BPL Trustees Vote to Close Four Branches Amid a Boston Brawl at the Copley Library

The BPL trustees voted 5 to 1 to close four neighborhood library branches this morning while facing an angry crowd that included city councillors Felix Arroyo, Ayanna Pressley and John Tobin, as well as State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who represents one of the to-be-closed branches at Lower Mills. Trustee Paul LaCamera, who had made an impassioned plea for an amendment to delay the closing of the Orient Heights branch, another of the four included in this option, to September 11, 2011, abstained from the vote. Within minutes, another motion was passed to make sure the next "new library" in Boston would be located in East Boston. Plans for a new branch there, which was the result of community hearings in two years ago have been sitting on

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a shelf since late 2008.The other two branches on the hit list of the option approved by the trustees are Faneuil Hall in Brighton and the one located in the Old Colony housing project in South Boston, Washington Village. During the voting process, during which trustees also considered the options of not closing any branches or closing seven, Amy Ryan left the room and returned with the news that Mayor Menino would present a better future for the East Boston library in his capital budget to be delivered at the City Council April 14. This provoked a number of cries from the audience that what was needed instead was a "public process" and Felix Arroyo's comment that the city was "pitting one library against another." Arroyo, during the public comment section preceding the vote, told the trustees bluntly that he "can't support closing any of the options presented by" the trustees. "This is not the end," Arroyo told the crowd of more than a hundred residents and media people, "Nine city councillors have signed a letter that they will not support library closings." Councillor John Tobin, representing Jamaica Plain, said that closing libraries was equivalent to "leaving people behind. That is a matter of civil rights," he added." Addressing the trustees, Tobin said, "You'll make your vote, but whatever it is, we will keep our branches open." State Rep. Dorcena Forry, who remembered growing up using the Uphams Corner Library, criticized the BPL trustees for pitting the city against the state. Referring to the possibility of more than a 100 BPL people losing their jobs, she asked, "Have you considered taking a furlough day, as we have done at the state? You make it seem as if the funding is a state issue. Ask the mayor for more funding. We at the state delegation took the vote to allow for the city to charge a meal tax. Use it." Councillor Ayanna Pressley, calling on the trustees to protect the safe public spaces libraries represent, opposed the plan to close libraries. "It is not the plan itself," she said, "but the process by which you arrived at it."