Library plan would have more glass, fewer books

August 15, 2014
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An advanced renovation plan of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library at 12 Sedgwick St., revealed at an Aug. 15 meeting, would add flexible space, but also reduce the book collection.

The proposed addition of a computer bar and reading room would create a new entrance facing South Street and give a “civic presence” to the building, Michael LeBlanc of design firm Utile said at the meeting.

The lounge would be mostly glass as to not obscure the historic building and its trapezoidal shape would maximize sightlines from the streetcorner to Curtis Hall next door. Outdoor and indoor shades and landscaping would minimize heat gain during the summer and maximize it during Winter, LeBlanc added.

The multipurpose room in the basement would see its utilities hidden into the walls. A small outdoor terrace facing Sedgwick Street is also planned.

The major renovation would also create multiple meeting rooms as well as a “maker space” with computers equipped with digital imaging suites and a 3D printer.

“This is by far the best” of the three potential renovation plans presented to the Friends of the JP Branch Library in the last 10 years, Friends co-chair Don Haber said at the meeting. “The flexible space and ability to change will be critical” to the branch’s adaptability in the future, he added.

But Boston Public Library Director of Branch Libraries Christine Schonhart said that the branch’s collections would have to be reduced to accommodate the new amenities, from the roughly 36,000 volumes currently there today to about 30,000 volumes after the renovation. The books being removed from the shelves would be kept in the BPL catalog as part of its floating collection, she said.

The design team will be having its consultation with the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) this month.

Community comments included brainstorming about how to maximize attention to a gallery display area in the basement and ways to increase flexibility in the multipurpose room.

The next community meeting is expected to be scheduled in early October, after the MHC process.

The proposed layout for the addition to the JP Branch Library would maintain sightlines to Curtis Hall from the street corner. (Courtesy Image)

The proposed layout for the addition to the JP Branch Library would maintain sightlines to Curtis Hall from the street corner. (Courtesy Image)