Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Johnson Building Improvement Project: Ideas Being Collected

by Gina Perille

JohnsonBuildingLobbyDisplay_pic1We have already started to receive comments and suggestions on the display in the center atrium of the Johnson Building. Thank you to all who have already particpated. If you are not able to visit the Central Library this month or attend the April 10 program, please feel free to comment directly on this blog, send an email to, or send a letter to Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston MA 02116.

The questions posted on on the display at the Central Library are similar to ones shared on this blog in January. They are:

  1. What areas or services in the library seem underutilized when you visit? What areas might need some updating?
  2. What can the library do to establish a stronger connection to Boylston Street and Exeter Street?
  3. How might the library make the Johnson Building more attractive and inviting?
  4. What sorts of enterprise or entrepreneurial opportunities might the library pursue? What sorts of entrepreneurial activities might fit in well in the Johnson Building?

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3 Responses to “Johnson Building Improvement Project: Ideas Being Collected”

  1. Don Warner Saklad says:

    Redesign a more welcoming Access Center for hard of hearing, deaf, cognitive difficulties, dyslexia, etc.

  2. B. says:

    I would strongly encourage you to redesign the Johnson Building to achieve:

    Better integration and “flow”, with both Boylston Street, and the McKim, Mead & White Building. Redesign the Boylston entrance and lobby to make it more “open” and visible to the street; if possible, it would be a very good thing if you could “project” the Library’s presence beyond the door, out onto the sidewalk–
    (–although the space surrounding the McKim Buidling is probably better situated for this endeavor, in terms of appealing to both tourists and the lunch-hour crowd; I would suggest turning that space into a free-wifi cafe-zone, with a team of “entrepreneurial” librarians promoting “hassle-free” membership to the Library, and “one-click” access to the Library’s E-book collection– and by “one-click” I mean, the patron should be able quickly find and access E-books using the Library’s website, with only a minimal amount of click-thru and hassle.)

    When patrons/visitors first enter the Library via the Johnson Building, their immediate perceptions should be of an inviting and well kept space, clearly navigable, with professional and friendly library staff in immediate view– not hidden in a nook or at a desk behind a corner. Contrast this with the present situation, in which the visitor’s first impression is of: an empty, worn down space (the lobby), populated by a few self-check stations, staffed only by a few security contractors whose job function tends to preclude any “warm” interaction with the public.
    Although to be fair: I applaud the Library’s recent efforts to convert the Lobby into some form of exhibition space, as this presents a more engaging and human “first-face” to the public; however, IF the Lobby does not simultaneously communicate the Library’s commitment to being a Library– in terms of providing immediate access to books, e-books, media and journals– then the Lobby will still end-up expressing a degree of institutional confusion, whereby the Library is simply acting as a second-string museum, and a worn-down historical space; I will not go so far as to say that the Library has to focus on one “main mission” at the expense of all others–I believe that the Library can and should provide exhibitions, tours, musical programming, and computer resources– HOWEVER, for all of that, I would encourage you to make it very clear to any visitor, on first glance, that the Library exists to provide provide resources and space for reading and research– I would encourage you to move your “new books” into an area that either projects into the Lobby, or is directly visible not only from the Lobby but from the street (I.E., the Atrium).

    Other issues:

    In its present state the Johnson Building does not clearly flow into the McKim Building; the Atrium registers as a poorly lit, poorly maintained, empty space, with awkward stairways and nearly hidden elevators; the Library’s circulating collection only gradually becomes apparent to the visitor, and the Library’s new books make less of a visual impact than the internet section, which also has the run-down appearance of an internet cafe from the late 90s. The Library’s catalog terminals are essentially invisible. The Library’s theatre is hidden beneath the Atrium, together with a Business Library whose existence will remain a total mystery to the average patron or visitor (along with the Art Library in the McKim Building). In short: the Library’s various elements do not flow or communicate with one another, creating “dead zones”, isolated and invisible staff, and the appearance of poorly allocated services and resources.

    The Johnson Building’s carpet and furniture have the appearance of being dirty, worn, and threadbare. In my own experiences, the Library’s wifi connection has also been painfully slow and inadequate. Both this run-down appearance and the inadequate internet service, undermine the Library’s attractiveness as a research, reading or study space– and if the Library only has the opportunity to implement a minimal redesign/reinvestment in the Johnson Building, I would encourage you to replace/update the carpeting and furniture, and upgrade your internet service, in order to provide an attractive/usable space; because otherwise, the Library will suffer from the “broken window syndrome” of down-spiraling public usage and appeal.

  3. Don Warner Saklad says:

    Acoustics of the areas of the building… Greater attention to the wider spaces of the Johnson Building including acoustics would improve the experience for library users. The City owns a tapestry currently in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts warehouse storage facility. Tapestry would improve the building acoustics.

    Decor… Ornamentation would be a good thing for the bland Rabb Lecture Hall walls and the walls of the lower level seminar rooms. No more bare minimalism. Get artwork for the building.

    Lighting… Vary lighting so that as you move through the big spaces of the building you feel a greater sense of progress toward where you’re going in the building. The current too even lighting makes walking through the building a chore instead of an experience of moving through an interesting building.