No library closures this year

John Ruch

Long-term planning continues

A year after calling for the closure of several branch libraries—including two in the Jamaica Plain area—the Boston Public Library (BPL) is keeping all of the branches open in the Fiscal 2012 budget.

“I am pleased to confirm there are no library closures in this year’s budget,” said City Councilor Felix Arroyo, a JP resident who opposed the cuts last year.

But the long-term future is less clear. The budget includes better technology—including self-check-out equipment—for the branches, but larger fix-ups for the JP libraries are yet to be scheduled. Meanwhile, the BPL is running a strategic planning process, and Mayor Thomas Menino earlier this year told the Boston Globe that some branches eventually must close. The BPL did not respond to Gazette questions.

For now, local library advocates, who warned that JP’s branches could be on a hit list again this year, are praising the BPL’s more deliberate planning.

Brandon Abbs, a JP resident who founded People of Boston Branches during last year’s controversy, said the BPL “seems to be listening more” and now understands that the library system “needs to be financially self-sustaining.”

“We are delighted that both the library and now the mayor have backed off of the plan to close branch libraries, but work remains on making sure that expansion and improvement is to come,” he said.

Longstanding plans to expand and renovate the Jamaica Plain Branch at 12 Sedgwick St., and to improve the grounds and parking at the Egleston Square Branch at 2044 Columbus Ave., remain in the 2012 capital budget, but are not scheduled. The other local branch is the Connolly at 433 Centre St.

The BPL’s strategic planning process, known as “Compass,” was supposed to wrap up last year after the closure decisions were already made. The BPL decided to extend the process and is holding community meetings about it, though none have been announced in JP.

The BPL’s closure plan last year drew enormous citywide controversy. Shifting reasons were given for the closure plan, ranging from a financial emergency to a new vision of fewer, better libraries. Amid protests, the JP-area branches were taken off the hit list, but four other Boston branches were set to close. Those closures later were canceled.

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