Upham's Corner Online

Public Comments - BPL Trustee Meeting February 24, 2011
Agenda item #5 - Transcript of Public Comments

Posted: April 12, 2011     Nancy J Conrad



The moderator read the list of names of people who had signed up to make a public comment, asked them to make their comments at the microphone, limited to three minutes each.  (Please note:  Spelling of names is based on audio and may be incorrect.)
Speaker#1  
Good morning everybody and thank you all for being here this morning.  With an eye to Trustee  La Camera, it was a story on WBUR this morning about the library in Alexandria  Virginia [Egypt?].  What story basically told about the history of that library and the fact that during the recent unrest in Egypt members of the public split off from their demonstrations and formed a cordon sanitaire  around their library and the library was not touched.  They protected their library.  We're here today to tell you that we are your friends and we are here to help you protect all of our libraries to the extent possible.  We appreciate everything that the trustees have done to examine all of the options and to review with the public everything that we need to do to continue working together.  I want you to be assured that the Friends groups and in this case, I am speaking for all the Friends groups even though I try not to, we're all here to help you.

Speaker#2 Good morning.  My name is Nancy Conrad.  I am from the Upham's area.  So my questions are in response to what I heard today as well as in support of the Upham's area, the greater Upham's area.  First of all, I'd like to ask you to stand back a little bit.  I'm quite shocked, and I'll use that word, at your attitude towards the sacred cow called the unions.  I'm actually a pro-union person but your attitude suggests you are unwilling to approach that particular topic.  So let's look at what you did when it came to state funding and city funding and maybe even donations.  You were just willing to accept: "Well, if that's what they're going to give us, then that's what they're going to give us."  Yet when the topic of the unions came up, you said: "Oh we can't touch that."  I think that attitude is completely wrong.  You have to work with all aspects of how the library functions.  That cannot be a sacred cow.  Remember we are defending our democratic right, our form of democracy, by having a library.  So please keep that in mind.

There were a number of suggestions that came up over and above the four or five different ways for cutting the budget.  Please add those onto the list so that you have all the substantiating information associated with those options as well.

On your website I'd like to see something called "green."  We talked about the fact that by having new lights, by doing the new HVAC systems that have been put in several of the libraries, all of that cuts are need to spend money.  It would be nice to have a list of "green" things that have been done as well as a running total of the money that is not spent, opportunity money, that the library does not have to include in the budget because you have taken those steps.  I think it would be really cool thing for the library itself and communication with the public.

I would like to ask the library to think about a topic called literacy.  In Upham's Corner, that is 02125, and in 02119, 30% of the population under [over] 24 does not have a high school diploma.  This is a terrible level.  It is an absolute embarrassment.  The Public Library, it seems to me, is focusing on that segment of the population that can read and that incorporates reading into its lifestyle.  I think you are bypassing a section of our society that has not caught up with that.  I am here to promote a literacy center in Upham's Corner.

Speaker#3
My name is Melissa Kadlec and I am the president of  … 1526 representing the library system, the facilities and the clerical staff here at the Boston Public Library.  I am pleased to hear that the library is talking about working with the union instead of against the union in the upcoming year.  This institution - my members - have taken a huge hit in the past year resulting in the loss of services and the layoff - the human impact - of over 30 individuals in the past two years.  We spent the last year fighting each other at the state and city level, instead of working together for a common goal.  It's been a long hard year ,and I don't care to repeat it.  I'm sure you don't either.  I have repeatedly asked for management to work with my team to try and reach solutions for our budget shortfall and that did not occur.  So I'm pleased to see we are in better shape this year than we were when we stood before you last year at this time.

I believe we are here because our combined fight with the unions, with our community groups and with our Friends group brought us support at the state level and the city level and that helped us increase our funds in the … Budget to keep our branches open for this fiscal year and to move us forward.  I stand before you asking again to sit at the table with you instead of not at all.  If we stand together, I believe we can show the state we deserve to be restored to the statutory funding for fiscal year 2012 and avoid further cuts in services and in personnel.  I ask you, the trustees, to show leadership from your management team and encourage them to work cooperatively with the unions, the staff and the community to find ways to maintain and increase our services.  The decisions you make today and next month and on will determine whether or not we stand side-by-side down at City Hall or if we stand against each other, and the decision is yours to make.  Thank you.

Speaker#4 I'm Karen Chow, … Steward of the Boston Public Library professional staff association.  I also want to reinforce the willingness of the library staff to work together with you to find solutions to these budget problems.  We are the people who are out on the front lines, dealing with the public, providing the services, answering their questions, taking their comments, both good and bad.  We have a great deal that we can contribute to this discussion.  We welcome Rep.  Rushing, encouraging the fact that staff need to be comfortable making recommendations.  We deal with the business of the library every day.  We see the impact of the work in the community.  We have strong relationships with the members in each of our communities.  We want to be sure that as we go forward and as funds become available which it sounds encouraging that perhaps we can move forward with fund raising, that those funds are going to be used in a way that's going to preserve the locations, the staffing and the programs that are truly going to benefit the community.  Thank you.

Speaker#5 Hi.  I'm Shelley Bialcom, president of the Friends of the Faneuil branch library.  I want to thank you first off for diverting the effort to balance the budget in closing those four branches, one of which is Faneuil, coming up with other methods, looking at things from another perspective.  The discussion this past year has been brutal but I think we've all benefited from it.  We become more aware where the library is going.  I think the compass process has really benefited the community.  I agree that reducing hours may be the best solution to the budget gap but I am very concerned that you targeted four or five libraries … But still without thinking of the branches as a whole, as a collective.  All of the branches are important to all of the communities of Boston.  I think if we thought about reducing hours at all of the branches, it would spread the pain of reducing services at all the branches.  It might move us forward and get us through this economic downturn much more easily than weakening some branches and strengthening others.

As far as fund raising, the foundation perhaps could … Since the Board of Trustees cannot fund raise, but the foundation can, we found that designating areas for fund raising is good.  As you say the Friends groups do provide a lot of funds to the branches.  We just don't go through the Boston Public Library.  We have in Faneuil and Oak Square as well.  From an administration standpoint, perhaps, they could fund raise for the branches particularly and create a trust that some of the money that is fund raised for the branches goes into that trust so that when another economic downturn comes, we can look to that rather than trying to get money from the state or the city.

Speaker#6 Maria Rodriguez, Faneuil branch.  I see the beginnings of a positive change in both management and the trustees' attitude towards this coming budget.  I appreciate that.  I want to commend intensely Amy Ryan and Rep. Rushing for your commitment to public consultation.  I think that translates well in the excellent principles that really highlight the vitality and importance of the branches for the neighborhood that they serve.  Because I see this change I want, for what it's worth, to  … . my personal attitude towards this process … I want it to be constructive.  I am fully committed to do activism at the state and city level to increase funding to the library.  I'm committed to collaboration intensely and active particularly through partnerships.

In that regard I offer some ideas particularly in terms of enhancing the partnership with universities.  We have a whole budget for research resources.  We should be looking at pulling together what universities have to offer.  Obviously I think we have many, many ideas as Christine took note of them.  One of them is to enhance or use the enterprise fund resources so that events can be held in other venues as well – in Copley.  Most importantly, I think that there are two ideas.  One is equity across the system.  You receive a letter in that regard.  I want you to pay very close attention.  It has to do with allocating resources in an equitable manner as well as cost in a credible manner across the branches.

Finally, $715,000 raised by the foundation, this is not acceptable.  Today, Amy is invited, many of you are invited, for a breaking ground ceremony.  The Mayor will be present in Oak Square for the Presentation School Preseoundation.  This is a tiny foundation with one staff.  He raised twice that amount in the past year, twice that amount.  An institution with the visibility of the BPL, offering the resources that the BPL offers, cannot have a fund raising branch that allows itself to raise seven under $715,000.

Speaker#7 My name is Bill Taub.  When this crisis started last year, I went and visited the library's website.  I visited the central library.  To my amazement you have an incredible collection of resources that are online for sale but are hard to purchase.  For all the baseball fans who are here, there is a photograph of Joe DiMaggio sitting in the dugout in Fenway Park in the 1930s.  Try to buy it.  You can't buy any gift shop in the library because there is no retail store.  I then visited the New York Public Library website and discovered how easy it was to purchase thousands of items.  The Boston Public Library does not allow you to do that.

The other part is: I ask you why you don't have a retail store when you had last year an event about Edgar Allen Poe, but you couldn't buy any books written by Edgar Allen Poe because you don't sell them here in the library.  You send people to Fenway Park to buy your collection.  Not good business.  I actually wrote a report that was submitted to both Rob Consalvo and Steve Murphy.  I tried to submit it to the CEO of the library but my phone calls and e-mails were not returned by the Boston Public Library.  You have reduced your collection of periodicals to almost zero.  I now visit libraries in the suburbs because I am able to drive to there.  I think you need to do a better job of looking at the resources you have to make it easier to sell to people.  Thousands of New Yorkers would love to buy that poster but they can't find it on your website.  Thank you.
Speaker#8 My name is Abigail Furey.  I'm with Friends of Faneuil library.  I'd like to thank you all for really looking at how to approach the problems of the library in the last year.  I did have one cause for concern.  I do realize that it was only floated as an example of a possibility.  I would like to point out.  I also support the idea of a shared pain.  We are looking at an average of $21,000 shortfall per branch if we take the $580,000 shortfall and divided it into the branch numbers.  And yet we're looking at basically punishing four or five branches with the reduced hours.  I know in the case of Faneuil, if you closed that library two days a week, that's a 30% reduction in days open in a neighborhood that is a top children's magnet for the community.

You have the YMCA across the street.  It's one of the highest areas where the children do live in the community.  We are going to have the Presentation Spchool foundation with various daycare programs right opposite on the other side.  If you close a library of that type twice a week, you are losing all the after school programs.  You are losing the homework programs.  It would be a death knell for the library.  I think that it's important to look at these libraries in the context of what they're actually doing in the community and where they are located.  Thank you.

Speaker#9 Good morning I am Sarah Ann Shaw, president of the Dudley library Friends.  I want to thank everyone for the presentations made this morning.  They did clarify some things.  I still have some trepidation because we still don't know what's going to happen when the shoe is finally dropped.  I am waiting to see.  I want to thank Pres. Ryan for mentioning the Friends this morning.  It's very important that the Friends and the role of the Friends be acknowledged.  I would also like to suggest that perhaps there needs to be a better exploration of what can the Friends do, particularly in their own neighborhoods - all their resources - that perhaps the Friends could look at or engender or encourage.  Since our relationship of the Friends to the trustees - you all are the decision-msacakers but t are the relationship between the Friends and the trustees still has really not been defined despite neighborhood services and the compass but the implementation, to my way of thinking, still has not been fully realized.  So maybe at some point there needs to be some kind of conversation between the Friends and trustees or a trustee and Pres. Ryan to see what is possible so we can make sure that the services that are vital to the children particularly in the city are continued as they should be. 
Speaker#10
My name is Don Haber I am the co-chair of the Friends of the Jamaica Plain branch library.  First I want to thank you for opening for public comment today.   I would ask that you consider that at each of your meetings.  I attended the one last month, for example, and the capital projects budget was approved unanimously by the board in about 50 seconds of discussion and some of us who have been working for years and years trying to get a renovation or some capital project at our branch would have appreciated the time to at least make a small public comment.

Second I want to say that I agree with Pres. Ryan that there are definitely critical positions throughout the branches that are in need of being filled.  For example, in my branch, the Jamaica Plain branch, one of the busiest branches in the system currently has no branch librarian and we haven't any idea when that position will be filled, so we are floating around with floater personnel and there's no way to really meet all the needs of the community without a permanent branch librarian.

Third, I listened to the various options today and I would ask that the trustees consider expanding  those options and thinking about them even a little bit more broadly and more creatively.  I think what you have heard from other people here is the idea of equity and equity across the board for all the branches including Copley.  It was interesting the statistics you had about Copley and being open on Sunday and that being the busiest day.  I think that's pretty obvious.  It would be great to be able to compare those statistics to the branch circulations on Sunday.  Oh, that's right.  There are no branches that are open on Sunday.  So those statistics aren't available but it would be really interesting to see if there was a possibility of the rearranging of hours to do that if we decide to leave Copley open on Sunday.  There is an issue that could be addressed as far as equity.  It seems that my sense was there was a willingness to reduce branch hours as kind of a way of filling the gap.  I just would ask the trustees: remember that the number of open hours each week at the branches is currently not equal.  To paraphrase George Orwell, “Some branches are currently treated more equally than others."  So I would ask you to think about the fact there really aren't any sacred cows when you're dealing with that if that's the issue that you go forward on.  I believe libraries last year in all proposals had no reduction in hours for them.  It was only borne by a few number of branches.  So I think there may be some more creative ways to think about it if that's the road you go down as you even out the hours across the board.  Thank you.
Speaker#11 My name is Claire.  I'm from Charlestown.  Could you please post online the nature of the personnel cuts – management, non-management etc.
Speaker#12 My name is Charles Carroll president of the Friends of the Hyde Park branch library.  I'm speaking here as Joe Citizen, in a sense, because I do not have a mandate from the Friends group to represent them here.  This is always the problem in that the individual Friends groups have a pretty strong affinity to their particular branch library.  While at the annual meeting last spring, my general membership unanimously supported and strongly felt the threat of impending library closings, my board which are activists that are really dedicated to the Hyde Park branch library, were much more ambivalent about it.  However, as a result of all the sacrifice and the pressures on the system, the overall organization is becoming deeply concerned about the kinds of permanent impact on services and hours that the current economic situation is putting upon us.

At our branch we were lucky enough to have to open positions filled.  However, the adult librarian has been serving in Mattapan for the last three months.  We don't know when he will be returning.  In addition, our security personnel's hours have been cut in half.  This is a problem because the Hyde Park branch library is located right next to the William Rogers middle school.  So we're having an increase in incidents as a result of the loss of one security person.  We have a very large library with very few staff and much of the discipline has fallen upon a custodian as well as the library assistants who are really stressed out, pulling their hair out, and having to deal with something between babysitting and behavior monitoring in the library.  So it impacts the whole library just cutting the security personnel's hours by any percent whatsoever.  I'm glad that those issues were introduced today.  The security issue is a very prominent issue, as well as the library positions.  As I see our library individually affected, I see a growing empathy for the other libraries as well.  I can say that I would ask that the solution and the reduction be citywide so that we can galvanize more and more support throughout the city for the overall situation.  Thank you. 

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