As one city councilor held out hope that savings from a possible concession by firefighters could save four branch libraries, BPL President Amy Ryan told the City Council she has little choice but to cut the branches - and jobs across the branches and at the Copley Square central library (roughly 75 workers - no managers).
Still, after several questions on whether BPL would keep the branches open if the city and neighborhood groups could raise enough money to make up the budgets of the doomed branches, Ryan said she would ask BPL board Chairman Jeff Rudman if he would convene a library trustee meeting to consider the issue.
Ryan testified tonight before a City Council hearing attended by a packed house of branch supporters, many wearing "Save Our Library" T-shirts.
At a rally before the hearing, at-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo told about 150 branch supporters that the roughly $4 million the city would save by firefighters foregoing a 2.5% pay increase would more than pay to keep branches open. BPL officials say it costs about $1.4 million to operate the Faneuil (Brighton), Washington Village (South Boston), Dorchester Lower Mills and Orient Heights (East Boston).
But Ryan said the city is still in the middle of an economic downturn that makes it vital to make cuts now to forestall further problems. She said that cutting the four branches would let the 22 other branches maintain their current hours. BPL will also work with community groups near the four branches to provide some library services after they are shut this summer, she said.
Other city councilors said they could not agree with any library closures. The City Council can reject the proposed budget, but it can't add money to it. Councilor Chuck Turner (Roxbury) said he would vote against any budget that has branch closings and staff cuts.
Arroyo, at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley and Councilor Mike Ross (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Mission Hill) pointed to what they said was a flawed decision process, in which library managers decided to close branches before consulting users.
City Councilor Bill Linehan said a temporary storefront library in Chinatown last year shows there are new models for neighborhood libraries - but that BPL needs to invest money to move to the new model.
Arroyo and Ross said the library needs to focus more on fundraising. Ross called for a new BPL board consisting of fundraisers. "We've had philanthropy as part of our DNA here," he said.
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