BPL guiding principles up for Board approval

The Boston Public Library (BPL) wrapped up its nearly-two-year process to create guiding principles for its future, known as the BPL Compass, with a last round of discussions, one of which took place at the Parker Hill Branch Library at 1497 Tremont St. on Aug. 30.

The Compass plan includes more local outreach and possible connections between branches and schools and nonprofits; selecting and promoting localized special collections in neighborhood branches and evaluating staffing levels system-wide, along with continued digitization of many resources and diversification of BPL staff.

“The head librarian had good ideas. I hope some of those ideas to get the library more [involved with] the community will be implemented through this Compass process,” said Mary Ann Nelson, former head of the Friends of the Parker Hill Library. “This plan may begin to do some of that, it depends on how they implement it.”

Last year, BPL proposed several plans to close neighborhood branches in the face of projected budget cuts, eventually settling on the closure of four branches. That plan drew enormous citywide criticism.

Shifting reasons were given for pushing for the closures, ranging from a financial emergency to a new vision of fewer, better libraries. BPL debated which branches to close before canceling the closures altogether.

The Compass plan started being developed around the same time as the closures were being discussed.

Fear over the possible closure of the Parker Hill branch was widespread in Mission Hill despite the fact that branch was not on the final closures list.

There are currently no closures planned for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Some library advocates keep saying that [the Compass plan] is a sneaky way to close branches. We’ll see about that the year after next,” after the Compass plan starts being implemented, Nelson said.

Some of the proposed outcomes in the draft plan include keeping pace with standards on accessibility for buildings—like bringing local branches up to code with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, enabling easy access to library services, both online and in-person; and “exploring revenue streams to ensure financial stability and transparency.”

“It looks like a good plan, looking at diversity in the staff,” Nelson said. “I hope they can do that as part of the process.”

The Compass plan will “help us match the funding we get to the services we offer,” BPL Director of Resource Services and Information Technology Michael Colford said at the meeting.

The BPL’s Board of Trustees was scheduled to receive a draft copy of the completed strategic plan on Sept. 15, after the Gazette’s deadline. BPL’s Board will vote on whether to approve the plan at its next meeting on Nov. 15.

The draft plan was not planned to be released publicly before the Sept. 15 meeting, which caused concern at the Mission Hill meeting. BPL spokesperson Gina Perille said that BPL would make the draft available. It was posted on Compass’s website Aug. 31.

The BPL Compass plan is “designed to serve as the road map for the future of the library,” Perille previously told the Gazette. Work and service plans, resource allocation, fund-raising initiatives and other decision-making would stem from the principles outlined in the plan, she added.

The Compass plan was supposed to wrap up last year, but BPL decided to extend the process.

The BPL Board of Trustees meetings are public. The vote to decide whether to adopt the Compass plan will be held at the next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 15, at 3 p.m. in the Fields Corner Branch Library, 1520 Dorchester Ave.

The Compass draft presented to the BPL Board is available online at bpl.org/compass. Comments are still welcomed while the draft is finalized.

Over a year of public meetings and round-table discussions to discuss the library’s goals have been held all over the city.




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