The Boston Public Library issued the data that it will be using in evaluating potential branch closures. (BPL press release along with their Measures and Definitions and the spreadsheets of the BPL Data.)
Depending on how you look at it, the data has mixed implications for the North End Branch. The circulation and public use measures are middle of the pack. If 10 branches are to be closed based on this data, the North End branch is at risk.
Here is how the North End Branch Library shapes up as one of the 26 neighborhood branches.
Public Use Measures (Calendar Year 2009)
- Books & Audio/Visual Items Borrowed: 72,636; Rank #17 of 26 branches
- Foot Traffic: 79,996; Rank #15 out of 26
- Public Use of BPL Computers: 14,342; #16 out of 26
(sessions based on Nov. 2009 sample)
- Program Attendance: 4,880; Rank #15 out of 26
- Number of Programs: 235; #16 out of 26
- Public Wireless Internet Sessions: 591; #4 out of 26
Ed: I am not sure why the North End branch ranks so well on “Public Wireless Internet Sessions” because the last time I asked, there was no WiFi at the branch. This could be a mistake. It supposedly is based on a November 2009 sample.
- Distance in Miles to a Lead Library: 1.8 miles; #7 out of 18
There are 9 lead libraries/branches that won’t be closed. These are the largest branches. The closest lead library to the North End is the main Copley Central Library.
- Libraries within 3 square miles: 3 (this is high compared to the other branches)
- Proximity to nearest public school: 0.2 miles to the Eliot
- Proximity to BCYF: 0.2 miles to the Nazzaro Center
- ADA Accessibility: Yes, the North End Branch is accessible to the disabled. This is a positive.
Surprisingly, most of the other branches are not accessible.
- Technology Expansion Potential: The North End Branch is classified as “difficult” to expand which is a negative consideration.
- Public Meeting Room: No, the NE Branch has no public meeting room which is a negative (most of the other branches have a public meeting room)
- Free Parking: No, there is no parking at the NE Branch which is a negative.
The probability of branch closures is difficult to handicap. The budget gap is relatively small, so any branch closures would be an extreme response based just on the monetary situation. And most, if not all, of our local public officials have expressed their support for keeping the North End Branch open. Yet, the news flow out of the Boston Public Library continues to be moving down the road of closing branches.
The Boston Globe’s reporter, Andrew Ryan, continues to dramatize the situation as a “crisis” forcing closures or dramatic cutbacks. He unfortunately takes a shot at the North End branch by saying, “The data revealed, for example, that almost twice as many people walked in the front door of the West End branch than the North End branch, which is roughly a dozen blocks away.” Ryan fails to mention that the West End’s foot traffic is primarily due to Suffolk University students. Nor does he consider the positive measures and qualitative characteristics that make the North End Branch vital to the neighborhood.
Criticizing the press is an editorial by former Mayoral candidate, Kevin McCrea, who says there is no need to close any branches because the $3.6 million budget gap is relatively small and could easily be filled. He claims talk of a crisis is just the press pandering to City Hall that will later take credit for “saving” the branches. McCrea wrote, “I am saying it here now: the City of Boston is not going to close 10 libraries this year … if I am wrong I will personally donate $50,000 for books to the library system.”
What is clear is that more information and possible decisions will be coming soon. The library budget situation and potential branch closures could be decided at next week’s BPL Trustees meeting on April 7th with a vote scheduled for April 9th. More information is available at www.bpl.org/budget.
It’s getting late, but there is still a little time to write or email your letter. See this link: Letter Writing Campaign to Preserve the North End Branch Library