EDITORIAL- Say no to any library closures

The public debate over the future of the branch libraries took a Darwinian turn yesterday morning when BPL Trustees chairman Jeffrey Rudman revealed he couldn’t possibly consider closing branches in Uphams Corner and Egleston Square, claiming they “deal with the most vulnerable people in this city. I would not close them.”
So there you have it: Under this trustees board, under this administration, judgments are made based on a perception of which neighborhood’s residents are “most vulnerable.” In that world, children in Lower Mills are not as needy as children in Uphams Corner. What does that say about what the people who run our public libraries think of us and our neighbors?
The underlying premise of the current discussion is flawed. BPL president Amy Ryan said last week, “The mayor has been very imaginative and supportive of envisioning a world-class library for Boston.” By definition, cities that close libraries can never be considered “world-class.”
Tomorrow, the trustees will take a final vote on the issue. They have a binding fiduciary obligation to approve a balanced budget – but they must not allow any library closures. To say one neighborhood is more deserving than another is unconscionable.
There are almost five months before the new city fiscal year begins, and the library’s budget shortfall is a little more than $3.6 million. With inspired leadership and political commitment, there is ample time to find new sources of funds – from the state and city budgets and from private philanthrophy.
The BPL should ask for voluntary donations from the public, and immediately retain professional fund-raisers to reach out to the greater community for support. Down the road, as the economy recovers, the city can expect to see state local aid restored.
There has been much heat generated in the debate so far; but momentous decisions to close these vital public assets should not be made in such a short period of time. Managing through tough fiscal times can be difficult, but President Ryan, Mayor Menino and the trustees must keep in mind this compelling reality:
Closing a neighborhood branch library is forever.
– Ed Forry