South End Library to re-open on Feb. 18 after five months

It’s like the return of an old friend who has come back looking 20 years younger.
That will be the consensus when the South End Library opens its doors again to the public on Feb. 18 with a new and improved look after a five-month “refresh” of the space.
Marleen Neinhuis, president of the Friends of the South End Library, reported that they have been informed that the work will come to a close, and the doors will open again on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at noon.
“There will be a small ceremony and Library Director David Leonard will be here,” she said. “Then it will be open again to the relief of many people. It’s amazing what a vital role the library plays and everyone has missed it. It was just too far for little kids to walk to Copley Square Library and for senior citizens too. It really points out the importance of a branch library. It’s a place you can walk to.”
The renovations were part of an agreement with the Boston Public Libraries (BPL) and the Friends of the South End Library as a first phase of a larger renovation project. Known as a refresh, the City put in $132,000 for the infrastructure (new outlets, a reconfiguration on the first floor and a new mural) and painting work, which the Friends put in $50,000 for all of the new furniture and a new projector and screen for the upstairs room (with a big thank you on that coming from the South End Forum).
“The most important thing done is that they threw out all the junk and dilapidated furniture and the curtains that disintegrated when you touched them,” she said. “They got rid of several dumpsters full of decrepit furniture.”
When the library opens anew, there will be a much more open format with clear sight lines for the staff to observe what’s going on. That was always a particular problem given the large population of homeless people that used the library, some of whom did not behave properly.
“What we’re really looking forward to for the new furniture arrangement is clearing out the sight lines because part of the population using the library is a challenging population. It’s a small library of only 3,000 square feet, but when you have a few difficult people, it affects the entire place. The staff needs to see what’s happening. With the old setup, staff couldn’t often see people acting inappropriately.”
Added in are high-top tables that are wired as charging stations as well, and desks that are also wired for charging. There is comfortable window seating and way more outlets than before. Also, under the stairs, they have created panels that separate the adult computers from the children’s area.
There is even an added mural near the old desk station that includes several key landmarks in the neighborhood, and a gender-neutral couple embracing each other in a nod to the LGBTQ community in the South End.
The new, refreshed space is exciting, but Neinhuis reminded that it is just an interim step. The goal is to get a complete renovation, and possibly and expansion, of the South End Library.
“It is an extremely small space, but we have done what we can while we wait for the big renovations to start their processes,” she said. “We need that renovation. There is a tremendous energy for public space. In the South End and elsewhere public spaces have been lost as a lot of churches have turned to condos and open spaces are lost to gentrification or re-developed. Public spaces are the orphan child that the library is able to accommodate. We are fortunate to have an administration for which that matters. As library advocates, we are in a fortunate time to take advantage of that political lineup.”

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