Sunday, March 14, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Jamaica Plain petition seeks to save JP Library

JPNC opposes closures
A petition opposing the possible closure of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library or any other branches is being circulated by Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library in advance of a March 9 meeting that should clarify the fate of the city’s 26 branch libraries.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) is also opposing any local branch library closures, and calling for community input on any plans to cut back library hours.

Boston City Council President Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square, announced last week that he wants a total review of Boston Public Library (BPL) finances before discussing any closures. He called for City Council hearings on the issue.

As the Gazette previously reported, the BPL last week announced that it is considering two options for its 26 neighborhood branch libraries in response to state budget cutbacks: eliminating eight to 10 branches, or severely cutting staff and hours at 18 branches and “pairing” them together for consolidated services.

The BPL proposal did not identify any specific branches as closure or cutback targets. But the JP Branch at 12 Sedgwick St. has a long-stalled expansion and handicapped-accessibility project, and there are fears it could be targeted for closure. Also, JP is served by three branches: JP, Egleston Square and Hyde Square’s Connolly Branch. The JP Branch often has the highest circulation of the branches citywide, despite being one of the smallest.

The Connolly Branch has been renovated in recent years and just had an upgraded audio-visual system installed, according to Friends of the Connolly Branch Library.

The branch-saving petition will be available at the JP Branch until March 5. It describes the JP Branch as a “critical part of our community” and notes its high circulation numbers. It urges officials to increase library funding to prevent any branch closures.

At its Feb. 23 meeting, the JPNC voted to send a letter to the BPL’s board of trustees opposing any closures and demanding a public process about any cutbacks on branch hours. That was after the council heard from local library advocates.

“I believe with my heart and soul that our schools and our libraries are a reflection of who we are,” said longtime JP Branch patron and advocate Sam Sherwood at the JPNC meeting.

In a Feb. 18 post on his web site at, Council President Ross said he met with BPL President Amy Ryan and told her that he “would only consider brown-outs or library closings once the council has seen that every other cost-cutting measure has been taken.”

Local state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey S├ínchez could not immediately clarify BPL’s state budget situation to the Gazette. But, Malia said, she is already hearing fears about possible branch closures, including of the Egleston Square and Dudley branches.

The BPL budget problems have been discussed at BPL trustees meetings held during the day on weekdays. The trustees will follow that pattern with a March 9, 3 p.m. meeting where Ryan is expected to deliver specific proposals for the future of branch libraries.

By John Ruch and David Taber  Jamaica Plain Gazette March 5, 2010

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