In September 2022, I penned a brief reflection on a book I had just read, Jay-Z: Made in America by Michael C. Dyson. In that moment, I became acutely aware of the profound impact that rap mogul and billionaire Jay-Z has had on both the music industry and communities at large. Today, I find myself once again compelled to acknowledge and pay homage to his influence. This time, it’s not his music but an exhibit dedicated to him in a Brooklyn, New York public library that’s causing quite a stir among library members and visitors alike.
This captivating exhibit showcases an array of memorabilia, ranging from iconic album covers and statues to his signature sneakers, news clippings, and even a meticulously crafted replica of one of his most frequented recording studios. The exhibit is a treasure trove of artifacts spanning Jay-Z’s illustrious career as an artist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist.
What’s particularly remarkable about this exhibition is that it wasn’t initiated by Jay-Z himself. In fact, he was unaware of its existence until plans were underway for his private inaugural tour of the exhibit. I typically refrain from glorifying the actions of others, and I may not always align with Jay-Z’s beliefs and values. However, I wholeheartedly recognize when individuals make positive and impactful contributions to their communities.
As a part-time librarian with a deep affection for all things literary, I truly appreciate the way Jay-Z’s name and accomplishments resonate with people who might not otherwise set foot in a library. According to a report from theguardian.com, the Brooklyn Library experienced a significant surge in memberships, with over 14,000 new patrons joining in August. Undoubtedly, the allure of the Jay-Z exhibit, coupled with the introduction of thirteen new library cards featuring the covers of his thirteen albums, played substantial roles in this influx.
Libraries have always been sanctuaries of discovery and adventure. Beyond the shelves of books, libraries across the country have recently offered a diverse range of resources and experiences. From computer usage and WiFi hotspots to video games, family board games, fishing poles, binoculars, science kits, puzzles, and musical instruments—there are countless avenues for exploration. Now, it seems we can add 40,000-square-foot exhibits by one of the most influential rappers to the list of enriching library experiences.
The Jay-Z exhibit at the Brooklyn Library stands as a testament to the transformative power of art and culture. Its ability to draw in new library-goers, diversify membership, and ignite a sense of curiosity and exploration is undeniable. While I may not endorse every facet of Jay-Z’s career, I wholeheartedly celebrate the positive impact he has had on the communities he touches, including the remarkable influence he has brought to this library in Brooklyn.