I know that this may sound a little selfish, but I am very relieved to see that the Codman Square branch of the BPL isn’t closing. I love my little library, with it’s awkward hours, occasionally rude staff and limited book selection. But it’s still my library, and has been for the past two years, since I moved to Boston.
With that said, that doesn’t mean that I’m not still somewhat dismayed to see that there is still the potential to have to close down several libraries across the city, and cut hours and jobs in the process.
Looking over the options to remedy the BPL’s financial woes, I see a few things that concern me with each possible solution:
Option 1: Close these seven branches: Egleston Square, Faneuil, Jamaica Plain, Lower Mills, Orient Heights, Uphams Corner, and Washington Village. The remaining 19 branches would expand hours.
Concerns: The first thing that stood out to me was Orient Heights. I didn’t even know where that was until I looked at it on a map. It’s in East Boston, in an area where there is only one other library, and it’s a good distance away. Why does it make sense to close the only library in an area, and force that community to have to travel pretty far to get library services? I look at Dorchester, where there’s practically a library every few blocks in some areas. I’m not too upset with the idea of closing the Lower Mills library, because Codman Square, a bigger space with more traffic, is not that far away. Ever Egleston Square and Jamaica Plain aren’t that far from other libraries that could service their patrons. But to close libraries in areas where there are no other options for the community is just plain senseless!
Option 2: Close these four branches: Faneuil, Lower Mills, Orient Heights, and Washington Village. The remaining 22 branches would keep the same hours.
Concerns: Still with closing Orient Heights. Eeesh! This plan doesn’t seem as horrible to me, except that we’re screwing over our folks in East Boston.
Option 3: Keep all 27 locations open but dramatically slash hours across the board, leaving 18 branches open two or three days a week. The nine largest libraries would keep the same hours.
Concerns: Really, this idea isn’t horrible. I mean, the Copley library has pretty decent hours. But Codman Square. Oh gosh! Their hours are SO random, I still can’t make heads or tails of it. And then there are those times when they close minutes before they are supposed to ::side eye::. Either way, I would deal with more sporadic hours if necessary, if it would mean keeping all of the libraries open. The next step, I think, would be to look at the locations with low attendance numbers and see what can be done to drum up more activity and interest.
According to the Globe, “Twenty-three to 25 jobs would be cut at the branches under any scenario. Other proposed cuts would eliminate 35 to 38 jobs at the central library in Copley Square and another 28 to 31 jobs in administrative offices.” I don’t know how I feel about that. Seriously, a few Saturdays ago, I went to the Copley library to check out a book and there was only ONE lady staffed to check books out. One. On a Saturday. At the freaking COPLEY downtown, tourist attraction library. Really?! The line was so long. And the tourists keep getting in our way to take photos of the staircase. I mean, it was a mess. I don’t know about other branches, but I know that we need our librarians. Most kids don’t even know how to use the Dewey Decimal System (do they even still use that? ::teardrop::) to find books and need help. Cutting jobs rarely helps and could lead to over-worked staff and patrons running amuck and abusing the library system, which would be horrible.
I remember when they closed my neighborhood library when I was a tot in Baltimore, forcing my mom to drive me all the way to the county to get books. While the library in the county was nicer, bigger and had more books, it wasn’t anywhere near as convenient, meaning that I couldn’t go as often and had to deal with more of a crowd when I got there. I think about that when I consider the kids over at Orient Heights, or Charlestown, or Roslindale, and what their families are going to do if their libraries close and they still need resources.
Yes, the Internet is dandy, but there’s nothing like holding a heavy, used book, smelling of wood polish, smoke and paper, and running your finger across words that have been written and read by people far removed. Support our libraries!