Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BPL President: Close Four Branches

The president of the Boston Public Library, Amy Ryan, recommends the closing of four neighborhood branches. These would be the Faneuil in Brighton, the Lower Mills in Dorchester, the Orient Heights in East Boston, and Washington Village in South Boston. Other branches would continue to have the same hours of operation.

In a release from the BPL, Ryan said, “The Boston Public Library needs to save money, stabilize, and begin to move forward. Keeping twenty-two branches open is the most prudent option. It preserves as many branches as possible, permits us to fill critical vacancies, and allows us to explore partnerships.”

The BPL says the closing would result in the layoff of as many as 94 employees.

In a statement issued today, the advocacy group, People of Boston Branches, took issue with the recommendation to close the Faneuil branch in Oak Square: "The closing of any branch is a mistake, but the plan to close the Faneuil branch is the most concerning and flies in the face of public opinion. This plan comes after tremendous vocal and active opposition to the closing of this branch. The patrons of this branch have been one of the most active groups in organizing to prevent any branch closure, meeting with local representatives, and meeting with library officials. Nearly the entire public comment portion of Monday's community meeting at Honan-Allston library, where community feedback was supposed to be gathered, was devoted to arguing for Faneuil to remain open. To close this branch is to openly ignore the voice of the people in this transformation process. It, as well as each of the other four libraries, is vital to the neighborhood that it serves."

According to data from the BPL, only six branches had less foot traffic than the Faneuil branch, but it ranked 5th out of the 26 branches for the amount of books and audio/visual materials borrowed. There would still be at least one other branch staying open in the four parts of the city where branches would close. BPL officials say the decision about closings would be based on several criteria, including location, accessibility, and proximity to schools and community centers.

The BPL trustees are scheduled to vote on the recommendations Friday morning. Ryan made her recommendation this morning, at the last in a series of forums held by the BPL. People of Boston Branches has scheduled a discussion about the BPL tonight, 6:30 p.m., at St. Paul's Cathedral, 138 Tremont Street in downtown Boston.