Four branch libraries could soon die

Faneuil: Soon to be an ex-branch?Faneuil: Soon to be an ex-branch?

Boston Public Library trustees will vote Friday on a budget plan that could shut the Faneuil (Brighton), Orient Heights, Dorchester Lower Mills and Washington Village (South Boston) branches in the fiscal year starting July 1. Residents from across the city meet tonight to discuss strategies on blocking the closings, 6:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul's, 138 Tremont St.

BPL President Amy Ryan said at a trustee meeting this morning the plan to shut the four branches would let the library system begin "a significant transformation" and let the remaining branches keep their existing hours. Ryan said the BPL would also explore partnerships with community groups to offer new services in the affected neighborhoods and across the city.

She said the possibly doomed branches either have low usage (Dorchester Lower Mills and Washington Village) or outdated buildings that would require extensive renovations. However, she said that with the shut down of Orient Heights, she would call for planning for an entirely new branch to serve all of East Boston. Computers from the ex-branches would be redistributed to the other branches, she said.

Ryan said she would seek to work with community groups to take over at least the Faneuil building.

Ryan said keeping all branches open would require hours at 17 branches to be cut 50 to 80%. Service at nine lead libraries would be unaffected under the plan.

She added another alternative would be to shut seven branches (adding Jamaica Plain, Egleston and Uphams Corner).

In any scenario, up to 25 branch librarian jobs would be lost, she said. With the seven-branch plan, she said, 14 positions could be reallocated to other branches and services. In addition, 69 positions at the Copley central library would be cut, along with services there.

Trustee Paul LaCamera said he was particularly disturbed by the proposal to shut Orient Heights, which he said serves a community fairly distant from the closest remaining branch. Trustee James Carroll proposed that if Orient Heights is shut, the trustees make a commitment that East Boston get a brand new, centrally located branch.

Trustee Evelyn Arana-Ortiz, however, said, the library system needs to concentrate on services for the affected neighborhoods that can be delivered immediately upon the shutdowns, for example, working with nearby community centers on possible library services, rather than something, such as a new building, that could take years.

Carroll said he would rather shut seven branches so that the rest of the system can not only stay afloat but transform themselves into a 21st century organization.

LaCamera said he is willing to take the "painful" vote to shut four branches on Friday, but only with the provision that trustees work with all the peoples and organizations that have volunteered to help the libraries close the gap - let's see if the system could raise enough money over the next three or four months to raise money to keep branches going.

Trustee Donna DePrisco questioned why Lower Mills would be closed before branches in Uphams Corner and Egleston.

Trustee Chairman Jeffrey Rudman said he could not vote to close Uphams Corner and Egleston even if the branches are in worse physical shape. "Uphams Corner and Egleston deal with the most vulnerable people in this city. I would not close them."

He said Lower Mills patrons in most cases would be well served by the Mattapan branch. "Mattapan is a revolution," he said. "The Mattapan branch is what we should be all about."

One resident rose to say he could not believe library trustees were even considering closing branch libraries. Students, he said, have more than enough technology, what they need is more "love of books." He added that closing branches is "an act of intellectual vandalism .... an act of a third-world country in the thrall of the International Monetary Fund."

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    Comments

    Impeach Menino; Fire Ryan

    Why is the BPL president and Board of Trustees willing to end service in nine libraries in order to improve services to others?

    Why must some citizens lose their local branch in order for other Boston Citizens to keep their local branch with improved services?

    These questions have not been answered and I hope the Board of Trustees votes NO to close any BPL library until it is answered.

    If PBL President was a stronger advocate, she'd announce a requested budget that accomplishes all of the new things she wants, all of the new services she wants to deliver without cost savings of closing libraries; and allow the taxpaying public that funds the BPL to respond to it about what they value.

    This is a card game in which new services are being offered up to select neighborhoods in return for their consent to close BPL libraries in nine locations. It is not direct and honest. It is bad government. Why does the BPL board support it?

    Perhaps the President's instructions were to close libraries

    By on

    Perhaps the objective all along has been to shrink the size of the library system. Not necessarily out of an anti-library motoviation; rather through a government budget reduction motivation. Reduce library staff and capital expenses and then claim the title of holding down the cost of city government.

    The unfortunate part is that there are few other areas where budget reductions are possible. The police and fire departments, for both legitimate work and non-legitimate work (the infamous details) are sacrosanct. The permit and inspection divisions need to be fully funded (how else for Menino to wield power in the city?). The school budget is probably lower than is reasonable and have a natural consituency. Road repair and infrastructure maintenance are also sacrosanct since they have more immediate effect on votes for the next election cycle. So what portion of the city does not have a strong and focused constiuency that will carry in the next election cycle, nor is directly vital to wielding power in the city nor is sacrosanct? Libraries; in other words when hacking at the city budgets' tree which branches are lowest and easiest to cut off? Libraries.

    So after all this time, the

    By on

    So after all this time, the true criteria for closure has been revealed. It is as follows: if you live in an area where murder, mayhem, etc. are part of your daily life, your library branch is safe. Can the administration be more obvious about who they are afraid to piss off. People in these four neighborhoods should just keep paying their property taxes and not make waves. By the way to those folks, don't move to the suburbs where you're able to send your kids to the public schools in those towns.

    I love Orient Heights for

    I love Orient Heights for beach reading.

    Ride the T out the blue line to that stop, and the library is on your way to the beach. After spending the day there and reading your book, you drop it off in the slot. Rather than closing, they should move to having Sunday hours there so you can get beach reading both days during the weekend.

    With all the work that I think Boston paid for to revitalize the beach there, the library is a great asset.

    it seems pretty clear when you look at the map that

    Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and East Boston are really getting screwed by this plan.

    I live in West Roxbury so what do what I care? If they wanted to close my local library I'd be pissed. It's one of the city services I use with regularity in addition to garbage collection, plowing and police. (Police becuase they seem quite busy all over Boston.)

    Does the mayor forget that Boston residents pay the taxes that fund the libraries? Closing some to expand operations in others is completely unfair and unreasonable proposition.

    What don't they explain what they're really up to?

    IMAGE(http://i279.photobucket.com/albums/kk143/nfsagan/BPL-close-7-branches.jpg)

    What are you talking about?

    By on

    What are you talking about? None of the two branches three minutes away from each other in JP are affected. Also none of the Roxbury branches are affected.

    Faneuil is(was) a good branch

    Nice building in a perfect spot. With the revitalization of the Oak Square section of Brighton as a more attractive place to live, closing the library branch is even more stupid.

    I wonder

    Who threatened a lawsuit if they closed both East Boston branches? Considering one needs to either take the T or a tunnel or bridge to get to any of the other branches, and that the nearest other branches were also being closed, a case for bias could be made. Now they are claiming they will improve the main East Boston branch. Hmmm.

    Artificially high number?

    By on

    Not to knock Faneuil (it's my go-to place for writing up arraignments at Brighton District Court), but could the number be higher because of folks who'd normally go to the under-renovation Brighton branch?

    The closing of the Brighton

    By on

    The closing of the Brighton branch did bump up Faneuil's numbers, but I am pretty sure it was consistently in the top ten even when Brighton was open. Based on the BPL's numbers, if you use 2008 figures Brighton ranks 5th (That rank excludes Copley and Faneuil). When Allston opened, Brighton went down some, but not a lot. The net result was that overall circulation in Allston Brighton went way up. It can be difficult to predict circulation and usage. There were a lot of nay-sayers, mainly within the BPL, opposed to putting the Allston branch north of the Mass Pike, but since it opened it has been in the top five every month.

    Library numbers and vaporware

    OK here are the numbers I have from the meeting with Amy Ryan on Monday:

    "Items Borrowed:
    1 Copley 1,240,077
    2 Jamaica Plain 163,164
    3 Honan/Allston 161,382
    4 West End 155,387
    5 Faneuil 151,232
    6 West Roxbury 139,460
    7 Brighton 125,440
    8 Hyde Park 106,045
    9 Adams 105,281
    10 Roslindale 102,431
    11 South Boston 96,212
    12 Mattapan 87,446
    13 Charlestown 85,242
    14 East Boston 84,525
    15 Connolly 80,981
    16 Fields Corner 76,561
    17 North End 72,636
    18 South End 62,211
    19 Grove Hall 59,018
    20 Lower Mills 58,620
    21 Orient Heights 58,281
    22 Codman 57,711
    23 Dudley 53,898
    24 Parker Hill 35,486
    25 Upham's Corner 33,882
    26 Washington Village 30,356"

    There are several excuses they can give to close Faneuil. We have three branches and maybe it wouldn't do to have neighborhoods with 0 or 1 while little A.B. has three. Brighton is whiter than many other areas, especially the weak branches, so maybe it would be racist to keep Faneuil open and close Codman.

    Faneuil has a very active support base. It is much more beloved than the Brighton Branch for instance. By closing Faneuil the trustees are scattering an enemy group when the next round of closings comes along. I think closing Faneuil will be a precursor to closing other outlying but heavily used branches next year.

    Amy Ryan claimed that the library was going to shift its focus to the digital divide. Right now from our numbers it seems like there is a more serious literacy divide. As for the digital she offered no explanations as to how and when they expected to cross it or close it. I think it's just vaporware. There is no plan for the 21st century library. Does anybody really expect to show up to a library in 3 years and see that the city has transformed it?

    Closing well-used libraries is another way the city of Boston and Mayor Menino have abdicated the responsibility to fulfill the most basic public services. These people just can't cope. They have had a long time to bring libraries in the black neighborhoods up to speed. They have had forever to bring the incomes of black people up to a point where reading is as favored in black neighborhoods as it is in white. They haven't done it and now they are retreating.

    I can't listen to Michael Ross say we need a world class city any more. It makes me throw up to hear about the 21st century... when you've proven you can provide the 19th century services, we'll talk about 20 and 21.

    Closing the digital divide

    One of the problems with the closing the digital divide excuse for closing a library is that it refers to some people with great internet access and computers at home and some people without these things. And where do the people without these things go to get online? The library.

    So by closing libraries, you deepen the digital divide. Putting things online is just helping the people on the upside of the digital divide, not helping solve the problem but exacerbating it.

    Faneuil was 7th

    By on

    When all three Allston-Brighton branches are open, Faneuil is 7th, according to City Councilor Mark Ciommo's office. That it can handle the extra volume while Brighton is closed demonstrates that it is not outmoded.

    Refuge

    Its more than just comfort - for high risk persons without air conditioning, libraries are often cited as places of refuge during heat waves and days with extreme heat. If you can't get to one without a car - and the Mayor and his Minions seem to think that everybody owns one or should be driving everywhere - you are SOL.

    Faneuil NOT outdated

    By on

    The Faneuil branch is not outdated. It has the 5th highest circulation in the city. Ironically, Amy Ryan is the one who obsesses on facilities and how modern they are, and then turns around and ignores how people actually use them. I am tired of hearing about the Internet. That is just one aspect of libraries. What is the rest of this "significant transformation" that she refers to? Shouldn't we have that plan first?

    Time of civic retreat

    The dishonest spin from Menino and Ryan is the salt added to the wounds. But the wounds themselves are closing these branches. There's no positive way to characterize this, no silver lining about "remaking" or "re-imagining." When times are tough, people need libraries all the more. We're cutting into the heart of neighborhoods by doing this.

    Amen David

    Would you be willing to circulate an email to Suffolk Law profs and staff suggesting they write the mayor, BPL President Amy Ryan and Chair of the Board of Trustees Jeffrey Rudman, C/O Wilmer Hale explaining why we should not be closing BPL branches? Do Suffolk Law types do that kind of community activism? I just think people trained to use words as weapons are just what the doctor ordered for this diagnosis ... with all due respect. Make an argument. Maybe it'd be a good class assignment for 1Ls. Make an argument.

    BPL in the News
    BPL content on UHub: http://www.universalhub.com/taxonomy/term/454

    If you'd like to see the city come up with 3.6 million budget shortfall to fully fund the libraries, and to plan the future of BPL based on full funding and not budget shortfall, please write and tell the following decision makers:

    Mayor Menino, [email protected]
    BPL President Amy Ryan, [email protected]
    Mr. Jeffrey Rudman, Esq., Chair of the BPL Board of Trustees, [email protected]

    uh...

    Anon, the overwhelming % of my co-workers at Suffolk live in the 'burbs. I'm definitely one of the outliers. It's a very suburban institution somehow situated in the city...

    Guess they'll be taking this plaque down

    By on

    Plaque

    Filing this from the Orient Heights library. When I walked in, the librarians were commiserating with a couple of ladies who were outraged at the news. "Can you believe it?" one asked. "Can you imagine going all the way over to Merdian Street just to get a book?"

    If you haven't visited the branch, now's the time. It's basically kitty-corner from the T stop.

    Orient Heights library

    up
    14

    I think they have to move

    By on

    I think they have to move forward with consolidation and have kiosks to drop off books, more computers, modernization, etc. I am sick of these old buildings. Create a warehouse that can be switched around to address changing needs, make it green, make it a learning piece in itself.... put computers in...

    Boston Public Library

    Boston Public Library President Amy E. Ryan today endorsed

    1. a plan to close four neighborhood libraries -- the Faneuil, Lower Mills, Orient Heights, and Washington Village branches -- as part of a an effort to close a looming budget gap. The plan, under which hours would remain the same at all the remaining libraries, was one of three options Ryan outlined at a meeting this morning of the library trustees. The proposals would eliminate up to 94 library jobs. The trustees are expected to pick one option at a meeting on Friday.

    2. The second option would shut down the four branches, as well as the Egleston Square, Jamaica Plain, and Uphams Corner branches. The remaining 19 branches would expand hours.

    3. The third option would keep all 27 locations open but dramatically slash hours at the branches, leaving them open two or three days a week. The nine largest libraries would keep the same hours.

    Why doesn't BPL President insist on an Option 4 and ask the taxpayers and library users in the Boston Neighborhoods to endorse:

    4. Level fund the BPL by taking $3.6 million from other accounts.

    Somewhat serious question

    By on

    What if UHubbers went and organized a check-out-a-thon? Couple hundred people go to each of these branches and check out a couple hundred books. Then drop them back in the book drop. Um, or a less suspicious route would be to go check out whatever your book bag will hold (12? 15?) and take 'em home and plunk 'em on your couch for a month. You could even read them!

    The trustees

    I suspect all the independent trustees (i.e., the ones who supported Margolis) have been replaced by more "reliable" individuals (those who clearly understand who the boss is).