BPL: No money for JP Branch plan

February 3, 2012
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The Jamaica Plain Branch Library’s long-sought renovation is still on ice due to lack of funds, Boston Public Library (BPL) officials said last week, despite their enthusiasm for the project.

BPL Chief Financial Officer Sean Nelson explained during a meeting discussing the BPL’s financial status at the JP library that the library’s capital budget is set and dispensed by the city, not the BPL board of directors, and that the city’s funding is very limited.

“The city has to do its share,” JP resident Sam Sherwood said at the meeting. “We need you folks [BPL officials] to advocate for this branch.”

“It’s not just about this branch. It’s about our entire system that’s falling apart,” Nelson said.

“This branch does more with less,” Sherwood said, referring to the branch’s high usage despite limited resources. “This branch deserves better than it gets.”

BPL officials present at the meeting, including Nelson, asked those in attendance to contact their city councilor and the Mayor’s Office and ask for increases in the capital budget.

BPL’s capital budget covers major construction projects while its operating budget covers expenditures related to actually running BPL, like payroll and material acquisition. BPL capital budget funds are submitted by the mayor and approved by the city council.

About 20 BPL capital projects have been approved by the library and are waiting sufficient funds to break ground. The JP Branch renovation is one of these projects.

The Friends of the JP Branch Library, located at 12 Sedgwick St., 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.

The meeting also covered in-depth explanations of the library’s current operating budget, including sources of income.

The presentation showed how BPL’s operating budget has yo-yoed due to the economy and state and city budgets in the last 10 years.

“We’re stable. We’re on the road to recovery, provided the bottom doesn’t fall out,” Nelson said.

As part of the new Compass strategic plan, BPL is hosting roundtable discussions on its recently-adopted guiding principles.

Transparency and engagement with BPL’s stakeholders are key parts of one of these principles.

These meetings will continue all over the system, covering a different guiding principle each month. The meeting schedule is available at bpl.org/compass. BPL budgets are available for online viewing at bpl.org/budgets.