The following testimony was delivered at the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees meeting on March 9.
I live one one of the neighborhoods that would be affected by proposed branch closings. Some of these are neighborhoods where children shoot children on a weekly basis. But they are also neighborhoods where other children may be seen on any afternoon doing their homework at their local library branch. Now—citing a budget crisis—bean-counters and futurists have declared these branches to be obsolete.
In the long run, bean-counters and futurists have to have their say. But a library branch should only be closed after extensive scrutiny that acknowledges that keeping children safe and focused is a retail operation for which the rule of spreadsheets alone does not apply.
You and I prove this incontrovertibly in the way we treat our own children.
We may be learning that too much dependence on state funding has prevented the library and its branches from achieving self-sufficiency with partnerships and the imaginative use of many excellent buildings. Closing branches precipitously would prevent that from ever happening. But as a political matter, I suspect you are being pressured to do it quickly, before opposition can be organized.
The assertion that the library is “broke” is not to be accepted. The library has spent large sums on exhibits, executive salaries and even physical improvements to branches now threatened with closure. In the same neighborhood, broadly speaking, the Commonwealth found $200 million to restore the John Adams Court House. If there be a will to find it, there is both public and private money to support children who are not led into temptation and who only crave a safe place to do their homework.
Mr. Rudman [Jeffrey Rudman, chair, BPL board of trustees], I have known you for many years to be a very smart lawyer. Mr. Carroll [James Carroll, BPL trustee, columnist and author], I know you to be a highly educated practitioner of the written word. Mr. La Camera [BPL trustee and general manager of WBUR], I know you to be a public citizen of great rectitude.
I can only say, board, hear our prayer! Thank you.
David A. Mittell Jr.