JP, Egleston libraries spared from closures

John Ruch

Farther future unclear

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The Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branch libraries will remain open as the Boston Public Library (BPL) board of trustees voted this morning to close four other branch libraries instead.

But those two local branches were on a potential closure list that the trustees voted down. It is unclear whether the BPL might seek to close those branches in the farther future, or whether anything will be done to correct the problems BPL officials cited as reasons for putting them on the hit list.

The trustees also voted down a proposal that would have kept all of the branch libraries open on severely reduced hours.

The other JP-area branch library, the Connolly in Hyde Square, was not on any official hit list and will also remain open.

The vote on the controversial branch library reorganization plan came in a circus-like atmosphere, with hundreds of advocates calling for all branches to be preserved.

One trustee proposed a last-minute amendment that would have reduced the number of branches closed to three—just the latest in the ever-changing possible plans that, many advocates complained, were all poorly explained and apparently crafted behind closed doors. That amendment failed on a tie vote of the six voting trustees.

The trustees voted 5-0—with one abstention—to close the Faneuil, Lower Mills, Orient Heights and Washington Village branches as of Sept. 1. None of those branches is in JP. They also pledged to create some sort of new community programming in those areas via citizen “working groups.”

The closure plan now becomes part of the city budget process, and it appears that strong public activism against closures will continue. Virtually all local elected officials have said they oppose any branch closures and are unconvinced by the BPL’s claims and reasoning.

BPL President Amy Ryan has touted branch closures as part of a “transformation” of the BPL into a modern library, and previously said the four-closure option could result in more services in surviving libraries. But there was little talk of that among the trustees at this morning’s vote, as they focused on budget cuts that are supposedly forcing their hand.

The rejected plan that would have closed the Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branches clearly best fit Ryan’s “transformation” vision. But she officially recommended the less dramatic option of closing only four branches. It is unclear why or whether she will seek to further reorganize the branches in the farther future.

For full coverage of the branch library controversy, see the April 16 issue of the Gazette.

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