Community News

In 1968, SE Library's Architect, Romaldo Giurgola, Proposed a Building with a Lower-level Children's Room Overlooking a Sunken Courtyard; an Entrance on Tremont Street; and Two Large Reading Rooms

Dan Kelley, principal in MGA Partners, the Philadelphia architectural firm that succeeded the award-winning Mitchell/Giurgola firm when they moved to Australia. Kelley gave a presentation at the South End library on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End branch.

Dan Kelley, principal in MGA Partners, the Philadelphia architectural firm that succeeded the award-winning Mitchell/Giurgola firm when they moved to Australia. Kelley gave a presentation at the South End library on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End branch.

An early proposal by Romaldo Giurgola for a sunken courtyard next to the South End library, with a dug-out lower level

An early proposal by Romaldo Giurgola for a sunken courtyard next to the South End library, with a dug-out lower level

Some of the surprising details that came out during a captivating talk and PowerPoint presentation on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End library: Now located on West Newton Street’s corner, the building could have been sited on the Rutland Square side; the library entrance might have been on Tremont Street; the proposed design included a lower-level Children’s Room (now the basement) that overlooked a sunken courtyard; and there could have been two large reading rooms instead of the one cramped space the library offers today. What might have forced the decision to go for the current, arguably lesser, design? The 1960s budget, for one, suggested architect Dan Kelley in his presentation called Beyond City Hall. It was a grand total of $225,000.

A view from the interior of the library onto a proposed sunken courtyard

A view from the interior of the library onto a proposed sunken courtyard

Kelley, a principal in MGA Partners, who worked closely with Romaldo Giurgola, the library’s architect, traveled to the South End from Philadelphia at the invitation of FOSEL’s advisor (and assistant professor of architecture at Northeastern) Michelle Laboy. Kelley’s talk focused on the genesis of the library’s architecture and the Philadelphia School, based on research he did in the Giurgola archives at the University of Pennsylvania. The award-winning architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgola, which in the 1980s built the Parliament Building in Canberra, Australia, was part of a group of architects of he 1960s and 1970s that helped rebuild the city of Philadelphia. .

The 1962 Mitchell/Giurgola proposal for a new Boston City Hall. It came in second.

The 1962 Mitchell/Giurgola proposal for a new Boston City Hall. It came in second.

How Giurgola got the assignment for the South End library is a matter of some speculation, said Kelley. Giurgola, who was awarded the AIA Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects in 1982, came in second in the competition to design a new Boston City Hall in 1962. Some think that the South End library assignment a few years later was the consolation prize. Progressive Architecture magazine wrote in 1963 that the Giurgola proposal should have won the City Hall competition as it succeeded better than the winner in proposing a design that was “an intimate part of the restructurization of the area, and not an isolated monument.”

Early designs for the branch showed the building on different sides of the lot on Tremont Street

Early designs for the branch showed the building on different sides of the lot on Tremont Street

In his talk, Kelley compared Boston and Philadelphia as two cities dating from America’s Revolutionary era that were similar in their once-upon-a-time history of wealth and glory followed by urban decline during the 1950s and 1960s. The Philadelphia School architects were recruited by George Holmes Perkins, dean of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. They were assisted in the realization of their so-called Post-Modern approach to urban architecture by Edmund Bacon, Philadelphia’s city planner, who wanted to rebuild the city in a progressive way. That meant, among other things, to take into account the context, surroundings and social needs of where the buildings were located, as if they were “a fragment” of a larger whole, rather than an isolated structure imposed on an urban environment, explained Kelley.

The final design for the South End library, approved in 1970; it opened in 1971.

The final design for the South End library, approved in 1970; it opened in 1971.

The tight budget for the construction of the South End library probably reduced the chances for the more attractive but expensive options of the sunken courtyard and the two large reading rooms on top of a dug-out lower level. Deficient site preparation led to the collapse of a trellis that surrounded the green space in the final design, making it unstable within a short period of time. An abutter to the library attending the presentation reported that refrigerators and other debris were thrown “down there.” In the 1990s the green space was replaced with a park surrounded by an iron fence, which is still there, today. 

Romaldo Giurgola (L) walking past the South End library’s construction site

Romaldo Giurgola (L) walking past the South End library’s construction site

The presentation was well attended by a number of local architects, as well as David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library. Leonard commented that three ideas struck him: First, the centrality of Library Park to the building’s design; second, the evolution of the library’s architecture and the possibility that the final version of the proposed designs was perhaps not the stronger one and, finally, the question of how the form that suited the function of the library then, is different from what would be the case today, now that libraries have changed so dramatically in how they provide services to library users. Other architects in the audience also expressed interest in Giurgola’s initial designs for the library, especially the ones that included the sunken courtyard, lower level windows overlooking green space, and a library entrance on Tremont Street.

The South End branch of the Boston Public Library is on track for a major renovation and expansion in the next five years, which will begin with a $100,000 Programming Study sometime after July 1, so the history of its current design comes at an appropriate time. In the immediate future, the library will receive a so-called “refresh,” with new carpeting, fresh paint, additional electrical outlets, a reconfiguration of the furniture and new seating arrangements paid for by FOSEL’s private fundraising last year.

Zeitgeist Stage's Director David Miller and Playwright Jacques Lamarre Take on Staging a Play about Mass Shootings from the Perspective of the Family's Shooter in "Trigger Warning"

How does a play go from the pages of a script to a full-blown performance on stage? Last February 26, award-winning director of the Zeitgeist Stage Company, David Miller, took a stab at answering that question. Seated in a semi-circle with Miller and playwright Jacques Lamarre, three actors cast in his play, Trigger Warning, read through scenes that took a look at how a mass shooting impacts one family, that of the shooter. Two of the actors were part of earlier Zeitgeist plays: Steve Auger in Vicuna; Kelley Estes in Far Away, Hiding Behind Comets, Cakewalk, and Tigers Be Still. For Liz Adams Trigger Warning will be her first Zeitgeist show.

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Trigger Warning’s genesis was a Boston Foundation announcement that it wanted to award grants to the Boston theatre community for new work, explained Miller, who contacted playwright Lamarre to commission the play. Lamarre had just finished reading the memoir by Suzanne Klebold, mother of Columbine’s High School mass shooter, Dylan Klebold. Lamarre asked Klebold if he could adapt her memoir. She declined. Zeitgeist did not get a grant from the Boston Foundation, either. But the play will open on April 12 at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Lamarre lives in Hartford, CT, the town where Colt Manufacturing Company created the town’s gilded age by producing weapons for the Civil War and later, as Lamarre commented wryly, guns for the country itself, including mass shootings. He lives minutes from the site of the Hartford Distributors shooting where nine people were killed in 2010; Newington, where five Connecticut Lottery employees were murdered in 1998; and one hour from Newtown, CT,  the site of the Sandy School Elementary School shooting of 20 students and six teachers by Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother earlier that same day at the home they shared.

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To demonstrate a play’s evolution, the three actors read from two scenes, the first followed by a discussion with the library audience about the main subject of the play, the role of guns in the American family and its consequences. In the scene, the parents of the shooter, Travis, who has fatally shot a number of people, injured his 16-year-old sister and killed himself, are alone for the first time at the home where the shooting took place. The father, a contractor, is a gun owner whose guns, though locked away, had been used by his son for the mass shooting. The injured daughter had left her parents’ house to live with her aunt.  The parents bantered back-and-forth in a manner that at some level felt surprisingly normal, the way any couple will go back and forth, but with comments and questions that alluded to the devastating turn their lives had taken and to their having entered the unknown territory of being shunned by their community, the fictional town of Plainville.

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“What’s going to happen to us,” they asked each other, and “I lost two clients today” and “should we sell the house?”  and “did you love Travis?” and the answer: “Yes, but I wish he’d never been born.” Playwright Lamarre talked about the killers’ families, the other victims of shootings who generally are not acknowledged even though their lives, too, have been destroyed by the shooter.  They become families at war with themselves: What could they have done differently? The mother of Dylan Klebold, for example, went from a well-respected member of the community to someone who had to go into hiding to mourn the loss of her son who had killed the children of families in that same community. At some point, she had to acknowledge her son had become “a monster.” Likewise, the mother of Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook’s mass shooter, had lived in fear of her son. But the fictional parents of Travis in Trigger Warning had known something was wrong, and had taken Travis from therapist to therapist, without finding something that helped their son. No one had an answer. 

Director Miller, whose plays were nominated last month for nine Small-Stage awards by the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE), told the audience that Zeitgeist Stage always produced plays that reflect “the spirit of the times,” so mass shootings was a relevant subject. There had been numerous documentaries, and plays, but never from the perspective of the shooter, he said. The initial title, Thoughts and Prayers, as in the usual comments offered, was determined to be too passive. Trigger Warning is both a general warning for events that may trigger trauma but, in this case, the word “trigger” has a more appropriate duality, he said.

After the cast held a read-through of the play’s first draft in December, followed by an in-depth discussion with Lamarre, the playwright returned two weeks later with a revised draft. “It evolved organically,” he said. “You never see the shooter. He had added several characters who each represented another aspect of the story: A  minister, who asked the shooter’s mother not to come to church anymore to avoid upsetting the other parishioners; and a lawyer, to fend off the lawsuits by enraged parents.  The Klebolds were bankrupted by their son’s ass shooting at Columbine, as was their insurance company. Scenes evolved further with the mother talking to the minister and the father to the lawyer, each describing from different points of view being cast out from the community they were a part of.  The daughter, living with the mother’s sister, moreover, attends a “Never Again” rally in town, multiplying the arguments for a law suit against the parents. 

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Lamarre said he wanted to capture the depth of the rejection by the community of the parents of the shooter: How can you go on when no one is on your side and there is no spiritual comfort or legal protection, and relentless media coverage turning the violence into entertainment? He noted that in Columbine, fourteen trees were planted to memorialize all the students killed, including the shooters, but those trees were cut down.

Director Miller said Zeitgeist Stage had once before staged a play about a school shooting, called Punk Rock. It was 2015 and the company was in rehearsal for it when the Marathon Bombings occurred. When the play went on stage, three weeks later, there were numerous discussions about mass shootings after the performance. “People felt they wanted and needed to talk about it,” Miller said. 

At the library’s Page to Stage discussion, several audience members brought up a 1,000-page book by Andrew Solomon, titled Far From the Tree. Miller and Lamarre had read it as part of the preparation for Trigger Warning as it deals with so-called expectations violation, when parents find themselves in a situation through their children that is not the norm. “No parent wants to be seen as a failure,” Lamarre said, but what do parents do when they experience expectation violation, whether through their children’s mental health issues, dwarfism, or mass shootings?

Trigger Warning will be performed at the Boston Center for the Arts from April 12 through May 4 and will be the last play of the last season of Zeitgeist Stage Company which has announced it will close. The staff and the cast will leave a big hole in the South End theatre community. Lamarre’s next play is an adaptation of Wally Lamb's holiday novella., called Within’ & Hopin.’

Award Winning Books Display in the Library's Parkside Window Features the 2018 Edgar Awards Given by the Mystery Writers of America.

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The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, popularly known as the Edgars, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America. Since the 1950s, they’ve honored the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television. Past winners include leading authors  like Raymond Chandler, John Le Carre, Dick Francis, Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King. FOSEL’s second display of Award Winning Books in the library’s parkside window show the 2018 winners, also listed below.

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Edgar Allan Poe, for whom the award is named, was a writer, editor and literary critic best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. Poe has a local connection; he was born in Boston in 1809 near what is today the intersection of Boylston and Charles Streets. A statue of Poe is located at that corner.

 BELOW ARE THE 2018 EDGAR AWARD INNERS:

 Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (novel)

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper (first novel)

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (paperback original)

Killers of the Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann (fact crime)

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson (critical/biographical)

Spring Break by John Crowley (short story)

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Vanished ! by James Ponti (juvenile, 7-12 years old)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (young adult)

Somebody to Love by Noah Hawley (episode in a TV series)

The Queen of Secrets by Lisa D. Gray (Robert L. Fish Memorial (Award for best first short story by an American writer)

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman (Mary Higgins Clark (Award for a suspense novel most closely written in the MHC tradition)

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Joan Diver, a Subject of J. Anthony Lukas's "Common Ground," and Author of "When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey," Finds a Spiritual Common Ground as a Faith Healer

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January 15 was an auspicious day for claiming to be “on common ground.” It was the day of a reading by a distinguished former South End resident, Joan Diver, who returned to her former neighborhood’s library to read from her debut memoir, When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey. January 15 also would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday and, as Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephens Church who introduced the author pointed out, the towering figure in American civil rights history also claimed common ground, for humanity regardless of the color of their skin. And then there was the award-winning book by J. Anthony Lukas about the South End’s struggle with school integration and forced busing, titled Common Ground, in which the story of the Divers’ experience when they lived on West Newton Street in the 1970s was the title of its very first chapter.

Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephen’s Church introducing Joan Diver.

Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephen’s Church introducing Joan Diver.

Father Crellin captured the anticipation in the room where Joan Diver explained her quest for a spiritual life after devastating pain from an injured back forced her to seek relief in non-traditional venues and methods in cultural settings of both East and West. “Some of you may be joining us this evening because you know Joan from her days living just around the corner from where we are right now,” Rev. Crellin said, “or from her nearly two decades leading the Hyams Foundation, or from her leadership on boards like the Associated Grant Makers, the United Way and countless others. Perhaps you came because you know at least part of her story from reading Tony Lukas’ now classic book.  Or maybe you came out tonight because you’ve heard about Joan’s commitment to healing: physical, emotional, spiritual. Regardless of why you’re joining us tonight, you’re in for a treat.”

Joan Diver answering questions from an engaged audience about her spiritual voyage

Joan Diver answering questions from an engaged audience about her spiritual voyage

Diver, who with her husband Colin, had hoped to raise their two boys in the South End in the 1970s but was thwarted by the constant battle over street crime and school choice, said she will always be connected to the South End. Moving to Newton for a better schools for their sons was traumatic. They grieved over it and felt guilty for not staying to face the challenges of raising a family in the South End.  When Lukas sought them out to profile their experience, she was very reluctant at first but then relented. “Tony told our story, which was a healing experience for us,” adding, “I could never have written my story of healing without the Boston story.”

Longtime South End resident Ann Hershfang reconnecting with Colin Diver, who became Dean of the U. Penn. Law School after leaving the South End, and subsequently served as President of Reed College (OR)

Longtime South End resident Ann Hershfang reconnecting with Colin Diver, who became Dean of the U. Penn. Law School after leaving the South End, and subsequently served as President of Reed College (OR)

She fondly remembers the rich diversity of the South End, and then requested a few moments of silence. “I want to talk about why I left a job I loved to write my healing story,” she said. “It was both an adventure and a love story and a tale of discovery of universal love that connects us and is the ultimate common ground. The adventure took me from West Newton Street to Newton Corners, from convicts hanging out on our street corner to watching people led to their execution in China, from an operating room at Beth Israel to a healing room in Santa Fe. These were never planned events but ones that called on me.”

Her medical crisis led her to surgery, after which she experienced certain phenomena when back at home, like a blinding white light that came and went, and a growing psychic awareness of “some challenges that come from dimensions that we’re not familiar with”  as she put it, as well as a growing sense of the existence of “a universal consciousness.” A friend, a psychic, told her this was part of a re-balancing of physical, mental and psychological energy. Diver became convinced that turbulent times, in a personal and a broader sense, represented “a great breaking open,” something that is “coming up for its healing, like a boil.”

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On various trips she took after her surgery she became familiar with members of  healing communities with whom she was able to communicate in a spiritual understanding. She  experienced a crossing of boundaries into previous lives she may have lived, including ones where she had been raped and committed suicide. “I felt love and forgiveness after that,” she said, “like I had become a different person, one with more confidence.”  Lurching from painful medical crises to recovery and back again several times, Diver traveled a parallel path of the mind that led her to want to train as a healer, hoping to heal others who were in psychic and physical pain. She participated in healing initiations that took her to Egypt, India, China and Mount Sinai. She became convinced  that “we were all led in some way, in our mind or by something beyond our minds,” but kept wondering, “what was driving me?” 

 Diver began to connect a new-found spirituality to certain decisions she had made,  including of a medical procedure that she had suspected she did not need but left her in pain for nine months. She focused on whether there are “multiple messages” to help determine what one should do but concluded that “you need to open up to it.” 

Southenders standing in line to buy a copy of Joan Diver’s book and having her sign it…

Southenders standing in line to buy a copy of Joan Diver’s book and having her sign it…

Members of the audience asked her to expound on this, pointing out that some people may see signs that lead to good places and others to bad ones. “How do you know the difference?” Diver answered that “everyone has their own path but if each of us, and enough of us, open our hearts a whole population can shift. It’s a shift of consciousness.”

Diver described how a certain incident had caused her family to leave the South End: husband Colin had hit a burglar with a baseball bat, and became terrified he would hurt someone even worse in the future.  “But now you see it as a call,” someone asked her. “Whether we are led or called, we all have these signals,” she said. “Some see it, others don’t.”

For Joan Diver, the theme in her life is the common ground of a common consciousness.

Award-winning Books by Massachusetts Authors on Display in a New Project Sponsored by FOSEL Featuring the Best Authors and Illustrators Selected by Different Organizations in a Range of Subjects

The first display in the South End library’s Book Award window. FOSEL has ordered window banners for the project, which will be installed as soon as they come in.

The first display in the South End library’s Book Award window. FOSEL has ordered window banners for the project, which will be installed as soon as they come in.

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The Friends of the South End Library has initiated a new project to highlight award-winning books in the South End library’s park-side window to the left of the entrance. FOSEL board member Reinhold Mahler has worked closely with library volunteer, Jenni Watson, to install the first display, of the 2018 winners for books authored in 2017, selected by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Our goal is to connect local residents to a diverse group of organizations that recognize outstanding literary work in a broad variety of categories and..if inspired, to apply.

The Massachusetts Book Awards recognize significant works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s/young adult literature published by Massachusetts residents. They are sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and have been awarded since 2000. Winners are selected for originality, liveliness and engaging presentations, as well as for the quality of their publication. 

The winners of books (published in 2017) are: Mercury, by Margot Livesey (fiction); A World of Color: The World of John Singleton Copley, by Jane Kamensky (non-fiction); Vivas to Those Who Have Failed, by Martin Espada (poetry); and The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial, by Susan E. Goodman (children’s).

Any individual, organization or company can nominate a book for these awards. The deadline for the 2018 awards is December 31, 2018. Selections are made by a panel of judges from across Massachusetts. Prize-winning books are added to the Special Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts and promoted throughout the state. 

For more information visit www.massbook.org. or call 617 872-3718.

 

Delicious Platters of Food, Fabulous Jazz Music by the Pat Loomis Band & Trombonist Jeff Galindo, and a Crowd of Library Supporters Made the South End Library Holiday Party the Best Ever

FOSEL board members, library staff and volunteers dishing out delicious dinners for all

FOSEL board members, library staff and volunteers dishing out delicious dinners for all

Saxophonist Pat Loomis and Special Guest Jeff Galindo on trombone

Saxophonist Pat Loomis and Special Guest Jeff Galindo on trombone

Each year, the South End library’s holiday party gets bigger and better: time for a bigger library to accommodate it all. On December 18, a crowd of more than sixty people stood in line for a holiday dinner featuring platters of delicious food prepared by the chefs at the South End Food Emporium on Columbus Avenue, generously donated as their holiday gift to the South End library. In addition, library supporters, Friends of the Library’s board members and library staff brought cheese platters, scrumptious appetizers, (non-alcoholic) mulled wine, jambalaya, hot chocolate with all the trimmings and an outstanding selection of cakes and desserts.

Antonio Loomis, Pat Loomis and Colescott Rubin weaving great music into the holiday party’s cheer

Antonio Loomis, Pat Loomis and Colescott Rubin weaving great music into the holiday party’s cheer

That was only the beginning: Pat Loomis and his fabulous Band of Friends managed to book a star performer, top trombonist Jeff Galindo, who graduated from Berklee College of Music, and has played with the greats, including Chick Corea, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Village Vanguard Orchestra and the Boston Pops, among others. The Loomis band included Pat Loomis, alto and soprano sax; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Jim Dower, piano; Colescott Rubin, bass; and Benny Benson, drums. The music they played together was fantastic.

The concert between-the-book-stacks featured O Tannebaum, Jingle Bells, the Christmas Song, Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells, Christmas Time is Here and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. By eight o’clock, all the food had been consumed and the libations had been drunk, except for what had been put aside for the musicians by vigilant food servers who ant them to return next year...

Retired library staffer Deborah Madrey returned to see her friends and supporters

Retired library staffer Deborah Madrey returned to see her friends and supporters

Young and old enthralled by the musical performance

Young and old enthralled by the musical performance

Hot chocolate with all the trimmings for the children provided by library staff

Hot chocolate with all the trimmings for the children provided by library staff

Sewing for Success for Teens and Tweens on Six "Sewing Fridays" from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Call to Register.

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So your teens and tweens don’t know how to sew? The South End branch will offer six one-hour “sewing Fridays” in October and November for teens and tweens. Kelli Bos (Sewing for Success) has installed a lovely display about sewing in the library’s park-side window, featuring a sewing machine, many books about sewing, fabrics, samples of finished pieces and various props.

The first session will be on October 12, followed by instruction hours on October 19 and 26 and November 2, 9 and 16. All dates are on Fridays, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM. Fabrics and sewing materials will be provided. For further information or registration, contact Anne Smart or Margaret Gardner at the South End branch at 617 536-8241. Or call Kelli Bos at 617 455 4547, extension 800, or #sheiskellibos.

Mayor Walsh Adds Funding to FY19 City Capital Budget to Keep Renovations of South End Library and Library Park on Track

Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

 The Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) is very happy to report that, late last week, capital funding of $400,000 was restored in the FY 2019 budget for Phase Two of the South End library's interior renovation. This means that our efforts to quickly improve a cramped and outdated branch by means of a pubic/private partnership between the Boston Public Library (BPL) and FOSEL will succeed. It is the first  partnership for a Boston branch library in the history of the BPL in which private contributions raised by FOSEL from local library supporters combined with a dedicated BPL capital allocation is used for an accelerated library renovation. In addition, money was added to the Parks Department budget to start the reconstruction of Library Park. 

The current 2019 city budget, linked here, shows two capital allocations for the South End branch, $100,000 for a program study leading to a major overhaul and expansion of the library; and $400,000 to be spent on short-term improvements outlined in Phase Two. Both projects will be subject to public hearings. The proposed redesign for Phases One and Two is illustrated in the drawing above. Further details are on our website, linked here.

There are many people to thank, but first and foremost Mayor Marty Walsh, who visited the library several times since his election and each time pledged his full support for the branch's renovation, and for the redesign of the library's adjacent green space, Library Park. This spring, both library and park projects were suddenly delayed, each for different reasons, but both were put back on track with the same solution: the Mayor's strong support for more funding for these two important and long-neglected civic spaces in the South End. 

The unwavering efforts on our behalf by District 2 Councilor, Ed Flynn, was another key factor. Flynn and his staff rallied the South End's other two councilors, Frank Baker (District 3) and Kim Janey (District 7), and all at-large councilors (Michelle Wu, Ayanna Pressley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty), to sign their letter requesting the necessary funding from BPL President David Leonard and Mayor Walsh. Flynn met separately with the Mayor, as well, to plead FOSEL's case. The signature of City Council President, Andrea Campbell, who grew up in the South End, moreover, was at the top of the list.

Faisa Sharif, the South End's liaison to the Mayor's Office, performed a yeoman's job going through the budget details with David Leonard to secure city dollars for park and library, and kept FOSEL in the loop at all times. Our State Rep., Byron Rushing, a BPL trustee since 2009, assured audiences at several South End events recently that 'all would work out fine.' Did he know something we did not? Who knows: He was right. 

Our BPL partner in the public/private enterprise, President David Leonard, has reached out to us to plan the next steps in the library project in meetings that will include Faisa Sharif, Ed Flynn and Byron Rushing. We are looking forward to continuing our productive relationship to benefit the South End library and its users. You will be kept apprised of important details.

Last but not least, we thank you, our loyal supporters, and every member of the FOSEL board, for emailing and phoning our elected representatives and the BPL. The turnaround could not have happened without you.
 

 

The South End Landmark District Commissioners Approved the Proposed Library Park Redesign; Construction to Start in June

On April 3, the South End Landmark District Commission approved a revised proposal for the redesign of  Library Park, as presented by the Boston Parks Department (see below). With their approval, came a compliment from the commissioners: "Thank you for having heard us," they told the Parks Department team. Construction is scheduled to start in June. 

At the previous presentation to the SELDC in January, project director Lauren Bryant was asked to come back with an amended proposal to include the commissioners' concerns about protection of the park's oak trees root systems, easy flow of foot traffic unimpeded by park furniture and an upgraded, more interesting hardscape that would include some details of typical South End materials like brick, slate or bluestone. The redesign of the redesign was different enough to require a second public hearing about Library Park's future, which was held at the South End library on March 22. The commissioners praised the more dynamic design and the care that was taken to protect the trees. 

The proposed re-design for Library Park that was presented to the South End Landmark District Commission on Tuesday, April 3

The proposed re-design for Library Park that was presented to the South End Landmark District Commission on Tuesday, April 3

The March 22nd public hearing solicited a number of comments, including a request to create more intimate spaces through seating and paving areas. There was a question about what to do with the granite blocks that are a play opportunity for kids, but uncomfortable to sit on; a request to inset tables with game boards; and a concern that the seating feels restrictive given that it lines both sides of the plaza. The single chairs of the current park appear to be in good shape and will be re-used and matched in style with additional curved benches, cafe tables and chairs. The oak trees will be pruned.

A large part of the work will be devoted to improving the park's infrastructure, including the clean-up of the site, underneath which there is expected to be a great deal of remnants from previous housing, including oil tanks and a lot of bricks. The soil will be improved and re-graded to enhance future landscaping. Another important aspect of the reconstruction will be groundwater management and water filtration to benefit root systems of trees, shrubs and plantings.  

At the first public hearing in November last year, Parks Department's Bryant and Brandon Kunkel, landscape architect with the Weston & Sampson design and engineering firm, presented attendees with three proposals. The one below was favored by the audience and was presented to Landmarks in January, but has been altered to comply with Landmarks's comments.  

The re-design of Library Park proposed in January but not accepted by South End Landmark commissioners concerned about root system protection, foot traffic flow and the quality of the concrete hardscape.

The re-design of Library Park proposed in January but not accepted by South End Landmark commissioners concerned about root system protection, foot traffic flow and the quality of the concrete hardscape.

After deducting the cost of design services, the remaining budget for the reconfiguration is $115,000, a small amount, which will be augmented with private fundraising efforts by the Friends of the South End Library until a more comprehensive renovation of library and park will take place in the next few years. Further information about the current project can be obtained at the Parks Department website, linked here.

 

BPL President David Leonard Helps Elect the New FOSEL Board, Praises the Public-Private Partnership with FOSEL to renovate the South End Library

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. 

From left to right: board members Licia Sky, Don Haber, Maura Harrington, Michael Fox, Liane Crawford, Ed Hostetter, Jaqueline McGrath, Marleen Nienhuis, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (not on the board), Kim Clark, Barbara Sommerfeld, Michelle Laboy and Marilyn Davillier and Chris Fagg( not a board member). Chris assists FOSEL in cleaning and raking Library Park. 

From left to right: board members Licia Sky, Don Haber, Maura Harrington, Michael Fox, Liane Crawford, Ed Hostetter, Jaqueline McGrath, Marleen Nienhuis, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (not on the board), Kim Clark, Barbara Sommerfeld, Michelle Laboy and Marilyn Davillier and Chris Fagg( not a board member). Chris assists FOSEL in cleaning and raking Library Park. 

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.

 

 

The South End Historic District Commission Requests changes in the proposed Library park Redesign to reflect concerns about traffic flow, protection of trees and a more attractive pathway look

The Parks Department took its proposal for the redesign and upgrade of Library Park to the South End Historic District Commission (SEHDC) on Tuesday, January 2.  During the presentation before the Landmark commissioners, the Parks Department project managers were asked to adjust the proposed redesign to reflect commissioners' concerns about three issues. These included the location of a bench near the library entrance that might impinge on a easy flow of foot traffic; how to best  protect the root system of an oak tree near a proposed expanded patio between the library and the park; and how to enrich the proposed new concrete pathways by adding 'accents' in materials that are historically appropriate for the South End landmarks district, such as thermal bluestone, or brick. Commissioner John Amodeo pointed to an alley way between the South End's Cathedral gymnasium and its high school that featured such accents which, he suggested, made an otherwise dull concrete surface more interesting. The Parks Department will return with the changed proposal to SEHDC in the next few weeks.

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A previous public hearing on the proposal was held at the South End library on November 29, 2017 and attended by a small but very engaged group of local residents. At the November hearing, Parks Department's project manager, Lauren Bryant, and Brandon Kunkel, landscape architect with the Weston & Sampson design and engineering firm, presented attendees with three proposals for Library Park's overhaul. Two designs preserved the current layout of the park, while the third offered a different configuration. The latter was the one favored by the audience, and that is the one that was presented for review by the Parks Department. 

In the proposal, the deteriorated bluestone pavement will be replaced with a new one made of shaded concrete. In additionthe patio between the library and the park's entrance will be expanded to accommodate outdoor events; two garden circles will be established on the Tremont Street side of the park; and curved benches and to-be-determined seating arrangements will be included, together with substantial infrastructure improvements. After deducting the cost of design services, the remaining budget for the reconfiguration is $115,000. 

With public and SEHDC comments in mind, the Parks Department will produce a final design which is scheduled to be put out to bid sometime in February. Construction, weather permitting, will start in March. The park is scheduled to reopen in late summer. Further information can be obtained at the Parks Department website, linked here.

 

 

An Interview with retiring library staffer Deborah Madrey and two decades' worth of observations from behind the circulation desk

By Michelle Laboy, member of the board of the Friends of the South End Library

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This December, we say goodbye to our long time librarian Deborah Madrey, who will retire in January. Deborah has been part of the South End Library for the past 22 years.  She started at the Boston Public Library as a student in Emerson College, working part time at the Copley library from 1971 until 1973. She graduated with a degree in education and moved to Los Angeles in 1978 to work as a teacher. In 1995 she moved back from California to her native Boston, and thanks to her previous experience at the BPL and the good impression she left with former colleagues, she was offered a full time position with the library. She started in the South End in October of 1995 and has worked here since.

She still remembers how the library felt when she arrived. The renovation in the late 1980s that added an elevator had just been completed, and the interior was freshly painted. She describes many changes that happened since, when the library started to get computers and when tapes and DVD’s became a “hot commodity,” so much so that she thinks libraries helped put Blockbuster out of business.  And of course she notes with some reservation the increasing availability of digital books for Kindles. But the biggest changes have been people's tastes in reading. She recalls how popular V. C. Andrew was back then, especially the novel Petals on the Wind. She has not seen western novels and science fiction in a long while, noting, “Now they watch it more than they read it”. She recalls when urban fiction became very popular, with the work of Terry McMillan, which open the door for other black writers who became well known. 

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Deborah has also noticed how much the neighborhood changed during her time at the library. She still loves the South End where she observes, unlike other branches, a more diverse population coming together at the library: poor and rich, white, Hispanics and blacks, native-born and immigrants. She has seen the neighborhood get more “yuppified” and welcome many more families. For Deborah another important constituency is her doggy friends, for whom she keeps a box of milk bones behind the desk, to go outside and greet them with a treat every day. Library patrons who love sports will also remember her passion, as a self-described rabid Patriots fan who has won tickets to their games three times. She also loves to watch tennis matches. According to her co-worker Margaret Gardner, the children’s librarian, many teenagers who grew up coming to the library still come by to say hello to Deborah. Many other library users know her for her kindness and welcoming greetings as you pass the circulation desk or check out a book. When mentioning how much people say how nice she is, her answer says so much: “It's harder to be to be nasty than to be nice".

Her best memories of working at the South End Library are the holiday parties and the jazz concerts. Seeing people that come in during evenings for author talks really makes her feel like the library is doing something good for the neighborhood, that they are rendering a service. She is always impressed by how much we do in such a small space. Deborah loves that she knows many people here, and she will miss the patrons the most. She will also miss her doggie friends and the staff.  She shares how happy it makes her to know that she has many friends in the community, and proudly says that some of the homeless who frequent the library are her friends too; evidently knowing a few of them by name and noticing when they are going through an especially difficult time.

She loves the library, and loves books, which she says, “take you places”. Her friend and long time South End resident Ms. Fanny Johnson stopped by to talk to Deborah, and shared with us the incredible importance of the library to her as a child. “If you grow up in the inner city, the library opens your world; it lets you know that it is bigger than these three or four blocks.” Deborah worries that children don't read as much anymore, especially when she observes them wanting “as little text and as many pictures as possible.” And she cannot understand why some are more interested in the movie than in the original book, noting that they will be miss the imagination that reading inspires.

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For Deborah, the most important role of the library is to give people an opportunity to gain knowledge. But she also sees the library as an essential resource to so many who come to do their taxes, or to use a computer to search for homes and jobs, to do resumes, or use the free resources available to the community. While she recognizes that “we cannot be Bates Hall” and that it is important for a neighborhood branch to be able to be a little bit louder sometimes, she stressed that she will not miss some of the bad behavior that she has experienced on occasion from some of the library users. She is concerned about the challenges the library faces, as she says they cannot be everything to everyone. She knows the library is an important place for many, including the homeless who need a place to be; but she acknowledges that doing all of these things comes with challenges that they grapple with every day.

As we look towards the future without Deborah in the library every day, and we prepare to embark on a new renovation to allow the library to better serve the functions the community needs, her wisdom from years of experience working in this space should be treasured. When thinking about the future of the library, Deborah says that she hopes real books are preserved and that the library does not go all-digital. She thinks there is wisdom in hardcopy books that is shared and passed on from one user to the next.  When asked what the library needs the most, she said she would like to see that dedicated teen space, but that we don’t need a coffee shop!

These few blocks hold many memories of Deborah’s youth. Growing up, she attended the church just across the street at the corner of West Newton and Tremont Streets. Deborah is the youngest of seven children, born and raised in a house on 741 Shawmut. She moved to Roxbury when she was three, and still lives in the same house. She remembers how growing up she felt she had to have a library card. Deborah describes herself as extremely shy, and while she taught in school, she claims that her ability to speak in public was learned in church. The last few years Deborah lived with her brothers; one of whom passed away recently, and she still has another brother who lives in Jamaica Plain. She misses her siblings dearly. But she looks forward to retiring and having time for many new things. She wants to do some traveling, especially to Europe, although she is not crazy about planes.

Deborah will be missed by so many friends of the South End library. We were fortunate to have her kind presence in the library for so many years, and we will remember her always. Most importantly, we want to take this moment of her retirement to celebrate the great community that Deborah helped cultivate in the library, the heart of our beautiful neighborhood.  We wish Deborah a happy and healthy retirement, full of wonderful trips, many new friends, and a few more wins for the Patriots. And we hope that when she is not traveling, she continues to join us during summer concerns, holiday parties and author readings. All the very best wishes to you, Deborah!

 

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Mayor Marty Walsh has appointed an outreach manager to assist homeless patrons using the Boston Public Library

Homeless patrons in the South End branch of the Boston PublicLibrary, their suitcases lined up nearby

Homeless patrons in the South End branch of the Boston PublicLibrary, their suitcases lined up nearby

In an important move for the Boston Public Library system, Mayor Marty Walsh stepped  up to the plate and appointed a full-time outreach manager for the many homeless individuals who use the main library and its branches for shelter and services. The positive development both acknowledges the difficulty for library staff to manage the growing number  homeless in public libraries --some of whom have mental health, behavioral and addiction problems-- with the rights of homeless to use the public library and the need to develop comprehensive strategy for services to a population that has nowhere else to go for simple needs like using restrooms or shelter from inclement weather. To that point, the BPL plans to hire a reference librarian who specializes in health and human services and make available guides to addiction recovery and housing.

Library patrons waiting in Library Park for the library to open

Library patrons waiting in Library Park for the library to open

Boston is following in the footsteps of other public library systems that have used a variety of strategies to both manage homelessness among their patrons and develop creative library-based programs to assist . In 2008, the San Francisco Public Library was the first to hire a social worker specifically to reach out to homeless patrons and coordinate the extensive social service system already in place near their main library of meals distribution, such as finding housing, providing medical care and assisting with other services. In Pima County, AZ, the library system hired a public health nurse in 2012; its branches are served by 16 to 20 nurses provide services either once a week or once a month. In Denver, library staff shows residents of a women's shelter how to use a computer and sign them up for a library card. In Dallas, public library staff get homeless patrons and staff members together twice a month for Coffee and Conversation. At a recent talk about HIV awareness, a member of the health community was on hand to answer questions. After the talk about 15 attendees got tested for the virus, according to a PBS News Hour  article. 

The BPL outreach manager, Mike Bunch, who was employed in a similar position at the  Pine Street Inn,  is bilingual in English and Spanish. Before he came to Boston, he worked with shelter and treatment providers in Austin, Texas. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer and will be stationed at the Copley Central Library, while assisting staff in branch libraries where needed.

To the Galapagos: Renowned Naturalist, David Clapp, and “Talkin’ Birds” Radio Host, Ray Brown, will talk about the Galapagos, on Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 PM

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On Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 PM, two serious birding specialists, renowned researcher, lecturer and naturalist David Clapp and Ray Brown, host of Talkin’Birds and WCRB classical music programs, will treat you to a lecture with slides about the birding environment in the Galapagos. Clapp, who has led Smithsonian Journeys trips for many years, has taught at Northeastern University and worked with conservation organizations worldwide for decades. He has been with the Massachusetts Audubon Society most of his professional career,  trained  up-and-coming naturalists, and studied many species of the avian population.

Talkin'Birds host and South End resident, Ray Brown

Talkin'Birds host and South End resident, Ray Brown

Brown, who joined the  WGBH many years ago, is a regular contributor  to NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon where he illuminates the audience about the latest news in the world of birding. Last year, Brown gave a very well-received presentation at the South End library about bird migration patterns, called The Magic of Migration, as part of the Local/Focus Urban Birding installation in the library’s Tremont Street windows. This year, he organized a birding tour to the Galapagos in late September with the Sunrise Birding nature company, and will have information available for anyone who might want to join to fill the last two cabins.

Brown is a longtime South End resident. His Talkin’ Birds show is now heard on 16 stations around New England, and in the larger world through streaming and podcasts.  Guests on his show include avian aficionados and birding luminaries like David Sibley, Sy Montgomery (Birdology) and Donald Kroodsman (The Singing Life of Birds) as well as experts from birding conservation organizations such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Birding Association.

The Galapagos talk is free to all. Refreshments are served.

Annual Meeting Tuesday, January 31 at 6:30 PM

You're Invited to the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the South End Library Tuesday, January 31 at 6:30 PM: Meet Your Neighbors, Participate in the Board's Election, Get an Update on Programming and Library/Park Renovation, Bring Your Ideas, and Enjoy the Delicious Refreshments

2017 Ann Mtg
2017 Ann Mtg

Snow or not, the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) will take place tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 31 in the community room of the library. Members of FOSEL will have the chance to elect to a one-year term a slate of candidates that includes current directors Marilyn Davillier, Jeanne Pelletier, and Michelle Laboy; new directors Maura Harrington and Jon Santiago, as well as Kim Clark, a current advisory-board member who has agreed to serve on the voting board. Current officers Marleen Nienhuis (president), Ed Hostetter (clerk) and Barbara Sommerfeld (treasurer) are serving a two-year term to end in 2018. The slate of Advisory Board members includes Adam Castigliani, Susanna Coit, Liane Crawford, Don Haber, Stephen Fox, Jacqueline McRath, Mary Owens, Mari Passananti, Lois Russell, Licia Sky,, Anne Smart and Karen Watson. More detailed bios are available at the meeting. In addition, there will be updates on our finances, our programs (The South End Writes, Local/Focus, Summer Jazz Concerts and the Play Reading Book Club with Arts/Emerson). Your suggestions and ideas will be warmly received.

The library is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. 

The South End Library/ArtsEmerson's Play-reading Book Group Resumes Saturday, January 28 at 10:30 AM; Includes Tickets to the Acclaimed Play "Beauty Queen of Leenane." Free to All

The Beauty Queen of Leenane
The Beauty Queen of Leenane

The Play-reading Book Club sponsored by ArtsEmerson and the South End library will resume this Saturday, January 28, at 10:30 AM at the South End branch when a group of local library patrons and ArtsEmerson organizers will begin to read and discuss the script of award-winning play by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, Beauty Queen of Leenane. The Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) is funding the three-play program, which promotes access to the theatre and community building, free to all. There are five sessions, including attending the play itself on February 8, and a final get-together on February during which the participants share their experiences with friends and family on Thursday, February 16. ( An article by theatre critic Hilton Als about playwright McDonagh and The Beauty Queen of Leenane appears in their week's The New Yorker.) The first play in the series was Mala, by acclaimed local playwright Melinda Lopez; the final play in the program will be 17 Border Crossings by Thaddeus Phillips, for which the play-reading sessions take place during April; going to the play will be on April 19 at 5:30 PM..

17 Border Crossings
17 Border Crossings

If you would like to participate in the Play-reading Book Club for The Beauty Queen of Leenane starting this Saturday, January 28 at 10:30 AM, please get in touch with Anne Smart at the South End library at 617 536-8241, or by email at asmart@bpl.org. You can also contact Akiba Abaka at ArtsEmerson at 617 824-3071, or by email at akiba@artsemerson.org. Tickets to the play are at a vastly reduced $15. However, if you can't afford it, the tickets will be complimentary.

The South End Library's Holiday Party Is Upon Us with Jazz & Blues Band Pat Loomis and his Friends, and a Home-cooked Meal by Staff: Tuesday, December 13 at 6:30 PM, Welcome to All

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It's that time of year again for a home-cooked meal, a fine jazz & blues interpretation of holiday music by Pat Loomis and his Friends, all of it taking place between the book stacks of the South End library on Tuesday, December 13 at 6:30 PM. As always, John Hampton, husband of library staffer Carol Glass, will prepare the delicious Southern-style meal of chicken and trimmings, and volunteers plan to bring home-made desserts. (More desserts are always welcome.) Pat Loomis will play the alto-sax. His son, Antonio Loomis, will be on the guitar, while Daniel Day mans the bass and the fabulous Zeke Martin will ply his drums.

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The event is free and open to all. The South End library is fully handicapped accessible.

You Are Invited to Join the Arts/Emerson Play Reading Book Club: Read Three Plays, Talk About Them With Emerson Artists, See the Performances Live on Stage: First Play is "Mala" by Melinda Lopez

Melinda Lopez, playwright of "Mala"
Melinda Lopez, playwright of "Mala"

The Friends of the South End Library has agreed to fund an exciting initiative by South End staff librarians Anne Smart and Matt Krug, which invites local residents to join the ArtsEmersonPlay Reading Book Club. Participants will read, discuss, and analyze three plays before seeing them live on stage. Emerson College will provide scripts, facilitators and even refreshments (always a good thing). Conversations with the theatre artists will take place at the Paramount Theater in downtown Boston. The program has been available through the BPL's Dudley Library branch for three years and is highly recommended by its librarian, Alan Knight.

The first reading is of the world-premiere production by ArtsEmerson of Mala by Melinda Lopez. She has been described by WBUR as one "of Boston's most important writers"and is currently a Mellon playwright-in-residence at the Huntington Theatre Company.Mala runs from October 27 to November 20. The second play in the series is The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a 1996 black comedy by Martin McDonagh, a celebrated Irish playwright. It was nominated for numerous Tony awards, and will be on stage February 8 through 19. The third play candidate is still under discussion.

Martin McDonagh, playwright of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Martin McDonagh, playwright of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

The Play Reading Book Club is one of several initiatives sponsored by ArtsEmerson's Seats Lab project to promote theater literacy throughout the city.  It is facilitated by trained teaching artists in the Emerson College Master in Theater education program. The purpose of the program is to expose as many people as possible to the theater and the experience of theater going.

To reserve your place, please contact Anne Smart or Matt Krug by email at asmart@bpl.org or mkrug@bpl.org, or by phone at 617 536-8241. Or just stop by at the library. The program is free to all. Tickets will be at a reduced rate. The limit is 30 participants. 

Bucking a Poor Performance by a Search Firm, BPL Trustees Chose Interim President David Leonard as President, Serendipitously Picking Someone Who May Have Been the Best Candidate to Begin With

David Leonard, the new BPL president. Courtesy, the  Boston Globe.

David Leonard, the new BPL president. Courtesy, the Boston Globe.

After a public process that included about a dozen citywide "listening sessions" and many hours of work spent by the well-connected 14-member search committee appointed by Mayor Marty Walsh, the Spencer Stuart executive search firm tasked with  finding the best new BPL president can factually claim it delivered. Never mind that David Leonard already was the interim president who nimbly had taken over a year ago from the tilting leadership boat captained by Amy Ryan and her stubborn defender, former Library Board chair, Jeff Rudman. Never mind that one of the two other candidates selected from more than a hundred applications,  Andrea Sáenz, first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Public Library, dropped out on the eve of her public interview "for personal reasons." Or that Spencer Stuart did not vet the other finalist, Jill Bourne, the city librarian of the San Jose (CA) Public Library, well enough to find out that actually moving to Boston would create "personal problems" preventing her from relocating. Or that, after Bourne was unanimously chosen for the job by the nine BPL trustees over Leonard, the city of San Jose would do all it could to keep their popular library director in town, including giving her a salary increase that could not be matched by Boston's wage rules. Apparently, Spencer Stuart's contract with the BPL was not paid for by taxpayers' funds. Martha Stewart would have called that "a good thing."

Jill Bourne, city librarian of the San Jose (CA) Public Library, the day of her interview at the Copley Library

Jill Bourne, city librarian of the San Jose (CA) Public Library, the day of her interview at the Copley Library

Leonard, a longtime South End resident who took on the interim  presidency at one of the lowest points in the BPL's relationships with its branches, staff and Friends groups, has by many accounts been "a breath of fresh air." He's been more accessible than the previous leadership, and was already well-versed in the operations side of the BPL, where he started as chief technology officer in 2009. He has overseen the $78 million renovation of the Johnson Building, due to open on Saturday, July 9, as well as  branch improvement projects, including the ongoing construction of the Jamaica Plain branch, expected to be completed in 2017. Reports from the BPL fundraising scene hold that he seems comfortable and effective in that setting, having recently obtained several private grants for library projects. He mentioned during his candidate's interview that his partner works in the philanthropic arena, as well. Leonard's  reports to the public meetings of BPL trustees in the last year have been informative, comprehensive and well organized (FOSEL attends most of them). In his seven years at the BPL, Leonard has also served as both the acting director of administration & finance and separately as acting chief financial officer. He recently began a PhD program in Library Information Science at Simmons College.

Andrea Saenz, first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Public Library

Andrea Saenz, first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Public Library

During his presentation to the Library Board in May, Leonard described himself as an immigrant from Dublin, Ireland, an only child and the first one among his cousins to attend college. As a young gay man, before Ireland's Reconciliation and economic boom, he experienced firsthand the power a library's safe space holds for someone like him who is "trying to work out who you are." Developing non-municipal funding sources for the BPL and collaborating productively with the community, staff and  various other public groups are among his top goals, he said. In response to Library Board members' questions, Leonard cited the lack of appropriate processes at the BPL and inattention to environmental concerns as contributing to the calamitous events of 2015.  He said he learned, especially in regard to procedures, how little had actually been written down. This does not lend itself to accountability or knowledge transfer and is "ironic" in a library, he commented. Diversity in programming and in staffing was another subject the trustees broached: Leonard said that issues of race, diversity and inclusion had not been tackled "systematically" at the BPL but that "conversations and corrective measures around diversity will soon begin."

It must have been awkward for the Library Board to have to ask a candidate they did not vote for as their first choice to please take the job after all, but Leonard was as gracious in defeat as in victory. When the trustees selected Jill Bourne over him, he called it "a great choice." When they turned to him after Bourne declined to accept the top post, Leonard said he was "thrilled, humbled and honored"  to become the library's new president.