Much to the dismay of the Mayor’s Office and BPL Trustees, a group of State Representatives from Boston, including our local 3rd Suffolk District Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, have co-sponsored three amendments in the State budget that would force the City of Boston to keep all the branch libraries open in order to receive $3 million in State funding. While the North End and West End branches survived the City’s proposed budget cuts, four branch libraries remain at risk of closing. (See BPL Trustees Vote to Close 4 Branches; North End/West End Stay Open).
Note: The 12 State Representatives are: Reps. Forry, Moran, Basile, Wallace, Allen, Fox, Honan, Malia, Michlewitz, Rushing, Sanchez and Walz.
Boston State Representatives Mobilize to Save Local Libraries
Twelve State Representatives from the Boston delegation in the Massachusetts State House co-sponsored three amendments that seek to keep all Boston Public Library (BPL) branches open.
“The Trustees of the Boston Public Library and the Mayor of Boston have made clear their budget priorities,” Representative Michael Moran said. “Today, as a united group of legislators from neighborhoods throughout Boston, we are standing together and clearly stating that our priorities are to keep every branch library open.”
The BPL receives over $3 million worth of funding via three separate line items in the state budget. The amendments filed today would add additional language onto each line item, making their allocation contingent upon all 26 local branches remaining open in 2011.
“We had hoped that the Board of Trustees would do the right thing by keeping each branch open,” Representative Carlo Basile said. “Today we are taking steps to make sure that the right thing for our neighborhoods does happen.”
Two weeks ago, the Board of Trustees unveiled three plans to compensate for the current budget shortfall. Two of the plans called for the closing of branches, while the third reduced hours system wide. On April 9, the trustees voted to close the branches at Faneuil (Brighton), Lower Mills (Dorchester), Orient Heights (East Boston), and Washington Village (South Boston). The decision has pitted neighborhood against neighborhood but, despite the decision of the trustees, citizens from across Boston have united to rally to save all the libraries.
The House members of the Boston Delegation have responded to their constituents.
“Libraries are centers of education and civic engagement and closing them is closing part of a community. No neighborhood should be deemed less worthy of a library, and, simply put, it is the wrong thing to do,” Representative Linda Dorcena Forry said. “Boston is the intellectual capital of the world. We are a reading city and we must not lose track of who we are despite the economic times. “
In the last two years libraries nationwide have seen a substantial rise in usage. The four libraries alone that the trustees voted to close recorded over 255,000 visits last year. With unemployment high, many citizens have increasingly used the libraries to search for jobs and others are taking advantage of the free programming for children as well as adults.
After the budget process moves through the House of Representatives, the Senate will take up the issue, where there is also substantial support for keeping the libraries open.
“I want to applaud our colleagues in the House for the work they have done on this,” Senator Jack Hart said. “As the budget process moves forward in the Senate we are planning on filing similar amendments to ensure that all libraries in the Boston Public Library System remain open.”