BPL plans for reduced budget

The Boston Public Library (BPL) asked Jamaica Plain residents to rank goals for its “Compass” strategic plan at its roundtable discussion at the Connolly Library on June 6.

The BPL Compass plan is “designed to serve as the roadmap for the future of the library,” said BPL spokesperson Gina Perille. Work and service plans, resource allocation, fund-raising initiatives and other decision-making will stem from the principles outlined in the plan, she added.

The most highly ranked priority at the roundtable meeting was a greater focus on meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility regulations. Don Haber, co-chair of Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library, requested at a previous roundtable meeting that a goal of making all branches fully ADA complaint be added to the list used in these meetings.

According to Haber, BPL Director of Resource Services and Information Technology Michael Colford said that BPL is “running a little behind” in adding community comments to meeting materials. Haber renewed his request for inclusion of the goal.

Haber also said that BPL doesn’t have a comprehensive list of which branches comply with ADA and which do not.

The Friends of the JP Branch Library have been pushing to renovate the 100-year-old building for years, partly to make the branch ADA compliant. A nearly complete renovation plan has been shelved by BPL since 2006, Haber told the Gazette after the meeting.

None of the BPL staffers present mentioned any specific goals for any of JP’s three local branches during the meeting.

Audience members also ranked organized fund-raising highly, partly to avoid future branch closures.

“Until you have a plan, no one’s going to give you money,” Haber said of BPL’s fund-raising efforts after the meeting.

BPL’s plan to close neighborhood branches drew enormous citywide criticism last year. 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 chopping block, but four other Boston branches were set to close. Those closures later were canceled.

BPL’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget notes that no branch closures and no layoffs are planned, Perille said. That is, assuming the state budget does not reduce its expected contribution to BPL.

The budget shows a $1.5 million budget shortfall, however. Proposed measures to deal with this gap include limiting Sunday hours at the Main Library in Copley Square, reducing the collections budget and allowing critical vacancies to remain unfilled—the opposite actions of goals ranked highly at the meeting.

“Nothing will change until there’s a change in City Hall,” said Marleen Nienhuis, of the Friends of the South End Library. Nienhuis believes libraries are not a high priority with Mayor Thomas Menino.

Other highly ranked objectives for the Compass plan include a commitment to safe and welcoming children’s and teens’ spaces, more evening and weekend hours across all branches, focusing on making BPL more ecologically sustainable and preserving local history and accompanying collections.

The final draft of the Compass plan will hopefully be completed by November, in time to be presented to the BPL board of directors for an approval vote, Colford said during the meeting.

The Compass plan was supposed to wrap up last year, but BPL decided to extend the process.

BPL is still accepting public input on its goals—to be included in the final draft—through the end of the summer. Comments can be submitted through the Compass website, bpl.org/compass.

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