Monday, March 29, 2010

Boston Public Library Branch Closures Protest Continues

The Boston Globe reports today on quiet protests at the Boston Public Library (BPL)main branch of the continuing plans to close community branches of the Boston Public Library. The article reports that about a hundred protesters picketed the main branch at Copley Square, making a point of respecting the library's quiet as they entered the building. The article by Patricia Wen, also reports that the BPL's spokesperson, Gina Perille, told the Globe in an e-mail that the final vote would occur on April 9.

One of the organizers, Brandon Abbs, told protesters about a website — — that shows how the library’s board of trustees, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the City Council, and state officials each play a role in a potential decision to shutter up to 10 of the city’s 26 branches. The site emphasizes ways of helping the library system make up for its $3.6 million budget shortfall.
If you go to the People of Boston website, you find, as noted, a list of links to Mayor Menino and the trustees appointed by him, and a Q & A on the issues. It's a good website full of information. One thing it does not do very clearly, though, is point out that Menino packed the BPL leadership so that it absolutely is set up to close the branch libraries. He fired the former Director of the Boston Public Library, Bernie Margolis, and put in Amy Ryan. Margolis was an excellent fundraiser and politically connected at the Statehouse. Ryan's skills actually run in a counter direction. She previously worked at the public library in Minneapolis, with the charge of "consolidating" the library there. Here is the Boston Globe story on Margolis being forced out in a power play by the trustees appointed to the library board of trustees by Mayor Menino, written on November 4, 2007. Ironically, the reason for forcing Margolis out was officially stated as disagreement that Margolis was not focusing enough attention on the branch libraries, and was spending too much on the central library. And here is a New York Times article that probably gets to the heart of the Menino-Margolis argument: money and power. Hizzoner grabbed the BPL's nearly 200 trust funds, totalling about $54 million dollars. Since they were accrued through bequests, they should at least theoretically be still required to be used for the purposes for which they were donated to the library. But oddly, the Globe has gone silent on all of this. The most recent stories have not mentioned any of these issues, merely pointed at the current protesters, who seem not to know about these issues, either. The article at the time Margolis left said that Boston at that time was spending about $50/patron for its libraries. I am sure we are far below that amount now. The question is, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE TRUST FUNDS?

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