In 2017, in a unique public/private partnership with the Boston Public Library (BPL), the Friends of the South End Library embarked on a capital campaign, Writing the Next Chapter, to transform the first floor interior of the South End branch into a state-of-the-art space that will support modern library services. Based on preliminary discussions, the BPL allocated $132,000 capital funding in FY 2018 (which started in July 2017) to design and build a first phase. The Friends pledged to raise an additional $50,000 from the South End community and our supporters by October of that year. By January 2018, FOSEL had raised $90,000.
The illustrations on this page show a proposed plan, an early draft of ideas developed following meetings with various groups and the head librarian to identify potential improvements, with the hope of igniting the collective imagination of the community to get involved with this effort. The preliminary ideas include updated electric/digital infrastructure; a new area dedicated to teens; a beautifully renovated children’s room; more variety of seating arrangements for adults; a new community space to display books and images of the South End or work by our local authors; a new flexible room for tutoring, community services and conferences; and an attractive browsing wall for newspapers and magazines. The Friends used this plan to start a conversation with the BPL about the need for capital funding, and is now looking forward to a robust community input process once the funding is in place.
Funds raised over $50,000 will be applied to the completion of the second phase, for which an additional larger capital appropriation will be requested in FY 2020, together with separate funding for a so-called program study to consider a complete renovation that would include expansion of the library to meet current needs for library services in the South End. Our intermediate phased approach to improvements can transform the South End branch over a period of a few years and has been embraced by city and library managers as a new approach to capital improvements. Every member of the Friends’ board has donated in amounts ranging from $50 to $10,000 for a total of $30,000. Many generous South End residents contributed in amounts ranging from $50 to $10,000, as well. The Worcester Square Area neighborhood Association gave $1,500. The BPDA (formerly the BRA) wrote a check for $1,000. And Eversource Energy donated $2,500, among other gifts.
The Friends also secured $150,000 in capital funding from the Parks Department to improve Library Park, which will be an integral part of the library’s future improvements. After several public hearings in 2017 and 2018, and approval for their proposed redesign by the South End Landmark District Commission in early April 2018, the park's reconstruction will begin sometime in June 2018. For details, view this link.
The Friends of the South End Library hope that you will support the campaign for the South End Branch Library, one of our neighborhood’s most important and vital resources.
The overall changes for the proposed first two phases include:
- a 21st-century electrical and communications system
- a beautifully renovated children’s area
- a new space specifically dedicated to teenagers
- a centrally located circulation desk
- multiple seating arrangements for adults
- wired tall tables for quick computer checks
- a periodicals/newspapers wall for browsing
- new offices and lunch room for our library staff
- a South End history room for local research
- a flexible space for conferences and tutoring
The library's building, an early example of the work by the firm of Mitchell/Giurgola Architects LLP, has architectural significance and will likely require various preservation efforts.
Because this is the first time a Boston public branch library has raised private funding for a capital renovation, FOSEL has established an Honorary Fundraising Committee that reflects public and private support for the public/private partnership efforts. The Committee currently includes David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library; State Treasurer Deb Goldberg; State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz; State Representatives Byron Rushing and Aaron Michlewitz; At-large City Councillors Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley and Annissa Essaibi George; City Council President Michelle Wu; South End District Councillors Ed Flynn, Frank Baker and Kim Janey; John Holland of Holland Construction Companies; South End realtor Steven Cohen of Keller Williams Realty; and Al Desta and Yalem Alemu of the South End Food Emporium.
The elevated rendering represents the proposed interior area from a (relocated) circulation desk to where the stairwell is located.