Fundraising Goals Surpass Expectations for Renovations to the South End Library

In the first ever private-public partnership between the private community and the Boston Public Library (BPL), the fundraising goal for the first phase of the South End Library renovations has surpassed expectations.

At the annual meeting of the board and members of Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) held on Jan. 30, a report showed that almost $90,000 has been raised for phase-one.

The total cost of phase-one renovation is expected to be about $200,000. The BPL has allocated $132,000 for the first phase. FOSEL has already raised the $50,000 locally. FOSEL’s board has donated $30,000 toward this goal. Any money raised over $50,000 will go toward the second phase of the project.

This innovative, public-private partnership is unique for a BPL branch renovation and can be used as a template for future renovation projects of branch libraries.

“The state of the library is pretty strong and on a good path,” said David Leonard, president of the BPL. “I’m a big believer that libraries are a part of a heart of every community in Boston, and they only work well when we execute access to the public.”

“Together the goal is to transform the library and make this space all that it can be,” he said.

Leonard noted that this partnership could serve as a template citywide saying, that even if other neighborhoods couldn’t come up with this level of dollars it can be used as a way to build community participation in the local library branches.

The South End branch’s proposed redesign will dramatically improve the downstairs’ interior space to better support programs, services, research, browsing and borrowing. The first phase will begin in 2019.

Some of the improvements will include a state-of-the-art power and network infrastructure upgrade, a beautifully renovated children’s area, and a new dedicated space for teenagers, a central located circulation desk, and tall tables for quick computer checks.

“The architecture of the building is beautiful, but it is run down and out of date,” said Marleen Nienhuis, president of FOSEL. “But we need to connect the library through its architecture to the community and local non-profits.”

Nienhuis said she would like to be able to open up the South End branch even more to the many local artists and groups in the neighborhood as a platform to better reach community members.

The second phase of the library renovation will work on architecturally fixing the library to better meet the needs of the community, such as moving the front entrance and making a bigger community space for events, but nothing is set in stone yet.

After phase one is complete, FOSEL along with the BPL will set up community meetings as part of a Programming Study, which will listen to ideas on how to better position the library to serve the needs of the community for years to come.

Leonard said that after the Central Library in Copley Square was redesigned, they saw an uptick of 20 percent of users coming to the library.

“We are really meeting a need, and there is a hunger for civic space in the hub of the city that is also in a safe space,” said Leonard.

Leonard said that if a redesign is done correctly, people will come and use the space.

“Ten years ago, we were closing library branches; little did we know that in 2018, we would be redesigning and opening branches,” said Leonard.

Slate of FOSEL officers and directors for the 2018-2020 term

Officers: Marleen Nienhuis, president Kim Clark, clerk Barbara Sommerfeld, treasurer.

Directors: Gary Bailey, Marilyn Davillier, Maura Harrington, Licia Sky, and Duncan Will.

FOSEL Advisory Board Includes: Liane Crawford, Susanna Coit, Michael Fox, Don Haber, Ed Hostetter, Stephen Fox, Michelle Laboy, Jackie McRath, Jon Santiago, Anne Smart, Lois Russell, and Karen Watson .

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