Library Friends push for renovations

JP SOUTH—The Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library are not giving up on a long-delayed $8.5 million renovation, despite the Boston Public Library (BPL) trustees voting earlier this month to only request $125,000 for “improvements” to the branch instead.

Friends co-chairs Don Haber and Gretchen Grozier both told the Gazette they will continue lobbying for the full renovation of the Sedgwick Street branch. The renovation plan has been completed since 2006, but is waiting for the City to allocate the money to BPL’s capital budget.

“Don and I both said our full two minutes at the trustees meeting [March 13] that the $125,000 for ‘improvements’ is not a reasonable choice,” Grozier said. “We do not need a Band-Aid approach, we need the full renovation.”

The BPL Trustees voted instead to support a $465,000 system-wide facilities audit.

“We do not feel spending almost half-a-million on a facilities audit is useful, since our 2006 study is quite comprehensive. It is a stalling tactic and a waste of money to boot,” Grozier said. “
We are renewing efforts to get the mayor and City Council to include our full renovation in the capital budget.”

“I will continue to advocate for the full $8 million renovation and restoration of the JP branch, but I want to be mindful of the tough economic climate,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley told the Gazette last week. “I’m grateful we’re seeing some commitment. There hasn’t been any expenditure for the JP Branch in years.”

According to the Friends group, the JP Branch has 10,200 gross square feet of space, almost half of which is in the lower level of the building and not available for programming.

In 2006, an expansion study was completed and a renovation plan proposed. The recommended plan would increase gross square feet by 3,570 and usable public space from near 5,000 square feet to 13,900 square feet. According to the study, “a typical newer branch library in the BPL system is about 20,000 gross square feet.”

That renovation plan would cost $8.5 million. It would create a new entrance facing South Street, add elevators, accessible restrooms and a Young Adult room, and move the children’s room to the lower level. It would also divert major traffic patterns away from reading and technology areas. Currently, the main entrance opens to the children’s room.

The 2006 renovation plan has been shelved since its completion. About 20 BPL capital projects have been approved by the library and are waiting sufficient funds from the city to break ground. The JP Branch renovation is one of these projects.

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