Community News

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 You can also contact Akiba Abaka at ArtsEmerson at 617 824-3071, or by email at 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


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.


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 or, 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.

Summer Arrived in Library Park with Musician David Polansky Entertaining a Happy Crowd of Kids Singing Songs about Spiders, Rabbits and Buses Going 'Round and 'Round

The South End has only six percent open space which may be why its parks are so treasured, even when the pavement is cracked and the weeds at times more prominent than plantings. Summer arrived in Library Park today when the first of a series of children's events planned by the South End library staff kicked off with a much-appreciated return by musician David Polansky.

The performance is one of the many sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. It was attended by some forty children accompanied by parents, nannies and teachers, and elicited enthusiastic sing-along responses and curious investigations by young Southenders of instruments, stuffed animals used to illustrate songs, and other props.

Other programs for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers coming up are: 

*Sing and Dance Along with Little Groove, a Boston-based Music and Art Enrichment group, Mondays, June 20, July 18 and August 15 at 10:30 AM

*English-Spanish Story Time with Pine Village Preschool, a Boston Parents Paper Family Favorite Language Immersion program with songs, stories and crafts, Wednesdays June 15, August 17, September 21 at 10:30 AM.

*Jouvet Shortell and Spanish in Motion for pre-schoolers, Wednesdays, July 13, July 20 and July 27 at 10:30 AM

*A Music Concert for Pre-schoolers with the Community Music Center of Boston in Library Park, Wednesday, August 10 at 10:30 AM

All events are free. For further information, contact the South End library at 617 536-8241 or check their web site, linked here. 

Bowing to Public Demand for a Change in BPL's Top-down Culture, Library Trustees Appoint Jill Bourne as President, a West Coast Librarian Who Values Collaboration and Outreach

jill bourne.png

After a lengthy search process for a new BPL president that for the first time included numerous sessions with the public and staff, the BPL's Library Board choose the candidate they said would represent a change to a more inclusive, collaborative and transparent management culture.BPL's interim-President, David Leonard, and the Director of Libraries of San Jose, CA, Jill Bourne, each made their case on Saturday, May 21 in front of the nine BPL trustees and a surprisingly large audience of members of Friends groups, library employees and patrons. The two were the only ones left standing out of an initial group of 200; a third candidate opted out at the last minute. While the trustees repeatedly praised Leonard during his presentation for the outstanding job he had done stabilizing the BPL after last summer's raucous disintegration of the previous BPL leadership, it was clear from some of their questions during the interview, and comments after both candidates had spoken, that the "outsider" would win out over the "insider."

  Jill Bourne after her public interview in a conversation with Search Chair John Palfrey, seen from the back

Jill Bourne after her public interview in a conversation with Search Chair John Palfrey, seen from the back

Trustee questions about Leonard's take on "lessons learned" from all that went wrong when he worked under the last BPL president, Amy Ryan, were an early indicator of what one trustee  described as the "incumbency penalty" that would be hard to overcome, despite Leonard's strong and, at times, moving presentation. In her interview, Bourne focused on the many ways in which she said she had worked at increasing library services in poor and immigrant communities in Seattle and San Francisco, expanded library hours and staffing, and created beneficial partnerships with Silicon Valley tech companies in the city of San Jose which, she explained, did not have a strong tradition of philanthropy. In choosing the outsider over the insider in less than twenty minutes, the Library Board cast aside the obvious advantages Leonard would have brought, having held senior positions for more than nine years at the BPL in administration, finance, technology and project management. "We are at an inflection point," commented trustee Carol Fulpe, who added that Bourne represented "a new way of thinking" and "a breath of fresh air." "I believe it won't take Jill long to start working," assured trustee Byron Rushing.

Bourne gained the bulk of her librarian's experience in the innovative and forward-looking libraries of Seattle and San Francisco. Seattle renovated its entire library system within ten years by means of a $200 million dollar bond issue, called Libraries For All, that voters approved by almost 70 percent in the 1990s. (The average time it takes to plan and renovate one library in Boston is ten years.) The Seattle renovation included a stellar new downtown library and 26 branches redone in whole or in part, including three that combined affordable housing and libraries, according to a report on this project. Bourne worked on a number of them.

  Jill Bourne (facing), making the case for her appointment to the BPL trustees in a public hearing

Jill Bourne (facing), making the case for her appointment to the BPL trustees in a public hearing

In San Francisco, the public library was the first in the nation to hire social workers on its staff, in 2009, to assist and manage their large homeless population, a venture that has since expanded to include the formerly homeless, and has been featured on PBS. A moving and path-breaking photo exhibit of homeless patrons at the San Francisco downtown library, moreover, called Acknowledged, also described the many ways in which those showcased in the exhibit had become homeless. One of them was a descendant of President Abe Lincoln. In 2015,Acknowledged moved to the MLK library in San Jose, where Jill Bourne was in charge as its director.

Do You Have Any Audio Recordings, Tape Decks, CDs, Records or Tapes to Donate to Library Staffer Matt Krug? He Needs Them for Audio Collages and Sound Art Projects...

SE library staffer Matt Krug, striking an experimental pose
SE library staffer Matt Krug, striking an experimental pose

The BPL has some amazing staff members, including at the South End library, where music aficionado Matt Krug, formerly from the East Boston branch, is dedicated to, among other things, creating Sound Art. He uses anything that is already recorded, including conversations, to make "sound loops" for the electronic music he likes to create. He cites composers John Cage and David Tudor as some of his muses, and the musical group Kluster. He needs your help: Please donate any audio recordings you might have laying about, and tape decks, too. They will not be returned.

Experimental music is a personal hobby of Krug's, which dates from when he was a child, and recorded everything all the time. He also had a radio show called Live At Dinner Tonight. "You have to get out of the realm of traditional music" to enjoy the experimental side, says Krug, who enhances the sound loops he makes with key board or bass, even though he is not a trained musician.

Krug organizes the themed movie series on Fridays for the South End library, and he is planning to hold a sale of records and CDs in Library park sometime soon. Stay tuned.

Poet and Master Teacher Barbara Helfgott Hyett Will Offer an Eight-week Poetry Workshop for Adults Aged 55 or Older on Monday Mornings at the South End Library, Starting April 4

helfgott 2
helfgott 2

Poetry is coming to the South End branch in April, with an eight-week program taught by Barbara Helfgott Hyatt. The award-winning poet, professor and public lecturer will be at the South End library on eight Monday mornings, starting April 4, to teach poetry to both beginning and experienced poet colleagues aged 55 and over. Sponsored by the BPL and a National Leadership Grant from the US Department of Museums and Libraries, the AARP, and other organizations interested in supporting and benefitting  America's seniors, the program is limited to 15 people, and free to all. The workshops run from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and will show participants how to review the elements of a poem, the many forms a poem can take, and the various ways of editing a poem. The students will read, write and share their poetry every week. According to the poet's web site, Helfgott Hyatt has published five poetry collections, including In Evidence: Poems of the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps, which was selected Booklist's Editor's Choice. Other collections, including The Tracks We Leave: Poems on Endangered Wildlife of North America and Rift were widely reviewed. Her poems and essays have appeared in dozens of magazines including the New Republic, the Nation, the Hudson Review, the Massachusetts Review, Agni, Ploughshares, the Women's Review of Books, and in over 30 anthologies. She is the recipient of two Massachusetts Artists Fellowships in Poetry, the New England Poetry Club's Gertrude Warren Prize, the Herman Melville Commemorative Poetry Prize, Fellowships at Yaddo, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and many other prizes and grants, including a Brother John Fellowship for Excellence in the Arts, awarded by the Boston Foundation in 2009.

Helfgott Hyett has taught English at the Teachers as Scholars program at Harvard, MIT, Trinity College, and Boston University, where she won the Sproat Award for Excellence in Teaching English. As a poet-in the-schools, she has served over 200 communities and was artist-in-residence at the MFA and the Fuller Art Museums. She is currently the director of PoemWorks, the Workshop for Publishing Poets, in Brookline, MA, which was named “One of the Best Workshops in Boston” by the Boston Globe.

A Sign of the Times: Overdose Prevention Training, How to Administer Narcan, and the Details of How to Call 3-1-1 Will Be Explained at the South End Library on Tuesday, March 22, 6:30 PM

  Volunteers at the Roslindale branch of the BPL practicing overdose prevention and Narcan use

Volunteers at the Roslindale branch of the BPL practicing overdose prevention and Narcan use

The South End branch of the BPL will host an overdose  prevention seminar on Tuesday, March 22nd, at 6:30 PM. Berto Sanchez, manager of the Boston Public Health Commission's Addictions Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Support Services Services, will be there with his team to explain how to identify signs of an overdose and  how to administer Narcan. Along with the overdose prevention training, the team will address details about calling 3-1-1 for needle pick-up and any other questions that may come up.  Over the past year or two, needles have been found inside the library's restrooms, sometimes inside the pages of a book, in Library Park and in the surrounding neighborhood. Anne Smart, head librarian, who organized the seminar, has had to acquire needle-disposal boxes for the branch.

  Berro Sanchez illustrates a point

Berro Sanchez illustrates a point

Overdose prevention training began earlier this year when a member of the BPL's Roslindale library staff approached State Representative Liz Malia, who chairs the Legislature's Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, to see if she could help bring overdose-prevention training to the library. She could, the staff was told and, with the additional sponsorship of State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy, that session was held last February 11 at the Roslindale branch of the BPL, an event covered by the Roslindale Transcript.

The South End Library is fully handicapped accessible. Seating is limited. The event is free. We offer refreshments.

FOSEL's Annual Meeting Will Present a New Slate of Board Candidates for You --Yes You-- to Elect on Tuesday, February 2 at 6:30 PM: Meet Your Library's Advocates and Enjoy the Refreshments

  Poster design by Mary Owens

Poster design by Mary Owens

On February, 9, at 6:30 PM, the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) will hold its Annual Meeting and present the audience with an excellent slate of candidates for its voting board. In addition, there is a separate slate of library aficionados who have agreed to be board advisors and use their skills and interests to enhance the library's role in the community. The terms are for one year, but can be renewed.  The audience elects the board, and that means you, so please come and participate. The seven candidates for the voting board each have specific expertise and abilities in the three areas that FOSEL wants to focus on for the next two years, namely library/building maintenance and renovation; library park maintenance and renovation; and programming.The board candidates, alphabetically listed, are:

Marilyn Davillier (programming), a licensed, clinical social worker who wants to start a South End Parenting Forum at the library, with her husband, Ed Tronick, a noted researcher in child development and parenting

Ed Hostetter (building/park), actively involved in the South End as a Garden Steward for Southwest Corridor Park and a GED math tutor at USES. His background includes teaching, building and psychiatric nursing. Ed looks forward to becoming involved in the library at the nearby corner on his street – with a curiosity about what meaningful contributions/services a library might deliver to our complex diverse neighborhood in these changing & challenging times

Jeanne Pelletier (building), an attorney and longtime neighborhood activist for the Hurley School, Hayes Park, the South End Historic Society, and the South End library who is currently overseeing the restoration of the historic Ayer Mansion, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

Michelle Laboy (park/building), an architect, planner and urban engineer who created the LightWells in Library Park; she teaches at Northeastern

Marleen Nienhuis (everything), founder of FOSEL, who has recently rejoined the board as clerk/secretary and writes the library updates for the FOSEL web site

Mari Passananti (programming), author of The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken and The K Street Affair. She recruits authors for The South End Writes, and writes the introductions for the speakers who come to talk at the library

Barbara Sommerfeld (everything) has been the outstanding treasurer of FOSEL and has graciously agreed to do more of the same. She has an MBA from Northeastern, worked for non-profits, and currently tutors at St. Stephens. She has lived in the South End for 45 years.

The advisory-board members, alphabetically listed, are:

Adam Castiglioni (programming), who was the clerk/secretary for six years, during which time he recruited several speakers and used social media to publicize FOSEL events

Kim Clark (everything), an avid library user whose specialty is marketing and promotion for business and non-profits

Susanna Coit (programming) is in her final semester of the archives program at Simmons' School of Library and Information Science. She studied Afro-American Studies and Special Education at Smith College. She wants to encourage the relationship between the South End Library and the community through social media and events/programming. As a frequent user of library resources, Susanna is looking forward to supporting the South End Library's role and efforts in the neighborhood, where she has lived since 2008.

Marian Ellwood (programming/building), a scientist specializing in regulatory affairs, who loves the library

Stephen Fox (building/park), the chair of the South End Forum who has been a longtime advocate for the South End library and its park

Jacqueline McRath (programming), who has written about the arts for the Bay State Banner. She is an advocate for African-American artists and poets,  chairs the Teresa India-Young Scholarship Committee for fiber arts, and organizes fiber-arts exhibits at USES, like the current one, on exhibit till the end of February.

Mary Owens (programming), the graphic designer who has created all the beautiful posters for the South End Writes author series at the library, as well as the designs for the FOSEL tote bags, and the library signage on Tremont Street

Curtis Seborowski (building), who has been president of FOSEL since October 2014, and spearheaded the project for new library signage

Lois Russell (programming), a former journalist, is a fiber artist and basket maker whose sculptural work appears in national exhibitions and publications.  The former president of the National Basketry Organization, she currently serves on the boards of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston and Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Simmons College and Stanford University. Lois is interested in developing arts and public-health programming for the library, in collaboration with other board members.

Licia Sky (programming), a singer-songwriter who professionally runs experiential-movement workshops and would like to start poetry open-mic readings at the library

Anne Smart has worked for the BPL for 25 years and has been the head librarian at the South End branch for 20 years. She holds a Masters of Library Science from the University of North Texas, and grew up on the South Shore.

Karen Watson (building) is currently working on a project to develop exciting window installations at the library that tap into the South End library's creative community with library-themed displays.