At the January 30 Annual Meeting of Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL), BPL President David Leonard was among the audience that helped elect its new board. It now consists of officers Marleen Nienhuis, president; Barbara Sommerfeld, treasurer; Kim Clark, clerk; and directors Gary Bailey, Marilyn Davillier, Maura Harrington. Licia Sky and Duncan Will. The Friends' advisory board members include Nick Altschuler, Liane Crawford, Susanna Coit, Michael Fox, Don Haber, Ed Hostetter, Gail Ide, Stephen Fox, Michelle Laboy, Jaqueline McRath, Jon Santiago, Anne Smart, Lois Russell and Karen Watson. Details and bios are available at the website's ABOUT page, linked here.
The BPL president, who was appointed president less than two years ago, praised the first-ever public-private partnership between the South End library's Friends group and the BPL to renovate a branch. He expressed enthusiasm for the other BPL branch renovations, including the recently completed ones in East Boston and Jamaica Plain, and those now underway at the Dudley branch in Roxbury and Lower Mills in Dorchester, among others. In addition, he was pleased to announce the opening of a temporary Chinatown branch at the China Trade Center on Essex Street on February 3 (a permanentChinatown library will be constructed on a yet-to-be-determined site). Its predecessor, the Tyler branch, was demolished in 1956 as part of urban renewal plans, more than six decades ago; the intervening years saw no library services in Chinatown at all.
Answering questions from the audience about the South End branch's improvements, Leonard said he expects the selection process for a designer for the Phase One renovation project to happen “within weeks.” It will include a public hearing for the community to comment on the proposed redesign for the downstairs interior. A South End resident himself, Leonard joked he had to be careful about what he said ("you know where I live"), but that the BPL has also requested funding for FY 2019 for a second, more comprehensive program study for additional renovation phases of the entire building at 685 Tremont Street. This study would typically take nine to 12 months to complete, at a cost of $75,000 to $120,000. He expects that the entire approval and construction process for such a comprehensive overhaul would take between three and five years.
Leonard said that he could make no specific guarantees for funding at this time because BPL funding is dependent upon City of Boston's budget priorities. "We are but one department in that organization," he said. Mayor Walsh had stated previously that he has allocated $100 million for library repairs and renovations for the next five years and, in the current fiscal year, has already spent $19 million on library projects.
The Friends' capital campaign fundraising co-chair, Maura Harrington, reported that more than 200 contributions have been received so far, amounting to nearly $90,000. Of these, about half were donations for $100 or less and the other half for amounts of up to $10,000. Of the total, $50,000 has been allocated to the first phase of the planned renovation, which also includes $132,000 in public funding.