The Othmer Library

Othmer Library

Brooklyn Historical Society houses a world-renowned special collections and archives library on the second floor of its landmark building. The Othmer Library’s magnificent reading room, with its stained glass windows and carved wooden columns, transports the visitor to an earlier era.  

The Library & Archives department collects, preserves, and makes accessible one of the most comprehensive collection of materials related to Brooklyn’s history and culture. Its holdings include over 33,000 books, 1,600 archival collections, 1,200 oral history interviews, 50,000 photographs, 2,000 maps, 8,000 artifacts, and 300 paintings which document the commercial, residential, community, and civic development of the borough. The collections foster new and cutting-edge scholarship; support public learning and research; and enrich BHS's exhibits, educational activities, and public programming.  

The library is open to the public on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.  

History of the Library

When it was founded in 1863 as the Long Island Historical Society, the institution’s mission was to discover, procure, and preserve materials related to general history, especially the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of the United States, the State of New York, and more particularly of the counties, towns, and villages of Long Island.

By the mid-20th century, BHS narrowed the focus of the collections and began to seek out materials specifically relating to what is today known as Brooklyn. Today, the Library & Archives is a nationally-recognized repository comprised of physical and born-digital collections, including manuscripts, personal and family papers, business records,  newspapers and other periodicals, books and pamphlets, maps and atlases, artifacts, paintings, photographs, films, oral histories, and genealogies. The library possesses a unique and growing collection of materials about Brooklyn that provides important insights into the nation's history and heritage.

Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records

Brooklyn Historical Society Library & Archives staff members hold in confidence all information about individual library users and their choices of research or study material, to the extent allowable by law. It is the policy of the Brooklyn Historical Society Library & Archives that the privacy of all users shall be respected in compliance with federal and state laws and professional standards. This policy applies to all resources regardless of their format or means of delivery as well as to all services offered by the Library & Archives. We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, acquired, or transmitted.

Brooklyn Historical Society Library & Archives supports and complies with New York State Law (New York State Civil Practice Law & Rules 4509, Chapter 112, Laws of 1988) with respect to the confidentiality of library records, including, but not limited to database searches, reference queries, reserve requests, and the use of audiovisual materials, films, and sound recordings.

All library records relating to an individual patron's use of the library and its resources are confidential. These records may be consulted and used by library staff in the course of carrying out library operations, but will not be disclosed to others except upon the request or consent of the library user, or pursuant to subpoena, court order, or otherwise required by law. Brooklyn Historical Society forwards any law-enforcement request for patron records to Brooklyn Historical Society legal counsel. Law prohibits the Library & Archives staff from giving out any information regarding a patron to any other person regardless of their status or identity. To better protect the privacy of Library patrons, Brooklyn Historical Society Library & Archives has procedures in place that minimize the retention of library patron records.