Branch libraries to be reviewed

December 16, 2011
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The Boston Public Library (BPL) will begin reviewing its entire branch library system—including the Jamaica Plain Branch Library—in 2012 as part of a new “strategic plan” approved last month.

The BPL has proposed controversial branch closings in recent years, with the JP Branch at 12 Segwick St. appearing on one hit list despite being one of the busiest branches. At the same time, the JP Branch has a long-stalled renovation and expansion plan. It is unclear how those lingering issues will factor into the two- to three-year review.

BPL spokesperson Gina Perille said that review will aim to create branches that are “inviting, stimulating, comfortable, clean and safe.” Those are principles in the new strategic plan, called “BPL Compass,” a set of guidelines for the BPL’s future plans.

“The Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library will be part of the system-wide review and assessment,” said Perille.

The Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library, a resident group, is expressing concerns that the century-old building remains in poor shape and inaccessible to people with handicaps. The expansion and renovation plan has stalled for a half-decade after a dispute between Mayor Thomas Menino and a former BPL director.

Gretchen Grozier of the Friends group said that the “old building needs to be modernized and made accessible to best serve our community.”

The Compass guidelines call for “the reduction of physical barriers to accessibility” in libraries. The Friends group urged that the word “reduction” be replaced with “elimination.” But that did not happen.

The Compass guidelines aim to make the entire BPL more modern and financially stable, and to work with other neighborhood institutions on programming. One of the main guidelines is labeled “Fun,” highlighting the BPL’s role in providing arts, entertainment and socializing.

The guidelines can be viewed at bpl.org/compass.

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