I opposed the closings of the branch libraries in Upper and Lower Falls, the Highlands, and Oak Hill Park, which had been previously impacted by school closings. I supported the use of the bookmobile as a means of providing service to residents of these villages. I worked with the Recycling Commission and other agencies and citizens to establish a book exchange in the Emerson Community Center like the ones on Rumford Avenue and in Oak Hill Park. Few books were exchanged and the effort petered out.
When the four remaining branch libraries (Auburndale, Newton Corner, Nonantum, and Waban) were closed by Mayoral budgetary fiat after the override failed and Aldermanic resolutions to keep them open were rejected, I knew what the next step had to be because I’d been through this painful process before. The Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Newton Highlands branches had been closed in a previous wave of budget cuts in my first term on the Board of Aldermen two decades ago. I had worked with activists in these villages to maintain independent libraries. (I even persuaded former Mayor Concannon to serve the abandoned areas with a bookmobile.)
A major obstacle to developing independent libraries was the lack of permanent collections. The branch collections had been distributed to the Main Library and the remaining branches. New collections needed to be developed and shelves re-stocked if readers were to be attracted. A lack of permanent collections was a major factor in the failure of efforts to establish independent libraries to replace closed branches.
To avoid a recurrence of this problem, I introduced Budget Amendment 1 to the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget to ask that the books and other supplies remain in place in the closed branch libraries. I also filed a budget resolution asking for the establishment of a task force to establish neighborhood based libraries. The Trustees and the Mayor readily agreed to leave the books in place and to negotiate with interested neighborhood groups.
Thus far, two neighborhood based libraries have been established, one in Auburndale and one in Waban. They use the former branch collections as the core of their collections. I was delighted to be one of the first customers of the Auburndale Community Library just as I was one of the last of the Auburndale Branch Library. I hope that the residents of the villages with closed branches and poor access to the Main Library will follow the examples of Auburndale and Waban and the citizens of a hundred years ago and more who established village reading rooms that became branch libraries. Maybe someday public finances and technology will enable us to have branch libraries again in Newton.
Here are links to information about these two branch libraries: