Boston Public Library
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The BPL Compass

Category Archives: Profiles

In this section of the BPL Compass blog, we bring you profiles of community members whose efforts are connected to principles in the strategic plan.

Profiles – Byron Rushing, Massachusetts House of Representatives; Trustee, Boston Public Library; Chair, BPL Strategic Planning Committee

Posted on July 21st, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
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Rushing and Caroll

Rep. Byron Rushing with former Boston Public Library Trustee James Carroll.

One of the things that makes Representative Byron Rushing’s work for the library a pleasure is the positive feedback he gets from its users. “If you ask people what they don’t like about the library, there’s very, very little that people say. People love libraries. People use words like that,” he says. “In fact, most of the suggestions I hear are to make the library more accessible and keep it as up to date as possible.”

That, of course, takes money, which prompts Byron to reflect on the library’s role as a public institution. “I think one of the things that people take for granted about libraries is one of the most profound things about them, and that’s that they are public institutions,” he says. “We really have very few public institutions—schools, parks—and there are not many public institutions we have that serve so many and such a variety of people.”

“Think about it,” he says. “When you compare libraries to parks, it’s sort of interesting, because in most parks, you can’t go pick the flowers. You’ll get arrested if you go to some parks and say, ‘Oh what wonderful flowers, I’m going to take some home.’ So think about how remarkable it is to be a library, because we let you borrow the books and the DVDs and even computers. What is so remarkable about the libraries is that they are a real example of a public institution and what it means to be a public institution.”

What it all comes down to is chiseled in granite above the doors of the Central Library in Copley Square: Free to all. “You can’t take that sign down,” Byron points out. “And everyone, when they see that, they know what that means. It means that all of the services of the library are available to everybody. And everyone knows to do that costs money. That’s the remarkable thing about a public institution—the public says we are actually willing to pay money in order for it to be available to everybody. We never want to get to a point where a significant amount of tax dollars aren’t going to the library, because that’s a significant part of what makes it public.”

Still, Byron believes that it’s important to find ways to add to the coffers with private funds. Those public dollars need to be supplemented. The library, like other cultural institutions, has the ability to raise money. A great future source of sustainability is the people who use the library for free, who “love the library,” and would welcome an opportunity to give back.

Underlying all of Byron’s activities on behalf of the Boston Public Library is a strong belief in the library’s robust future. “I’m a library user, I love libraries, and I’ve had an ongoing relationship with various branches over the years as I’ve done work in Boston,” he says. “I think that the library has an incredible constituency, which is bigger than its users, because people like libraries even if they buy books. The major resource the library has for sustaining itself is all the people who use it and love it.”

Profiles – Joshua Kraft, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Boston; BPL Compass Committee Member

Posted on July 20th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
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Joshua Kraft (c) 2011 by Randy GoodmanHe doesn’t live in Boston. And by his own description, he’s a “bookstore guy” more than a library user. Then why is the president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Boston active with the Boston Public Library?

To Josh Kraft, the answer is simple. “Education is the great equalizer,” he says. “We all know that, and libraries are free and open to anyone and everyone, which makes them a great equalizer, too.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Boston serves approximately 14,000 children, ages six to 18–49% of whom come from families with an income of less than $27,000, according to Josh. “We try to do as much as we can for kids,” he says. “In order to sustain our ability, we partner with other nonprofits, be it the Boston Public Library or other education-based organizations.”

That partnership can take many forms, such as bringing kids into the library to view a recent Civil War exhibition. And Josh envisions future library-based programs that could help club members gain access to college and apply for financial aid. “Partnerships with other nonprofits will help get more kids into the library,” says Josh.

Profiles – Thomas M. Menino, Mayor, City of Boston

Posted on July 19th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
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Mayor Thomas M MeninoA national leader on neighborhood issues, Mayor Thomas M. Menino believes that government is about helping people. Elected five times as Mayor of Boston and five times as a City Councilor from Hyde Park, he has spent a lifetime building a better Boston for residents and businesses.

“The Boston Public Library is an important place for the people of Boston to make a connection – to learning, to history, and to each other,” says Mayor Menino. “Libraries are not only a place where families can find books to read, they are also the place where people can learn how to use a computer, search for jobs, and research their family trees. Libraries are opportunity.”

While Mayor Menino has been in office, Boston’s population has grown. According to 2010 Census numbers, the City of Boston population is 617,594, a 4.8% increase over the 2000 census or 28,453 more residents. The latest numbers mark the first time since the 1970s that Boston’s population exceeded 600,000.

“Now, more than ever, building connections in our communities is an important part of a great, growing city,” says Mayor Menino. “The public library was born in Boston. We can be proud of our history and prouder still of all that libraries do for the people of Boston today.”

Profiles – Josephine Bruzzese, Friends of the Orient Heights Branch

Posted on July 18th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
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Jo

When Josephine Bruzzese’s parents moved from Italy to the United States, they faced a challenge that is common to immigrants to this country: ensuring that their children become fluent in a language they themselves could neither speak nor understand. They realized that the best way to go about it was to have their children mingle with native English speakers. So, when Josephine was just four years old, they began sending her to the library.

That decision instilled in Josephine a lifelong love of libraries—in particular, her neighborhood library. “The neighborhood branch is the center of the community,” she explains. And as her neighborhood has diversified over the years with the arrival of Latino, Chinese, and North African Muslim immigrants, she has seen how the library helps others for whom English is a second language, just as it once did for her.

Because she believes so strongly in the importance of the library to her neighborhood, Josephine today is active in her local friends of the library group. “The requirements of one branch location are different from another, because the demographics are so different in different parts of the city,” she says. “There’s a lot going on with the library, all over the city.”

Welcome from Amy E. Ryan, President, Boston Public Library

Posted on July 17th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles, Strategic Plan
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BPL President Amy E RyanWhen I arrived in Boston as the new President of the Boston Public Library in 2008, it was a professional librarian’s dream come true. I knew of the BPL’s world-class book collection and treasures like its 15th century illuminated manuscripts and seafaring maps. I know now, however, that the library’s greatest treasure lies in the people with whom I am privileged to work.

For many years, long before I arrived in Boston, it has been clear that the way people read, think, learn, and teach is being redefined. Libraries everywhere must place themselves at the forefront of such change all while minding the gap, so to speak, between those with access to technology and information and those without. This strategic planning process has afforded my colleagues and me the privilege of personally communicating with thousands of Bostonians. Whether we serve people in buildings, online, or out in the community, we have listened to them talk about the library they have loved since childhood and their hopes for the library of the future.

Libraries have never been more important or useful than they are today. In this era of ever-expanding information, libraries help people make sense of the world. In buildings, the Boston Public Library’s core services will thrive with more books, open hours, story times, programs, and access to and assistance with technology. Online, the Boston Public Library will truly open the gate to the information highway in our buildings, at work, and on-the-go. In the community, the Boston Public Library will extend itself beyond bricks and mortar to meet our users – and our potential users – where they are.

Fulfilling the Boston Public Library’s 21st century potential may take some time, but I believe we can deliver on the vision contained within these pages. With Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s support and leadership, the Boston Public Library is committed to investing in the future of Boston. With this document, we have our compass.