Hook Library on Wolcott Street every year since then. Branch Manager Sandra Sutton enjoys the event because it brings in people who don’t normally visit the Red Hook Library.
“Certainly it gives us an opportunity to promote our branch because this neighborhood is kind of quiet and subdued and people don’t come in because they feel it is so far,” Sutton said. “It is a great opportunity for us because we get an opportunity to show off our branch.”
Bike the Branches starts at 10 am and goes until 5 pm. All participants pay to fundraise for the library and it is a competition to see who can visit the most branches of the 60 total libraries in the system. You register online and then pick up the Bike the Branches packet at Central, Leonard or Kings Highway Libraries during branch hours from May 12 through May 20.
Participants get their Bike the Branches passport stamped at each branch, and prizes are awarded to adults and children who visit the most branches. All participants should return to Central Library before 5:30 pm so that the passport stamps can be tallied. The library will then determine the first, second and third place prize winners.
According to Sutton, while participants need to have their own bike, they will be able to get bells and a free helmet at Central Library.
This year, Citi Bike, which is an official sponsor of Bike the Branches, will offer Bike the Branches participants who are 16 years old or older a free 24-hour access pass for the day. This will include as many 30-minute trips as you want. There is a Citi Bike station right outside the Red Hook Library for those interested in participating.
According to the Bike the Branches website, to obtain a Citi Bike 24-hour pass, you can register for Bike the Branches and indicate on the registration page that you would like Citi Bike for the day. You will be emailed your code before May 20.
Leading up to the event, the staff and children of the Red Hook Library have been preparing a display that presents what the surrounding area is all about. Red Hook is in the running for a pizza party for their display.
“As far as the competition piece of it, every branch has to do a display,” Sutton said. “A very talented librarian who is artsy and crafty put the display together along with our project art teacher. It kind of shows what is in Red Hook.”
The kids in at the library and the librarian worked on the display for about three weeks. Also in the display are books written about or by people who are from Red Hook. They were recently told that the display is in the top three for the region.
According to Sutton, they still want to add some waves with a boat to the display since Red Hook is surrounded by water. Somebody will come and take a final picture of the display and then the voting will take place.
On the actual day of the Bike the Branches, as a result of previous fundraising dollars from this event, a Zumba instructor named Elaine Gill will be at the Red Hook Library. Everyone at the branch is very much looking forward to her coming.
“She provides a lot of energy, so when she is here, you know she is here,” Sutton said. “The kids are all hyped up and she gets the whole branch going. We are excited to have her because the adrenaline will be high that day.”
In addition to the Zumba instructor that will be at the library and the influx of people from outside the neighborhood, there will also be activities for various age groups.
“We are going to have some tables outside,” Sutton said. “We have a friends group and they will probably be selling something like water and chips that day to raise funds for the branch. There will be different activities that we will have in the branch for the kids. The Boys Club is going to be here.”
Denise Williams, who works at the Red Hook Library, doesn’t think anyone has biked to all 60 locations since they are spread out. However, she thinks it is good for the branch and a great way for people to see a lot of Brooklyn.
“It is a great way to get new people to the branch,” Williams said in Sutton’s office. “It is great exercise. It is a time for neighbors and people in the community to find out about each other and find out about different neighborhoods. They can have a little challenge between themselves. It’s a good thing.”
For those interested in participating who live in Red Hook, they can start in Red Hook, bike to Central Library to get the “passport,” and then go to the next library branch.
Sutton hopes that the huge influx of people who come to the Red Hook Library on May 20 will come back at other times when in the neighborhood besides for this event. She hopes that it if someone goes to Ikea they will remember that a library is close by and want to visit again.
“It is a great opportunity for a branch like Red Hook because we are hidden,” Sutton said. “I feel like sometimes we are in the wilderness over here since people don’t come over here that often. It gives us a chance to kind of show off and show that it is a great library and that they should visit more.”