BPL's Homework Assistance Program (HAP), Popular at SE Branch and Elsewhere, to Be Cut After Twelve Years; Effectiveness Data Not Collected by BPL Administration; Librarians Upset

A long-time popular Homework Assistance Program (HAP) available at most BPL neighborhood libraries and the Main Library will be discontinued at the end of this school year in May. The news came to the branches in an out-of-the-blue email at the end of March from Jessica Snow, the recently hired Youth Services Coordinator for the BPL. The after-school mentoring program, highly valued by library staff, paid high-achieving students from Boston's private and public high schools $8 an hour to tutor K-8 students in libraries all over the city. It will be replaced by other after-school efforts, yet-to-be determined. HAP cost the BPL an estimated $200,000 a year and was a popular fundraising target for the BPL Foundation as recently as last November when donors could become sponsors during a Gala Benefit. The upcoming "Big Thrill" fundraiser in April also lists the HAP program as one of its beneficiaries. But according to sources within the City-wide Friends Group, which is affiliated with the BPL, a lack of reliable data that should have been collected by BPL administrators to support the effectiveness of the program made it difficult to continue to raise funds for it. Children's librarians all over the city are very upset and have written Ms. Snow asking her to reconsider. "I cannot believe that the library is choosing to end a successful program, which has been held for 12 years, without any discussion with the staff involved in developing and implementing this program," wrote one children's librarian. "Many of us consider the Homework Assistance Program one of the best programs we run for children and teens. It serves a vital need in our communities; helping children with homework and study skills (many of whom can’t get that help at home) and giving high school students valuable work experience." Another pleaded that "we can all together brainstorm a way to save this very successful and educationally sound program that has earned praise and support from teachers, parents, students, librarians, and donors alike for the past twelve years. I also am surprised and upset that such a highly praised and strong tutoring program would be so abruptly announced as terminated." According to Anne Smart, head librarian of the South End branch, four high-schoolers tutor K-8 students four days a week for a few hours at her library. "It's a great program," she said. An email sent to Ms. Snow by a SE branch staff member said, "Since I came to the SE Library in

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2001, we have had several HAP mentor families in which each sibling in turn on reaching 10th grade has followed the tradition set of becoming a HAP mentor. Many of our mentors live in the South End and first came here as young children. I can’t count how often I have heard elementary and middle school students say, “When I get to 10th grade I am going to be a HAP tutor.” In her email response to the outraged librarians, Ms. Snow wrote that she "appreciated" the comments. She did not indicate whether she would reconsider the decision. As far as the high-school tutors are concerned, she wrote, "With the new out of school time programming there may

be opportunities for the HAP mentors to participate in by volunteering."