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Why Is BPL’s Central Library Closed Tomorrow? Blame Jay-Z

A source tells Hell Gate there's a party Thursday night for the opening of an exhibit that's all about Hov.

The central branch of Brooklyn Public Library, wrapped in Jay-Z lyrics.

The central branch of Brooklyn Public Library, wrapped in Jay-Z lyrics. (Hell Gate)

The season of fancy, exclusive parties at New York's public libraries continues: On Thursday, Brooklyn Public Library's flagship location will be closed all day, "in preparation for a special event."

What's that special event? A source at BPL told Hell Gate that on Friday, the library will debut an exhibition dedicated to Jay-Z, which includes a replica of Baseline Studios, the recording studio which was originally co-owned by Jay and Juan Perez. (Visitors to the main branch in recent days might have deduced as much, based on the building's new facade, which is now covered entirely in Jay-Z lyrics.) 

As for why the entire building will be closed to the public on Thursday, that's thanks to an exclusive opening party that starts at 6 p.m., the exact nature of which even our source didn't know. On a visit on Monday, I saw that swaths of the library had already been closed, including the iconic promenade in front of the library (you have to enter either on Flatbush Avenue or Eastern Parkway); large display cases under black tarps dotted the inside of the library. The entirety of the "new and noteworthy" area was also closed, with security guards preventing entry.

What are Brooklynites getting in return? "What I've heard is that Roc Nation is covering the cost of all the installations," the BPL source said. BPL's system has ongoing event programming around hip-hop's fiftieth anniversary, but the way our source described the installations at the central branch, it sounds like the exhibit is less a celebration of Brooklyn's, or even Roc Nation's, contribution to hip-hop history and more a personal shrine to Jay-Z himself, including highlighting "books on Jay-Z's night table."

Tarped exhibit materials in the Youth Wing on Monday. (Hell Gate)

We reached out to BPL and Roc Nation with some questions, like whether the exhibit was related to any donation BPL would receive from Roc Nation, or how visitors can access the materials that were held in the closed areas. Roc Nation did not respond to our request for comment, but BPL confirmed that they are indeed "preparing for a special summer program to be announced Friday," but declined to elaborate further.

"It's just been coming from the top as an initiative," our source said of the upcoming exhibit. The current president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library is Linda E. Johnson, who is married to Jay-Z's longtime associate and business partner, the real estate developer Bruce Ratner. "They have not been sharing information with the staff," our source added of BPL leadership.

Jay-Z is cool, I suppose, but it seems very nuts and counterintuitive to the mission of celebrating New York's great, proletarian art form to shut down one of the City's most vital public resources for an entire day, just so a billionaire can have a party with his friends. Our source told Hell Gate that Roc Nation declined to hold the exhibit at the Marcy Library branch of BPL, and that the process of installing the exhibit has been poorly communicated to staff, such that it has been "directly impacting operations" at the library.

I guess we'll just have to wait until Friday to see which Malcolm Gladwell book is Jay-Z's favorite.

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