Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Saga in the Making: Save the BPL - Powers of Darkness and Light

It is small minded of me to divide up this struggle for the integrity of the Boston Public Library into teams representing darkness and light. But, that is me and this is my blog. Read elsewhere if you want mealy mouthed paeans to streamlining and modernity. I am simplistic, and simple. And I am equally as fond of bombast as I am disgusted by the deformities caused by adaptations to corporate culture.

Let's talk about the team of the  hovering "darkness" those who lack of the "light" of wisdom which leads them to close libraries and cut jobs.  How could anyone chose to close branches, throw nearly 100 Boston citizens out of work and cut corners on vital services that libraries provide, during a Great Depression? Only really, really, bad guys, right?  Or people who are clueless? Or, leaders who do not share our values?  People who put the yaddah-yaddah of corporate speak before the common sense of human caring? Who ever they are, and  whatever their reasoning, what they are doing is bad. Bad to the bone. I am not quite sure whether to count BPL President, Amy Ryan or all of the Trustees on the "forces of darkness" team roster. She seems so befuddled by her own corporate speak that she has forgotten that libraries are buildings that contain people and books. However, the people who hired Amy Ryan to do the "hit" will not get off so easy.  I will not pull any punches for Mayor Menino and Board of Trustees chair, Mr Jeffery M. Rudman who said, at  the April 9th 2010 open meeting that;
“After much study, the board has come to what I deeply believe to be a judicious and prudent decision for the Boston Public Library in a difficult time,” “We are very grateful to President Ryan and her team for the rigor, fairness, and wisdom they have brought to this budgetary process.
Mr. Rudman's pronouncement  sounds so grown up and responsible, doesn't it? Indeed, he was all business and rather condescending to the assembled crowd on April 9th.  However,  the "balance the budget" boys are spin doctors, prevaricators and fabulists.  Careful and responsible study will show that Dewey and his decimals would put Mr. Rudman and Mayor Meninio's words about budgetary concerns on the 398 shelf with the fairy tales. The layoffs and closings are not about balancing the budget.  It is a lie to file Menino's and Rudman's locutions in nonfiction. They have been misleading the people of Boston and I wonder if Mr. Rudman has not been misleading the Board as well? This plan to close branches and cut staff is about re-visioning a library and not just about budget.

The thing that sparked this latest volley of vitriol is the news that the very same city that cannot maintain its world class library because of a $3.6 million dollar shortfall had, at the same time, $10.5 million dollars to loan to a failing, albeit local, developer of luxury condo and hotel suites.   Yes,  Boston had $10.5 million to loan to the Hotel W developer but could not dream of spending money  "irresponsibly " by keeping branches open and jobs intact.  Our leaders seem to think we need more empty, high-end condos and hotel rooms. Even if it means less places of learning and culture. Worse,  they tout it as a near sacred duty and responsibility to make sure these budget cuts happen.

When we have such a wide divide between meaning and action on a word like "responsible"  we truly have "a failure to communicate". To whom are the Board of Trustees responsible?  Over and over the other Trustees spoke with a fanatical "fatwah" mentality about about a balanced budget. But when Trustee Donna M. DePrisco asked if the shortfall of funds could be found would the jobs be saved and the branches kept open,  she was treated dismissively by Chair Rudman and told, in so many words, no.

Using only one criteria for stewardship is not responsible - it is unbalanced.  Trustees should consider more variables than monetary issues. This makes one wonder, just who elects these Trustees of our common, cultural wealth?  Who elects them? O dear, that would be so "irresponsible."  No. The Mayor appoints the Trustees.  Can't help but think that this is a huge part of our problem. Especially since the Trustees chair,  WilmerHale corporate attorney( WilmerHale have Goldman Sachs and Citicorp in their client list)  Mr. Jeffery Rudman behaved like a bullying, pompous, over privileged, upper classman. He gave no hint that he had the slightest clue as to the needs and exigencies of every day life in the City of Boston.  Perhaps he is over privileged and upper class too ? I do not actually know the guy, but even so, his personal problems need not preclude intelligent compassion.  Just saying. And what is this raggedy-assed idea called "modernity" that it is still attracting fans?  Modernity ? Really, that is so 20th century.   What should a "modern" library look like, if not the Visiting Nurse Association/ Internet Cafe model that Amy Ryan has conceived?  From the BPL site we read:
"... the demand for books and programs is on the rise. In the last three years, the number of books, CDs, DVDs borrowed from the library is up 31%.Today, half of Boston residents use their Boston Public Library card,” Ryan noted. "
April 09, 2010 :Released By: Library
 So, I am guessing a good "modern"  library will have lots of branches, loads of staff, more books, computers and  good programs?

 On the side of "light" and wisdom we have a few notable state reps, a majority of City Councillors and one kick butt grassroots organization. Here is what my state rep wrote to me(emphasis is mine):

Dear Norah,

Thank you for your letter regarding funding for the Boston Public Library.  I honestly couldn't agree with you more; I see the continuous cutting of library funding as extremely detrimental to our communities.  Our libraries are institutions within our state and their mission is crucially important in preserving our history, serving our citizens and as a resource to our all of our residents.  At a time of great difficulties for many people, the library is a place where the doors are always open and help is always available.  We MUST preserve this resource.  The libraries are already operating on minimal budgets, and have been for the last several years.  As I see it, the cuts to library funding will provide  the state with little in additional resources while abolishing establishments of great value to the people and history of the Commonwealth.

I am a strong supporter of our libraries and am a member of the legislature's library caucus.  We have been meeting regularly and have continued to advocate among our colleagues to realize the importance of our libraries and to take great caution in implementing any cuts.  I know that our libraries are currently funded at levels that are not even close to what they should be, and I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that future funding is not only restored, but that we continue to increase library funding as our economy continues to recover.  

Again, thank you for your letter.  Please feel free to contact me with any further questions or concerns.

Best Wishes,

Frank I. Smizik
More about grassroots efforts and other politicians who are on target below.

Meanwhile, in the words of Amy Ryan...
What ?   Well, yeah.  Of course I did. I took off the front part of her sentence - duh!  Still, In the immortal words of the corporate- star-struck, Amy Ryan 
Let's keep fighting to make:
  "... the library the reliable and responsive institution that the people of Boston deserve."  

Above: Vigil outside of Fanueil Library in Brighton on April 10th 2010

How to help from  People of the Boston Branches

E-mail: peopleofboston [at] gmail {dot} com
Facebook Group: Say NO to Branch Closings of the Boston Public Library Facebook Page: Keep the Boston Public Library Open Twitter:@peopleofboston Hashtag is #saveBPL Consider joining the Citywide Friends or your local Friends Grou

People of Boston Branches: Purpose

The purpose of People of Boston Branches is to bring together the patrons, community groups, schools, Friends, workers, neighborhoods and other supporters of the library who will be affected by these cuts. We seek accountability, transparency, and action from city, state, and library leadership.
We want to hold leadership responsible where we see problems in the financing structure of the library, the timing of the recent announcements, the speed of the decisions, and the lost trust in our leadership.
We want to see more information on what constitute statewide, regional, and branch services of the library, the budget process, the use of library funds, the action of city hall, the long-term plans for the library system, and the impact of the proposed changes.
We aim to inform the public, organize and publicize events, organize future fund raising and volunteer efforts, provide long-term support to the branches and workers on these issues, and work towards political action and advocate for the library at all levels of government.
Action You Can Take
  1. Get on our e-mail list: peopleofboston@gmail.com  
  2. Tell your State Rep. to support Budget Amendments 615-617 
  3. Tell your State Sen. to support the same Amendments in the Senate Budget. The amendments are likely to be author by Senator Jack Hart, potentially co-authored by Chang-Diaz (if you tell her you want her too!). 
  4. Call and write to: Ways & Means Chairman Mark Ciommo: mark.ciommo@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-3113  
  5. Call or write City Councillors: 
  • John Connolly: John.R.Connolly@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-3115 
  • Ayanna Pressley: Ayanna.Pressley@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-4217 
  • Felix Arroyo: Felix.Arroyo@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-4205 
  • Stephen Murphy: Stephen.Murphy@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-4376 
  • Your City Councillor (Find him or her HERE)  
  Go to your coffee hour with the Mayor (see Events below) 
Call+ write to the Mayor: mayor@cityofboston.gov - 617-635-4500  E-mail your neighborhood liaison and tell him or her (find your liaison HEREthat libraries are important to your neighborhood If you are at planning meetings for the changes to Old Colony Housing Development, ask them where the space for the library is. Washington Village is staying open and if they manage to take it away, we will open our own a la Chinatown, so they had better keep a space for us. Watch here for more updates.
This issue is an embarrassment to our city, as demonstrated here. Note the use of the word "formerly" in the first panel. Other cities have solved this problem like we are proposing, such as in Charlotte. We will announce fund raising efforts soon to show that we are serious about our support for the library. These funds will go directly to help the branches and the workers affected by this plan. It will not be donated for the trustees to misuse.

1 comment:

Ann said...

No one tells it better than a storyteller--Thanks Norah!

The forces of sweetness and light continue the fight.
JUNE 3rd, 5:00--Rally for Boston Libraries & Library Workers
JUNE 3RD, 6:00--Boston City Council Budget Hearing at Boston Public Library

Thanks Norah-- You're the Best!