Boston Library Officials Dial Back Service-Cuts Proposal

Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 13:11

With 48 hours to spare before the Boston Public Library board is scheduled to finalize the system’s FY2011 budget for Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s review, BPL President Amy E. Ryan has recommended a modified service cutback.

The change follows a sustained outpouring of public criticism regarding an earlier proposal to close up to 10 branches and dismiss as many as 25% of the staff.

Ryan’s April 7 recommendation calls for the closure of four libraries and the retention of present service hours at BPL’s 22 other facilities. Under this proposal, 25 staff positions would be eliminated. Before Ryan’s presentation, board Chair Jeffrey B. Rudman announced that the city had reversed its decision to cut BPL’s budget by an additional 1%, or $300,000, and would instead fund the library at FY2010 levels. [BUDGET FIGURES CORRECTED AS OF 6 p.m. Eastern time, Apr. 7, 2010]

“Boston Public Library needs to save money, stabilize, and begin to move forward,” Ryan told trustees. “Keeping 22 branches open is the most prudent option. It preserves as many branches as possible, permits us to fill critical vacancies, and allows us to explore partnerships.” Among the other options Ryan presented (PDF file) were the retention of all 27 libraries but with 18 on a reduced schedule, or the closure of seven branches—the latter a less draconian proposal than the original plan, which became such a lightning rod for library supporters.

“The community feedback has been invaluable,” Koren Stembridge, BPL director of partnerships and communications, reported to trustees, characterizing 950 e-mails, letters, phone calls, and faxes, as well as uncounted Facebook posts and tweets as “a treasure trove of information about the services our customers value and the ways in which the library touches lives.” She vowed that the administration would “keep this feedback at the forefront as we move forward to implement the vision for the library’s future.”

Acknowledging his appreciation for Ryan backing a “less severe” option, Citywide Friends President David J. Vieira told American Libraries that Bostonians nevertheless “have made it quite clear that closing branches is not an option the community wants.” However, mayoral spokesperson Dot Joyce said in the April 1 Boston Globe, "This isn't just about the crisis we are in now. This is about creating a library system that is good for the future and provides quality services at the most convenient hours for the residents of our city."