JP, Egleston libraries on official hit list

John Ruch

But would be safe in BPL top option

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The Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branch libraries are on one of the official hit lists for possible closure in a plan the Boston Public Library (BPL) board of trustees will vote on Friday morning.

But BPL President Amy Ryan is officially recommending a different branch closure plan that would save both the Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branches. The other JP-area branch, the Connolly in Hyde Square, is not on any hit list.

At a BPL board of trustees meeting this morning, Ryan presented three options for changing the branch library system: keeping all branches open, but “pairing” 18 of them into essentially nine branches; closing four branches; or closing seven branches.

Ryan officially recommended the four-branch closure option. But the trustees can vote any way they choose on Friday, so the local branches could still be in danger.

The seven-branch closure option includes the Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branches, along with the Faneuil, Lower Mills, Orient Heights, Uphams Corner and Washington Village branches.

The four-closure option includes the Faneuil, Lower Mills, Orient Heights and Washington Village branches.

Ryan briefly explained the rationale for putting the local branches on the hit list. She said the Jamaica Plain Branch has a “dedicated following…However, Jamaica Plain [Branch] is an aging facility in need of repair.”

She also noted that the building is not handicapped-accessible or fit for the installation of new technology. She pointed out that it is adjacent to a major city community center and is close to two other branches—the Connolly and the Egleston Square. “Which would be closed!” several audience members called out about the latter library.

As for the Egleston Square Branch, its use has “diminished,” Ryan said. It is also not handicapped-accessible and is close to other libraries.

“We know that the Egleston neighborhood has a diverse group of community organizations” that the library could partner with to replace or expand lost library services, she said.

Making up for lost services in neighborhoods with closed libraries was a major point of interest for the trustees. It is unclear why there is such concern about mitigations, as the branch closures are supposed to result in an “enhanced” library system.

Ryan has touted branch closures as part of a “transformation” of the BPL into a modern library, and her presentation made clear that the seven-closure option is the best in those terms. It is unclear why she officially recommended the four-closure option instead. She said that option will allow for some expanded programs at surviving libraries.

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