The long-awaited hearing before the City Council's Ways and Means Committee chaired by City Councillor Charles Yancey will start this Thursday, June 3rd, at 6 PM in the Ianella Chamber at City Hall. A rally of library supporters will take place in City Hall Plaza at 5 PM. BPL president Amy Ryan, whose profile appeared in the current issue of Boston Magazine, will present the library budget, which includes the proposed closings of four branches of Lower Mills, Faneuil Oak Square, Washington Village and Orient Heights, and layoffs of dozens of library staff. The councillors are expected to question her closely, after which the public can comment on the budget plan, which portion is likely to start around 7:30 PM.
The rally preceding the budget debate is sponsored by a number of labor unions, including AFSCNE Local 1526, Boston Firefighters Local 718, Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association, and the Boston Teachers Union as well as many library Friends groups (including the Friends of the South End Library) and a number of Boston neighborhood organizations.
Notably absent from the endorsement is the CityWide Friends of the Boston Public Library (CWFBPL), long considered a mouthpiece for the BPL (its link is available on the BPL web site) but less so for its branches: perhaps this is because its president, David Vieira, regularly called for the closing of Uphams Corners and Washington Village branches without apparent consultation with these libraries' constituents, or any stated advocacy for the upgrade of their facilities. Vieira explained at a recent meeting with Friends groups that he objected to the various labor unions' sponsorship of the City Hall Plaza rally, which, he said, were merely using the current crisis for their own goals. Vieira's statements on behalf of the CWFBPL mirror the historically poor relationship between BPL executives and its unions, a situation increasingly detrimental to library staff and users alike.
In the current battle to keep branches open and force a public debate on the BPL's future, a new library Friends umbrella group has stepped into the breech, People of Boston Branches, headed by post-doctoral psychology fellow Brandon Abbs, a former Iowa City resident, who appears comfortable reaching out to a wide range of local organizations advocating for the improvement of the entire BPL system.