Plan Revealed for South End Library

By Seth Daniel

The Friends of the South End Library revealed an ambitious five-phase plan to update the South End Library starting with a $100,000 spruce-up this year.

Marleen Neinhuis of the Friends told the South End Forum on Tuesday night that they hope to raise $25,000 and use Boston Public Library (BPL) money to create about $100,000 worth of changes to the first floor as a way to “buy time” until a full renovation can take place – one that would eventually expand the Library and create things like a second-floor café.

“The first phase we hope will provide some needed changes in the existing space and buy us time until we get into the capital budget for the four additional phases,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be successful and hopefully the first $100,000 allocated will be made by the BPL for this coming fiscal year so you can see immediate and meaningful changes.

“The BPL has a five-year capital budget and we are not in it,” she continued. “We need to be in it.”

The Phase 1 work contemplates removing many of the obstacles on the first floor, moving the bookcases back against the walls and opening up the space. It also involves moving the computers back against the walls and out from under the stairs. The tables would also be rearranged and new furniture would replace some of the older pieces.

Another piece will include creating differentiated spaces for adults and children so that they don’t mix and mingle. Many libraries across the network new have completely separated spaces for children and adults – as well as a separate “clubhouse” type area for teenagers.

“There is now no area at all for teenagers here,” said Neinhuis.

For the remaining phases, the Friends are hoping that they can get into the capital budget for the BPL and totally transform the Library.

That includes eliminating a lot of wasted space.

For instance, a rarely used room on the second floor has a beautiful, large window with a view of the downtown and Back Bay. However, because it is rarely used, no one gets to enjoy that fine space.

The Friends hope that the second floor can be expanded and a café can be built that would take advantage of that fine vista.

“We do want to change the way the top floor is laid out,” she said. “There’s been a lot of thought put into it. It’s pretty exciting the kind of transformation that is possible.”

While many have criticized the look of the South End branch, it does remain architecturally significant in that it is one of the few examples of that kind of architecture remaining in the City and the country.

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