Library plans no closures under Walsh

February 14, 2014
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The Boston Public Library (BPL), which proposed highly controversial branch closures under former Mayor Thomas Menino, has no such plans under new Mayor Martin Walsh.

“All of our branches—24 in all, plus the Central Library in Copley Square—are open and will remain so,” BPL spokesperson Gina Perille told the Gazette in an email.

During his campaign, Walsh said he would keep all branches open, and even consider adding more, in a survey submitted to the BPL’s staff union.

In that survey for the BPL Professional Staff Association, Walsh said the 2010 closure controversy made it “clear that Bostonians in all neighborhoods love their libraries, and that for many, the need to get library services close to their home is critical.”

In addition, under the Walsh administration, the BPL leadership is not expected to change.

Amy Ryan remains BPL president, and there have been no other changes in BPL leadership over the last three months, Perille told the Gazette.

Branch closures have been a lingering concern since Ryan and Menino proposed the closure of several branches in 2010. The Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branch libraries were among those initially considered for closure, while a final list targeted four branches elsewhere. After massive public outcry, the BPL eventually shuttered only two branches and built a new East Boston library as well.

At the time, the BPL and Menino pitched the closures as both a reaction to a budget crisis and a necessary step in modernizing the BPL system for the digital era.

“Following a tremendous output of support from the community, the City allocated additional funds to the library to keep all branches open. This was all four years ago. Boston Public Library’s budget has been stable for several years now at about $40 million,” she said.

Asked whether there is any BPL plan to close branches for modernization rather than budget reasons, Perille said, “There is not.”

“With respect to our facilities, the library’s strategic plan, the BPL Compass, devotes an entire principle—the community gathering principle—to the importance of having accessible, sustainable and welcoming facilities that foster reading, thinking, conversing, teaching and learning,” Perille said.

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