Spacer graphic Boston Public Library
Board of Trustees

March 24, 2010

Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston
Meeting of the Corporation and Administrative Agency
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 3:00 p.m.
Rabb Lecture Hall, Concourse Level, JohnsonBuilding
700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA



1. Chairman’s Report,

Mr. Jeffrey B. Rudman

  • Review and Approval of Minutes for the Trustees Meeting held on March 9, 2010


2. Report on Legislative Initiatives

Trustee Paul A. La Camera


3. President’s Report,

Ms. Amy E. Ryan

  • Review of draft Vision for the Boston Public Library
  • Presentation and discussion on preliminary FY11 Boston Public Library Operating Budget
  • Review of Timeline
  • Review of draft BPL Measures and Definitions and discussion on additional information
  • Report on Public Participation
Ms. Koren Stembridge, Director, Partnerships and Communications


4. Public Comment

Mr. Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chairman


5. New Business

Mr. Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chairman


6. Adjournment

Mr. Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chairman


Upcoming Trustees Meetings:

  • Special Trustees Meeting, April 7, 2010, 8:30 a.m., Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square
  • Special Trustees Meeting, April 9, 2010, 8:30 a.m., Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square
  • Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 8:30 a.m., Annual Meeting, Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square
  • Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 8:30 a.m., Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square
  • Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 3:00 p.m., Roslindale Branch Library
  • Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 3:00 p.m., South End Branch

Upcoming Community Meetings + Online Chat:

  • March 27, 2010, 10 – 11:30 a.m., Harbor Community Center, 312 Border Street, East Boston
  • April 3, 2010, 2 – 3:30 p.m., Codman Square Branch, 690 Washington Street, Dorchester
  • April 5, 2010, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Honan-Allston Branch, 300 North Harvard Street, Allston
  • April 6, 2010, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Curley Middle School, 493 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
  • April 7, 2010, 6 – 7:30 p.m.,, Online Moderated Chat


Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston

Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chairman; Evelyn Arana-Ortiz; Zamawa Arenas; James Carroll;

Donna M. DePrisco; Berthé M. Gaines; Paul A. La Camera


Amy E. Ryan

Clerk of the Board

Jamie McGlone

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Minutes of Trustees Meeting Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Corporation and Administrative Agency Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square

A Meeting of the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston as a Corporation and as an Administrative Agency was held at the Boston Public Library, Rabb Lecture Hall, Copley Square Library, on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 3:00 p.m.

Present at the meeting were: Trustees Evelyn Arana-Ortiz, Zamawa Arenas, James Carroll, Donna M. DePrisco, Berth é M. Gaines via telephone, Paul A. La Camera, and Jeffrey B. Rudman.

Also present at the meeting were: President Amy E. Ryan; Alice Hennessey, Special Assistant to Mayor Thomas M. Menino; Meredith Weenick, Associate Director, Administration & Finance, City of Boston; Maribeth Cusick, Esq., and Elizabeth Dello Russo, Esq., City of Boston Law Department; Jean Capizzi, Operating Analyst, Office of Budget Management; Andrew Ryan, Reporter, The Boston Globe; Jan Spitz, Executive Director, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library; David J. Vieira, President, City Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library; Mimi Jones, Friends of Dudley Branch; Don Haber, President, Friends of Jamaica Plain Branch; Marleen Nienhuis, President, Friends of South End Branch; Mary Ann Nelson, Friends of Parker Hill Branch Library; Brian Clancy, President, and Daria McLean, Director of Development, Boston Public Library Foundation; Deborah Kirrane, WilmerHale LLP; Koren Stembridge, Director, Partnerships and Communications; Mary Flaherty, Human Resources Manager; Sean Nelson, Chief Financial Officer; Michael Colford, Director, Resource Services/Information Technology; David Leonard, Chief Technology Officer; Christine Schonhart, Neighborhood Services Manager; Gina Perille, Communications Manager; Jim Meade, Manager of Library Buildings; Diana Preusser, Assistant Neighborhood Services Manager, Cluster 1; Sarah Markell, Assistant Neighborhood Services Manager, Cluster 2; Elissa Cadillic, President, AFSCME, Local 1526, Council 93; Anna Fahey-Flynn, President, PSA/CWA, Local 1333; members of the public, and Jamie McGlone, Clerk of the Board.

Chairman Jeffrey B. Rudman presided.

Chairman Jeffrey B. Rudman welcomed the Friends of the Branch Libraries, Stakeholders, Affiliates, Media, and Colleagues of the Public Library of the City of Boston to the Boston Public Library to continue the discussion on the future of the Boston Public Library and proceed with the budget planning process for FY2011 and thanked the community for their letters of support for the Boston Public Library.

Chairman Rudman announced with deep sadness the passing of Trustee A. Raymond Tye on March 9, 2010. Mr. Tye was affectionately known as one of the most kindly, generous and philanthropic citizens the City of Boston has ever witnessed.

The Chairman outlined the procedures for the meeting noting that everyone who wishes to talk would be given the opportunity during the public comment session and observed that the wonderful turnout of library friends reflects the love and passion people bring to their libraries to celebrate and speak up for them which is a tribute to the Boston Public Library.

The Chairman addressed the review and approval of the Minutes for the Trustees Meeting held on March 9, 2010. Following discussion, on a motion duly made and seconded, the Minutes for the Trustees Meeting held on March 9, 2010 were approved and posted on the BPL Website.

Trustee Paul A. La Camera reported on the ongoing legislative initiatives and governmental advocacy strategies on behalf of the Boston Public Library to make the best possible case to seek State funding in light of the dire economic times facing all public institutions.

To that end, Trustee La Camera reported that he and President Ryan recently met with Representative Mark Falzone, Chair, Massachusetts Library Caucus and the Boston House of Representatives delegation to build upon the meetings earlier held with the Massachusetts House Leadership.

Meanwhile, strategies for building economic support for the Boston Public Library in light of the economic difficulties pertain to the primary source of State Aid funding to the City of Boston that has been cut the last two years and it is anticipated another cut this year between 3 to 5 percent.

In the context of local aid, there are two individual line items that the BPL relies on from the State budget that include State Aid for Regional Libraries and the Library of Last Recourse/State Aid for Public Libraries both of which have been dramatically cut in the past and a concerted mobilizing effort around the Boston State delegation and Friends of Libraries across the State is ongoing to support the restoration of State funding earmarked for public libraries.

Trustee La Camera underscored the recognition of the reality that while we cannot recreate the past with respect to significant State funding realized by the BPL over the last decade the library continues pursuit of mitigating significant projected State revenue reductions facing the BPL for FY11 in light of a very difficult economic environment.

President Amy E. Ryan, in her report to the Trustees, welcomed the Trustees, Friends, staff and all who know and appreciate the importance of libraries in their lives to the Boston Public Library noting that her remarks today would highlight her vision for the future of the BPL as follows:

Thinking Ahead, Moving Ahead
Draft Boston Public Library Discussion Document II, March 2010

The Big Picture

Vision: The Boston Public Library will touch every Bostonian

  • Now is the time to re-imagine the Boston Public Library—still the library people love and have loved from childhood and one that delivers truly 21 st century services forourselves, our children, and their children.
  • Services will be comprehensive: in buildings, online, and in the community.
  • Traditional library services—people, books, and programs—will blend easily with the latest in information technology.

Libraries are more important and useful today than ever before

  • Libraries help people make sense of the world.
  • Toddlers and parents going to story hour, adults seeking job information, teens working on homework—people from all walks of life and of all ages depend on the BPL.

Demand is rising at the same time that funds are shrinking

  • People are using the BPL in record-breaking numbers in terms of books borrowed, visits to the website, new card sign-ups, and downloads of books and music from the website.
  • At the same time, funding has sharply decreased.
  • This year’s funding is projected to be $9 million less than just two years ago.

Status quo is not working

  • The BPL is hard pressed to provide even core services, such as children’s programs, reader assistance, and help with technology due to staff shortages.
  • The book budget has been reduced as demand for books, DVDs, and CDs is on the rise.
  • Aging computers and insufficient tech support mean a lower level of service in the face of growing popularity.

The BPL must save money, stabilize, and begin a transformation

  • The BPL is currently engaged in the fiscal year 2011 budget process.
  • There is a sense of urgency because of the financial challenges.
  • Budget reductions will take a serious human toll. This is the second year in a row that reduced funding has necessitated layoffs.
  • The BPL must become financially sustainable and provide a stable workplace.
  • With the realignment of resources, the BPL can deliver on its vision.

Serving Bostonians in Buildings, Online, and in the Community

In Buildings: Copley and the Branches

Every BPL location will offer books, media, programs, and technology that respond to the public, with the right number of staff to help people of all ages and from all walks of life. The Copley Square Central Library will continue to be the guardian of our cultural treasures and an intellectual cornerstone, serving researchers and lifelong learners.

  • Expanded Collections: Provide a greater selection of books, DVDs, and CDs.
  • More Hours: Expand hours across the system to include more evenings, and Saturdays.
  • Improved Staffing: Increase staffing at peak times like after school hours. Create a pool of program experts linked to services rather than locations for specialized programming like early literacy, computer skills, and book discussions.
  • More Computers & Training: Increase the number of computers so people don’t have to wait in line and provide training for the public—from computer basics to specialized sessions.

Online Access: From Libraries, Home, Work, and on the Go

BPL’s online services will offer a truly 21 st century gateway to information and help close the digital divide, with an evolving, user-friendly website providing access to the world of information.

  • Redesigned website: Develop the BPL website to be an interactive, lively online community with book discussions, homework help, public discourse forums, and user-contributed content.
  • Enhanced Access: Provide a higher level of electronic access to books, databases, and the BPL’s unique research collections for researchers and the general public.
  • Cultural Treasures: Increase access to the BPL’s cultural treasures exponentially through digitization.
  • Evolving Information Environment: Meet the needs of a new generation in a virtual community via cell phone or handheld device.

In the Community: Services Beyond the Walls
The greatest potential for transformation will be in the community, meeting people where they are. BPL will redefine the boundaries of library service, reaching out to people who may not be traditional library users or may need special help.

  • Broader Outreach: Collaborate with neighborhood groups and community leaders toenhance services outside library walls, bringing books and programs to early literacy centers, senior centers, schools, and other resources.
  • Stronger Partnerships: Enrich library services through public and private partnerships, leveraging tax dollars to expand the BPL’s impact.
  • Innovative Services: Be a leader in developing new services in response to Boston’s changing population.
  • Increased Visibility: Promote BPL resources and services to a broader audience.

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Process

The Financial Picture

Today’s financial challenges are the result of back-to-back years of sharply reduced revenues. This year’s budget must position the BPL for long-term financial stability and sustainability.

  • This year’s funding is projected to be $9 million less than just two years ago.
  • Overall funding for Fiscal Year 2009 was $48M, funding for this year is $41M, and overall funding for Fiscal Year 2011 (July 2010-June 2011) is anticipated to be $39M.
  • Overall FY2010 and FY2011 state funding is estimated to decrease by 73%.
  • Projected FY11 shortfall is approximately $3.6M, including deferred collective bargaining costs, personnel increases, standard operating costs, technology requirements, and critical needs.

Public Engagement

This discussion is part of multi-year conversation with the people of Boston, starting with the Neighborhood Services Initiative in 2006, continuing to the current budget discussion and development of the BPL Compass principles, which will inform a strategic plan. All comments are reviewed and considered.

  • Online Comments. The BPL has received more than 650 comments to our email address and webpage since mid-February. New comments arrive on a daily basis and are reviewed.
  • Compass Ideas: The BPL has also receivedover 600 comments from Compass community conversations and a blog from December 2009 -February 2010. All comments were reviewed.
  • Board of Trustees Meetings: The Trustees have heard public comments on the budget at meetings in January, February, and March and will continue to hear public comments. All meetings are open to the public.
  • Community Meetings. The BPL has 4 additional community meetings in the neighborhoods and one online meeting planned in March and April.

Next Steps

The BPL is currently engaged in the fiscal year 2011 budget process. The budget will take effect July 1, 2010 . There is a sense of urgency because of the financial challenges.

  • The BPL is currently engaging the community around the vision that drives the budget through a series of community and online meetings, and public feedback.
  • Among the options being considered to balance the budget are changing the way we conduct business and consolidating service points at Copley and the Branches, including the possibility of closing some buildings, along with a reduction in hours.
  • The Library Board of Trustees will continue to analyze the BPL’s services in light of budget reductions as the decision-making process advances.
  • The BPL will continue to inform the public. For the latest information, see the Library’s website:

About the BPL

The Boston Public Library: Free to All

  • The BPL is considered to be one of the greatest libraries in the world, with a collection of 22 million books, manuscripts, maps, paintings, and other holdings.
  • The BPL was established in 1848 as the first municipally funded public library in the United States . Carved in granite over the flagship Copley Square Central Library is “Free to All,” the service imperative since its founding.
  • System is comprised of the Copley Square Central Library and 26 branches.

Recent BPL Highlights

  • The Copley Square Library’s Cool + Collected exhibit has brought library treasures out of hiding, ranging from Houdini’s scrapbook to Phyllis Wheatley’s manuscript.
  • The Haitian Support Center at Mattapan branch in the wake of Haiti’s January earthquake responded immediately to the needs of Boston’s Haitian community.
  • A recently-awarded $500,000 preservation grant will fund the preservation and digitization of BPL’s anti-slavery collection.
  • The BPL’s reading readiness program is being redesigned to provide enhanced birth-to-five literacy services, including outreach to Latino families.
  • A $500,000 federal stimulus grant will fund a mobile computer classroom with laptops.
  • Ongoing energy efficiencies are estimated to save $300,000 systemwide in 2010.

Rising Demand

  • Since 2006, there has been a 31% increase in books, CDs, and DVDs borrowed.
  • From July to December 2009, the website received more than 3.8 million visits.
  • There has been a 9% increase in teens using their library cards as compared to same time period last year.
  • The use of downloadable media continues to climb. If there were an official “digital branch” of the BPL, it would be the branch with the sixth highest circulation, system-wide.
  • Last year, the BPL crossed three thresholds: more than 5 million hits to its website, more than 300,000 Boston residents using library cards, and more than 40,000 Boston residents newly registering for library cards.

Trustee James Carroll commended President Ryan’s compelling vision for the Boston Public Library in light of her understanding of the larger level at stake for the future of the BPL. Trustee Carroll observed the context within which the vision was developed and that the Board should be under no illusion about whether the decision facing the Board is to change the library or not to change it. The fact is that change is happening and the Board’s decision reflects whether the Trustees will be responsible for the changes that take place or be at the mercy of them.

Trustee Carroll reiterated the library will continue to change in ways that the Board would all regret if they did nothing in light of the compelling argument that the status quo is not working for the BPL which is not acceptable particularly with the library lagging in information technology.

Trustee Carroll also observed the positive affirmation in President Ryan’s vision that every building the library is responsible for needs to be welcoming, well designed, and a physical space people want to be in to receive library services at a world class level. The vision also includes the realignment of the delivery of basic services and affirms the core services that include books, story times, programs, computers, research services, and the preservation of cultural treasures in concert with the greatest potential for the library’s transformation in the community and services beyond walls and not bound to buildings or geography.

Trustee Carroll acknowledged and embraced President Ryan’s powerful vision for the Boston Public Library that suggests the structure of change the Board wants to be responsible for making and develop these Principles for Excellence into a transformed 21 st century library.

Trustee Carroll reiterated this is an obligation the Trustees owe to the employees of the BPL to building a financially sustainable and stable workplace and to the citizens of Boston to deliver a stronger and better public library through a re-imaged and transformed library, including the consolidation of services points at Copley and in the branches, and possibly closing some buildings and reviewing the hours of service as part of the discussion.

Trustee Zamawa Arenas acknowledged the incredible hard work and consideration that President Ryan and her leadership team has dedicated to the process and concurred that change is inevitable and the one constant we face today. Trustee Arenas observed that President Ryan’s vision reflects a proactive approach toward change which provides the chance to turn the challenge into an opportunity for long term success.

Trustee Arenas underscored the proposed realignment of services enables the library to be effective in meeting the needs of the community which she supports while acknowledging it is a multidimensional challenge that requires a multidimensional perspective. Trustee Arenas expressed appreciation to the public for coming to the meeting and reiterated the Board is listening to their ideas and acknowledged their commitment to the Boston Public Library.

Trustee Evelyn Arena-Ortiz acknowledged the need of moving the institution forward and researched the analogy raised at the last Trustees Meeting regarding the Great Depression in the 1930s in which no public libraries were closed. As is the case of today’s economic downturn, libraries experienced a 20% increase in circulation during the second year of the depression and peaked at 42% similar to current library trends. Also, it was during this time the BPL saw the most transformation and reform that reflects a case of history repeating itself that requires keeping a wide open mind into the vision for the BPL.

To that end, Trustee Arena-Ortiz noted that many public schools do not have libraries and enhanced partnerships with the schools, in concert with enhanced technological advancements, would be keys to keeping the continuum of services to the children of Boston and reaching new customers. Trustee Arena-Ortiz expressed appreciation for and support of President Ryan’s vision which is very much in line for a 21 st century library that will transform it into a relevant and best practice library.

President Ryan presented a PowerPoint presentation on planning for FY11 which was a continuation of the budget discussions since the Trustees Meeting held on January 19, 2010 as linked at The President noted the timeframe for the budget reporting that by March 31, 2010 the BPL has to submit a credible budget document to the City of Boston in preparation for submitting the final proposed FY11 Operating Budget to the City by April 10, 2010.

The President noted that today’s discussion would reflect FY11 proposed reductions pertaining to Administrative and System-wide Support and the Copley Square Central Library and discussion on the Branch Libraries would follow at a later date.

President Ryan underscored these are very difficult choices in order to meet budget choices that will come from both non-personnel and personnel reductions requiring the difficult task of laying off staff that takes a personal and professional toll on all employees and their families at the BPL. The President noted the AFSCME and PSA agreements to a wage deferral along with all employees has resulted in fewer positions being eliminated coupled with holding back on filling some vacant positions to minimize the number of people being laid off.

The President reported the library is positioning the FY11 Operating Budget for future civility and sustainability toward transforming our services into a 21 st century library following cumulative back-to-back years of budget reductions. The challenge facing the library now is to save money, get back to a baseline of core services, and to improve the delivery of library services. To that end, the President reported spending reductions will take place across the board including: Administrative and System-wide Support; Copley Square, Central Library; and Branch Libraries.

On the Administrative and System-wide Support front, the President noted that FY11 proposed reductions to administrative and system-wide support activities were evaluated first to minimize impact on front line public service delivery including: reducing/eliminating contracts; reducing staff development and training; continuing to streamline the ordering, cataloging and processing of books, CDs and DVDs; reducing public programming expenditures and facilities maintenance; continue implementation of energy conservation measures to reduce utility costs system-wide under the leadership of Mr. Jim Meade; and consolidating administrative and system-wide support activities in all library divisions and other cost-saving measures resulting in a position reduction of up to 31 positions.

On the Copley Square, Central Library front, the President reported on FY11 proposed reductions to include: reducing the total number of service points from 20 to 14; consolidating service points for streamlined access to services and materials; unifying complementary subject departments and establishing “collections of distinction” to guide future materials budget allocations under the leadership of Ms. Mary Frances O’Brien; reviewing location and staffing model of the computer center to enhance customer service; relocate and/or reassign staff from the Central Library to staff the City of Boston Archives Center; and close 5 Sundays before Monday holidays and the Sundays following Christmas Day and New Year’s Day resulting in a position reduction of up to 38 positions.

The Board engaged in an extensive discussion on the proposed reductions to take in Administrative and System-wide Support and at Copley Square, Central Library and the impact on the potential position reduction and lay-off of up to 69 positions in light of the pain and impact on individual careers and their families prior to the discussion on proposed reductions to the Branch Libraries that would take place at the next Trustees Meeting.

The Board and President discussed how these reductions would affect customer service particularly with hours of service and redefining how people use the Copley Square Library due to the consolidation of service points. The President underscored that the library is conscientiously scrutinizing and pursuing every avenue to make non-personnel cost savings a priority over personnel savings to minimize the number of staff reductions.

Following extensive discussion, the Board agreed to delay voting authorization to proceed with the two proposed reductions to Administrative and System-wide Support and at Copley Square, Central Library and the potential position reduction and lay-off of up to 69 positions, until the next Trustees Meeting slated for April 7, 2010 pending additional data and information on the impact of the reductions for the transformation of library services.

On the Branch Libraries front, President Ryan recalled two major Branch Options were presented at the Trustees Meeting on February 17, 2010 outlined in the “Budget Planning for FY11: A Discussion Document reflecting reducing hours and transforming services including the proposed closure of up to 10 branches.

The President reviewed the FY11 proposal for Branch Option 1 regarding the reduction of hours in which 8 large “Lead Libraries” would remain open at current levels and reduce hours at the remaining branch by 50-85 % resulting in position reductions of up to 35 positions. The President reported that the “Lead Libraries” that would remain open include: Copley, Brighton, Codman Square, Dudley, Grove Hall, Honan-Allston, Hyde Park, Mattapan, and West Roxbury.

The FY11 proposal for Branch Option 2 regarding the transformation of services and filling out the vision would include closing up to 10 branches, strengthening the remaining branches, enhancement of online services, broader outreach into communities yielding in position reductions of up to 35 positions.

The Board discussed the two FY11 proposed Branch Options and asked that the enhancement of services under Option 2 be further defined and elaborated on with respect to the transformation of services coupled with financial information on anticipated costs for closing branches including costs of moving collections. It was noted that for most of the branches the buildings would be surplussed as municipal properties and the proceeds from those buildings become part of the City of Boston’s capital budget that is shared among all city departments.

The Board discussed the desirability for additional data on the impact on the neighborhoods affected by branch closures and greater specificity on the trade-offs and financial model cost savings of both Branch Options vis-à-vis different scenarios with regard to the transformation of services and what the BPL would look like should the Board decide to vote to close 8, 5, 3, and 0 branches based on metrics earlier defined coupled with what services would be replaced in the community.

The Board embraced the need for beginning the transformation of services with attention paid to the painful human issues and initiatives defined that would give the Board the most energy forward as a 21 st century library with a view to building the Boston Public Library for 2015 in consultation with the staff and the community. Meanwhile, the library has been diligently reviewing financial options and financial modeling to help mitigate the effects of closures should any facilities be earmarked for closure and additional data and analysis would be presented at the next meeting.

President Ryan reviewed the proposed revised March 22, 2010 quantitative draft BPL Measures and Other Definitions which include Public Use, Operational, Geographical, Other Considerations, Definition of “Lead Libraries” and “Digital Branch” posted at Trustee Zamawa Arenas asked that proximity to schools and community centers also be included in the measures.

The President noted that physical assessments of the facilities would also be considered as part of the other considerations coupled with additional information reflecting qualitative measures. These would include partnerships and community assets, public feedback, number of programs and attendance, and potential capital projects that reflect the stories behind the numbers, including AFSCME’s recommendation that BPL leadership meet with staff members to hear their stories.

The Board approved and commended President Ryan on the comprehensive list of BPL Measures and also asked that consideration also be given to the types of programs offered in the community and services that are extended beyond the library building including partnerships that provide access to technology, online and the internet, and the definition of “Lead Library” include a team whose responsibility is outreach of services out of the building.

Additionally, the Board would find it valuable to known what other resources the neighborhood depends on including, community centers, churches and public institutions as important factors in closing a branch library. Meanwhile, the library will post the BPL Measures on March 26, 2010 on the BPL’s website and the performance measures data will be posted by individual library on March 31, 2010 at

Ms. Koren Stembridge, Director, Partnerships & Communications updated the Board on the ongoing public participation that has been taking place between the Boston Public Library and the many communities we serve.

Ms. Stembridge noted that in many ways, this conversation started in 2006 with the Neighborhood Services Initiative which defines goals, objectives, and needs of our branch system and continues through our present-day exploration of the Boston Public Library Compass: Principles for Excellence to help guide the library in future planning.

Over the fall and winter months, conversations about these principles took place with staff and community members. As a result, more than 600 comments were collected from six meetings and postings to staff and public blogs. BPL staff members also held smaller roundtables with many Friends of the Library groups, as well as with our foundation, associates, and map center colleagues. More recently, the conversation has shifted to be about the coming fiscal year budget and coping with a second consecutive year of significant reductions.

At the February and March Trustee meetings, you heard the passionate words of more than 50 of our customers – but beyond these public comments there have been other opportunities for our users and supporters to provide feedback.

  • To date, we have received more tan 650 messages via the budget feedback page of our website, through the mail, by fax, and by phone.
    • Those messages fall into one or more of the following categories
      • Messages of support for individual branches
      • Messages of support for keeping all branches open
      • Suggestions for raising revenue
      • Suggestions for increased use of volunteers
      • Results for additional information (such as upcoming meeting dates)
      • Inquiries about where to direct advocacy efforts
  • We are in receipt of petitions from several branches, totaling more than 1,200 signatures, and we know that there are more petition drives underway.
  • In addition, we continue to monitor comments posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other online sources – and we have used our BPL eNewsletter, which reaches 100,000 cardholders, to get the word out.

In response to these questions and messages we have taken the following actions:

  • We have created a “budget” page on the library’s website which we update frequently, posting budget documents, meeting times, and other information as it becomes available
  • We have added elements (such as proximity to public transportation) to our list of BPL measures
  • We have chosen evening and weekend times for our community conversations to ensure that the greatest number of people have an opportunity to attend and participate
  • We have arranged for Spanish language translation at the upcoming East Boston and Jamaica Plain community meetings
  • And as we move beyond this immediate budget conversation, we will be following up with individuals who have made specific offers of fundraising support, programming ideas, and volunteer time

Ms. Stembridge noted that in addition to library-sponsored meetings and feedback opportunities, there have been meetings and rallies planned by neighborhood Friends of the Library groups, as well as by other library advocates. President Ryan and her administrative team are attending as many of these as schedules permit. We also receive regular information from branch staff about activities and meetings in their communities.

The Boston Public Library is a customer-driven institution and we are fortunate to see and speak with our users every day. We will continue to gather their feedback and ideas over the coming days. To that end, we will be holding five community conversations around the city and online.

We will be asking our customers about the library services they utilize and value as well as the ones they would like to see improved or expanded in the coming years. These comments will help inform our ongoing budget and planning efforts. Dates and times of these meetings were posted on the screen, on our website at, and there is a flyer that members of the public can pick up on their way out.

Finally, to everyone who has sent an email, written a letter, or attended a meeting, Ms. Stembridge thanked all on behalf of the Board of Trustees and President Amy Ryan and also thanked the front-line staff members whose efforts and talents were graciously acknowledged in your messages encouraging them to please keep the feedback coming!

Trustee James Carroll expressed gratitude to Ms. Stembridge and all BPL staff for facilitating the public participation initiatives in response to the budget challenges facing the BPL who was also joined by Chairman Jeffrey B. Rudman on behalf of the Board thanking the staff for doing a wonderful job under very challenging circumstances.

Chairman Jeffrey B. Rudman invited public comment from twenty individuals who signed the Public Comment Session sheets to speak for two minutes each and the highlights of the public suggestions are summarized as follows:

  • Commended the Board for hosting community meetings to gather input on and suggestions for the future transformation of the Boston Public Library
  • Expressed appreciation to the Board for seeking additional information on the impact branch closures would have on the staff and the individual neighborhoods
  • Thanked the Board for its extensive deliberations on the Budget Options and their impact on the neighborhoods
  • Suggested the exploration of additional State funding in concert with grass roots fundraising efforts led by the BPL Foundation to establish an endowment fund earmarked for the community libraries
  • Expressed appreciation to the Board for delaying a vote on the potential elimination of positions pertaining to Administrative and System-wide Support and the Copley Square Library noting the staff is very concerned about the communities they serve and the impact of closures on the affected neighborhoods
  • The Friends of the Branch Libraries across the City stand ready to help with fundraising efforts to sustain community services throughout the neighborhoods
  • Encouraged the Board to tell the story behind the numbers on the resources and services provided in all neighborhoods and to please “Don’t cut off Healthy Branches”
  • The attempt to transform the Library in the face of budget shortfalls has created a sense of crisis and breach of trust between the patrons, supporters and the library administration and requested to delay the transformation initiatives for one more year in order to reach consensus on the vision for the future of the BPL
  • Encouraged the Library to undertake grass roots fundraising efforts including earmarking funds from utility bills to save the branches
  • Suggested more outreach to ethnic groups in the neighborhoods regarding the transformation of library services
  • Admired the civility of the Trustees Meetings and noted concern for the potential closing of branches in high crime neighborhoods
  • Suggested temporary closing of the branches to fulfill budget requirements while undertaking fundraising efforts to achieve financial goals in concert with the Ad Council
  • Suggested best uses for the future surplussed buildings that could include branches on the first and second floors of the buildings
  • Encouraged maintaining the library’s literacy and ESL programs that enable new Bostonians to fully participate in the American dream
  • The Roslindale Branch Library represents the anchor institution in Roslindale Square that would be devastating to the neighborhood if it were closed and encouraged the Library to continue to think creatively for the future of the neighborhoods including enhanced community partnerships
  • Explore additional sources of income to support the Boston Public Library including the possibility of earmarking a percentage of the State lottery funds for the BPL

The Chairman thanked the community for their input and suggestions and reported that two Special Trustees Meetings have been scheduled for April 7, 2010 and April 9, 2010 to continue the discussions. There being no other business, the meeting of the Corporation and Administrative Agency adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Clerk of the Board



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