Budget constraints force BPL to cut services, hours

Budget constraints force BPL to cut services, hours

By Emily Cassel, News Correspondent

Some Bostonians are protesting the news that the Boston Public Library (BPL) may be consolidating, or closing, up to 10 of its 26 branches, following two years of funding cuts by Massachusetts and the City of Boston.

The nearby Jamaica Plain branch is one that may be at risk of closing, according to a Feb. 19 article in the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

The BPL is also considering reducing hours in up to 18 of its branches as an alternative to closing or consolidating branches.

At the BPL Board of Trustees meeting held Feb. 17, library president Amy E. Ryan presented budget reductions for the central library in Copley Square, for system wide operations and support and for the neighborhood branches. At a second meeting held March 9, she presented preliminary measures to define and evaluate the library’s success.

According to BPL communications manager Gina Perille, the qualitative measures of success of the library fall into four general categories: public use, operational, geographical and other important considerations and are important because “there is a story behind every library and behind every numcategoriesber.”

She added that the library received a good deal of feedback from the community during the March 9 meeting, and said administrators at the library would be “rigorous” as they moved forward.

“Many of the measures described by President Ryan are generally accepted metrics in library science and would be used for both budget options discussed in February – the hours reduction and the consolidation or closing option,” Perille said.

While some library and community members have suggested fundraising measures including charging a fee for library cards or selling some of the artifacts owned by the BPL, Perille said she believes such actions are unlikely.

“The words ‘Free to All’ are carved in stone on the Central Library in Copley Square, and it is an essential part of our mission to be so,” she said.

Despite the potential closings, Carolyn Meers, a middler English major, said she was confident that the BPL still has the best interests of Bostonians in mind.

“I’m sure they’re doing it for economic reasons,” Meers said. “I’m sure they want to keep those branches open, but it’s probably a necessary decision.”

Rachel Marquez, a freshman journalism major, said she was less understanding.

“I think it’s really terrible,” Marquez said of the impending cuts. “Boston is a series of neighborhoods, and if you close down the libraries in some of those neighborhoods it makes it difficult for students in elementary or middle school who can’t make it to Copley Square.”

Molly Paul, a freshman sociology major, said if the cuts were unavoidable she would rather the BPL shorten hours than close branches.

“I think making their hours shorter is a better idea, or better yet, opening them after school so students can still go, instead of opening them at 8 a.m.”

No decisions have yet been reached regarding the budget options proposed earlier this year, but Perille said the upcoming choices would ultimately improve the BPL and help them reach every Bostonian.

“The true goals of all these discussions are to save money, to stabilize the BPL and to transform it into a system that can truly deliver 21st century library services,” she said. “Back-to-back years of budget reductions certainly add urgency this discussion, but it is also important to note that the BPL is working toward future success.”

Those with suggestions or feedback for the BPL can submit their comments to [email protected]

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