THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Boris Artzybasheff from the John D. Merriam Collection
Annual Report 1994-1995
THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
For the Year Ending June 30, 1995
The Trustees of the PubHc Library of the City of Boston
Trustees of the Public Library
The City of Boston
Berthe M. Gaines, President
Arthur F. F. Snyder, Vice President
William M. Bulj^er
V. Paul Deare
Donna M. DePrisco
William O. Taylor
Since the BPL bej^an in two-room quarters on Mason Street in 1854, it
has seen growth in structures and mission. In celebration of its
Centenary in 1953/1954, the main J^oals cited were need for more shelf
space, breathing space, and work space.
On December 11, 1972, the opening of the great structure
designed by architect Philip Johnson exceeded the missions expressed
more than one hundred years earlier. At the opening festivities, poet
David McGord reminded the gathering, "The real books set their hooks
in your brain." And Mayor Kevin WTiite commented: "Even this stately
hall is nothing more than a granite building — full of paper and film
and tape recorders — until it is brought to life by real people in the
greatest imaginable numbers." Publicity releases at the time described
the building as a "steadfast ship carrying a cargo of wealth as it enters a
new period of library service,"
Illustration by Rudolph Ruzicka
In May 1994, followinj^ the official reopeninj^ of the McKim
building, the maj^^nificent "people's palace" again symbolized the
changing face of BPL structures and once again emerged as the most
beautiful public building in America. With Phase I now completed, the
McKim building boasts the restoration of both art and utilitarian
essentials. From the vaulted mosaic ceiling and brass-ornamented floor
of the lobby, up the great staircase flanked by the restored Puvis de
Ghavannes murals, the building glows with refurbished marble and
bronze and canvas. And for the greater convenience and mobility of
patrons there are new elevators, modem rest rooms, and handicap
access. The basement, formerly a place of pipes and dark storage areas,
is now reached by a marble stairway leading to new public areas. Today
the restoration continues, promising complete renovation of Bates Hall
and the adjacent areas on the second floor extending over to the
northwest staircase and down to a renovated Newspaper Room.
SPECIAL CENTENNIAL '98 ISSUE 'tZl^"
Tlic mimD& of The HYDE PACK DDANQl LIBDADY
A Capital Plan!
FrieniLs of The Hyde Park Branch Library uisued a special edition of their
newsletter in celebration of the plan for restoration.
FY95 saw other major plans for building restorations. At Hyde
Park Branch in March, Mayor Menino assembled city department heads
and library officials to unveil Boston's Five-Year Capital Plan, 1996-
2000, which includes the renovation and expansion of Hyde Park
Branch and a new branch library for the AUston neighborhood.
A CHRONICLE OF CHANGES
Again and again the message of FY95 was one of moves and changes to
increase space and to improve efficiency. The lower level and first floor
of the McWm buildinj^ were dramatically renovated; the Government
Documents Department was moved to new quarters, and the
Dartmouth Street entrance was opened once aj^ain. Development of the
Norwood facility for remote storaj^e and statewide distribution of
services proj^ressed with a continuing need to develop routines and
Interlibrary Loan moved from the second floor of the Johnson
buildinj^ to a space carved out of Resources and Processing on the third
floor, making it possible to unite Interlibrary Loan and Telefax
functions and staff. Prints were moved from the Print Department area
to the jurisdiction of the Fine Arts Department.
In the General Library, the newly renovated Children's Room
was re-opened. Thanks to the generosity of Robert Artick in memory of
his wife Elvira Vecchione Artick, the room was transformed into a
lively, beckoning, colorful center of books, programs, and activities.
The direction of central and branch services to children and young
adults was this year strengthened through the reinstatement of the
position of Coordinator of Youth Services. The Access Center was
integrated as part of the Adult Readers and Information Services of the
General Library. Change and still more change was the touchstone of
Change Revealed in Catalog Subject Headings
Probably no more visible proof of changing priorities in the
world served by the Library exists than in the hundreds of new subject
headings introduced in FY95. To read them is to see a fascinating range
of good news and bad in our nation and beyond.
To cite a few headings: Antitakeover strategies; Beepers;
Brownouts; Downsizing of organizations; Psychological abuse;
Attention deficit disorder in adults; Computer hackers; Hair growth
stimulants; Telephone sex; and Grandparents as parents.
And the list is endless. There's human genome; Nanny
placement agencies; Tae kwon do; Internet advertising; Monoxidil;
True crimes television programs; Husband abuse; Gay military cadets;
Patterning therapy; Womanist theology; Psychic readings; Gambling on
Indian reservations; and Roadside litter.
And so it is that the pains and plusses of being alive today
shout out in something as seemingly mundane as the library catalog.
YEAR OF THREATENED BUDGET CUTS
and LOSS OF FUNDING
In the year of his presidency of the American Library Association,
Library Director Arthur Gurley joined Patricia Glass Schuman, past
president, in a Wck-Off Campaign for "Getting the Message to
Congress," a crucial call for federal funding. Novelist E. L. Doctorow
was quoted: "The three most important documents a free society gives
are a birth certificate, a passport, and a library card." Postcards were
circulated by The City-Wide and neighborhood Friends Groups for
mailing to legislators during National Library Week. The campaign was
Thanks to efforts of the Boston Public Library Foundation and
Bay State Congressmen to secure funding from the federal government
for the proposed 1^50 million restoration of the McKim, a National
Historic Landmark building, a $2 million grant was announced this
year by the Department of the Interior Historic Preservation Trust.
The "push was on" and continues as this report goes to press.
Syndicated columnist Bob Greene joined the cry for help:
"Maybe it's just another sign of the times," he wrote. "Money is scarce,
and downtown areas of big cities aren't what they once were, and there
are so many demands for public funds. A library is just a library.
Except we all know that it is so much more."
He quoted the late Robert Kennedy: "For there is another kind
of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the
bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and
inaction and slow decay." And Greene added: "When you close the
doors of a library, you can hear the echoes of the slam forever."
In still another column, Greene turned to comments by some
well-known Americans on the importance of libraries in their
childhood and adult lives: Ed Bradley, correspondent, "60 Minutes,"
remembered his childhood in Philadelphia: "The library was a window
to the world, a pathway to worlds and people far from my
neighborhood." And former TV anchor Walter Cronkite: "Without [the
library] untold numbers of our citizens would be deprived of the means
to serve their curiosity, would be deprived of learning, would be
deprived of the very foundations of an education. Whatever the cost of
our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant
Another firoup of people paying testament to libraries was
represented rij^ht here in Boston by homeless Michael Brennan.
Interviewed by The Boston Globe in 1991, he said, "I learned enouj^h
at the Boston Public Library last summer to transform me from a
homeless, ex-con, day laborer into a full-time free-lance writer in less
than a year."
"I HAVE A QUESTION"
For the third year in a row, Telephone Reference increased the number
of questions it answered for the public. The FY95 report notes: "The
variety of people's questions tests our professional and personal skills,"
requiring a "change of gears mentally." Besides saying "hello" and
"good-bye," much has been done to streamline department operations.
Another DIALOG password has been acquired to prevent long
waits by the public; a "QUIGKREF" looseleaf combines the "Reference
Information" and "Libraries Guide" notebooks.
Even as they answer the ringing phones, staff are planning
additional tools and time-savers for their service. Although not
officially adopted, the staff follows the motto: "So many questions, so
little time." In FY95 a total of telephone queries numbered 56,092;
and Information Desk queries, 66,838.
A GREAT REPORT CARD
In its inspection of the Government Documents Department of the
Boston Public Library as a Federal Depository Library, the U.S.
Government Printing Office identified the areas of successful operation
and those needing improvement. In the six years since the last
inspection, the Library emerged on the plus side with seven areas in
compliance and only one, falling slightly short in maintenance of
records of holdings, in noncompliance.
Unique in the 8th Congressional District as the only public
library serving as a depository, the Boston Public Library is proud to
receive such a report card. The Government Documents Department
has always achieved high marks in all areas of service from quick
retrieval of users' requests to special booklists, and other in-demand
publications. The present favorable government report results, in part,
from several significant improvements and changes in the McKim
restoration. In the words of the report, "The environmental factors in
this hbrary have changed dramatically since the last inspection. There
is now air conditioning^, humidity control, and the storage area has
been waterproofed." Other quantum leaps of the department relate to
personal computers organized in a local area network and faxes for the
staff; and for users, state-of-the-art electronic searching capabilities
and microfiche reader/printers have been provided.
FOR THE BUSINESS WORLD
In giving a profile of users in FY95, Wrstein Business Branch noted a
continuing trend of more investors and fewer job seekers. Many groups
and agencies send their clients to Kirstein. Among them: WBZ's Gall for
Action program, U.S. Small Business Administration, Service
Corporation of Retired Executives, Internal Revenue Service, Social
Law Library, and business schools.
Staff of the branch offered fourteen tours, among them:
students from an Import-Export Seminar at Minuteman Technical
Institute, members of an investment club of Boston City Hall, a group
of Independent Career Counselors, and students from the Burdett
School and Boston LIniversity's School of Management.
A MECCA OF ART
For artists, art galleries, architects, authors, art and architectural
historians, students, auctioneers — an endless list of patrons — the
Fine Arts Department is a unique Mecca of information. Usage
statistics for FY95 confirm this dramatically. For example, phone
reference questions rose by 2.9% and in-person reference queries were
up by 2.5%. The statistics for reading room use and inquiries and
phone queries were the highest recorded by the department in the past
Behind this evidence of public service, the staff were busy
selecting significant acquisitions, sorting and indexing special
collections, and maintaining files, all activities that cannot be
quantified here; but the department qualifies as a magnificent Mecca.
GROWTH / ACTIVITY / CHANGE
Space here defies listing all of this year's activities, the increasing
reliance on electronic equipment, and staff achievements in each
department, office, or branch of the Library. Exclusion here does not
diminish the volume and importance of work achieved.
Science Reference undertook a major vveedinj* of the collection
in anticipation of the department's move to new quarters in the
restored basement. The Social Science Department, with virtually no
work space, dealt effectively with substantial increases in reference
services while consolidatinj^ the reference collection for both the move
to temporary quarters durin}^ the renovations and subsequent new
permanent quarters in Bates Hall. Humanities Reference noted this
year a considerable rise in the number of in-person inquiries (probably
because of the Dartmouth Street openinj^) and j^reat numbers (185) of
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
TO DO SO MANY THINGS
Once described by David McGord as "a venture into the undeveloped
field of geriatrics," the Library's Never Too Late Group was founded in
1950 by a committee of senior adults, a social worker, and two library
staff members. The group is the longest existing library-sponsored
program for senior adults in the country. And since its beginnings, it
has grown and grown and grown. In FY95 the mailing list numbered
more than two thousand; and the attendance every Thursday afternoon
from September through June ranges from 150 to 350. Almost 8,000
people attended the 35 programs presented in FY95.
Based on the philosophy that it is never too late to gain new
knowledge, to discover new interests, and meet new friends, down the
years the programs have appealed to diverse interests and drawn
distinguished guests to the dais, among them Dr. Paul Dudley White. In
celebration of its 45th anniversary this year, the Never Too Late Group
assembled eight impressive panelists in the field of aging to focus on a
range of issues leading to resolutions for submission to the White
House Conference on Aging.
THE BPL THINKS POSITIVE
This year's reports repeatedly showed pictures of increase and growth
in users, reference queries, walk-in patrons, program attendance,
availability of CD-ROM databases and work stations, acquisition of
items for special collections, microfilm sets, an unendinj* picture of
transmission on the information highways, which leads to and from the
In a continuing effort to monitor the Boston Public Library's
performance in circulation and services, we have tracked and
compared average performances among a comparable group of
municipal public library systems since FY93 — Baltimore, Detroit,
Washington, D.G., Milwaukee, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco,
and Seattle. Relative to the average among these libraries, the BPL
showed the following in FY95:
• 84% higher in the percent of the population registered for
• 19% higher in circulation per capita *
• 44% higher in reference transactions per capita; and
• 31% higher in program attendance per capita.
• One sanguine report of the circulation of materials for the
Adult Services Department in Central said that circulation
"skyrocketed" this year, and attributed the phenomenal increase to
excellent book selection, knowledge of the public's reading tastes, a
speedy replacement strategy, and a contract for best sellers.
THE BPL MAKES HEADLINES
In an impressive finale to ten years of fund-seeking, planning,
identification and location of newspapers, coordination with public and
private publishers and organizations, microfilming, and much more,
the Library concluded the Massachusetts Newspaper Program. In 1986
the Library became the coordinating institution for the Program under
the aegis of the United States Newspaper Program. Funding has come
from several sources including the National Endowment for the
Humanities, the Higher Education Act Title II Program of the U.S.
Department of Education, and Harvard University. The concluding
year of the project brought added inclusions to the newspapers
originally scheduled for microfilming including the publications of the
American .Jewish Historical Society.
As the Program reached its finale, the official count of catalog
records numbered 8,127, and local data records mounted to 18,379.
Celebrating the 100th birthday of Boston comedian Fred Allen, the
Never Too Late Group presented a reception and slide lecture by
Robert Taylor, author of Fred Allen: His Life and Wit.
Robert Taylor is
cutting the Fred
Allen birthday cake
sary was celebrated
by the Music Depart-
ment. Their remem-
brance took the form
of a major exhibition,
"Happy 100th, Mr.
Pops," paying tribute
to Boston's renowned
And the Music
Department hosted a
second anniversary in
observance of the
arrival in the Library
of the Allen S. Brown
Music Collection one
hundred years ago.
As Sinclair H.
Hitchings, Keeper of
Prints, noted report,
"We are in the arts and crafts years now; almost every month brings a
significant anniversary from a hundred years ago, when Boston briefly
became the center of the arts and crafts in America." In observance of
1895, the great poster year, the Print Department offered two major,
significant exhibitions titled "Boston's Art of the Poster" and "Posters
by Ethel Reed." "Boston's Art of the Poster" linked the poster makers
of a century before with Boston's present-day poster designers.
BOOKS ON THE SUPERHIGHWAY?
A whole new lanj^uaj^e, arcane until you "j^et into" electronic
communication, seems at times to be supplanting* the work of
lexicoj^raphers. The code-breakers of World War II had an easy time of
it compared to decoding today's vocabulary of the computer, old words
with new meaninji^s, new words or initialisms. There are icons and
toolbars, bullets and bulletin boards, status lines and mouse
technoloj5y, clicks and Gtrl's — the list is endless and js^rowing.
As the means and modes of electronic communication
burj^eoned in FY95, the BPL — and libraries everywhere — headed into
a period of reflection, debate, crisis, decision-makinj*. Will books
become obsolete? How does the library balance its budj^et between
print and hardware/software? How does the library serve children and
adults who may now be stumbling, but soon will be running on the
superhighway? So many questions, how many answers?
In a fascinating history of the book/library movement from
Alexandria to today, Boston Globe writer Mark Feeney in "Shelf Life"
(5 .Tune 1994) summed it up this way: "Words on paper, words on a
screen: Either way, public libraries are still providing knowledge to
anyone willing to take the trouble to sign up for a card." He concluded,
quoting BPL Director Arthur Gurley: "All these new vistas opened up
by technology are extremely exciting. Yet while they expand the
library's mission, they don't change it. The child who's inspired by a
picture book is still going to be inspired by that picture book.
Maintaining this balance between old and new will be a perplexing
task, but we're not about to give up one part of our mission simply
because there's a certain glamour attached to another part of it."
Maintaining that balance in FY95, Boston's young people
reached the "on-ramp" of the superhighway via what is called the
"BPL/BPS Gateway System," now fully operational. In this major step
forward, Boston schools are linked with Library resources, numbering
more than 6 million books and 1,000 periodicals, as well as gaining an
access point to the Internet. Seen as the most important step the
schools can take in the instructional use of technology and telecom-
munications, this computer linkage means that Boston Public School
students at selected locations will have direct access to the Boston
Public Library's numerous catalogs and databases, as well as the
holdinj^s of all the MBLN member libraries. Also durinj^ FY95, throuj^h
special funding via the Boston Public Library Foundation,
microcomputers were placed in all of the branches' children's areas
and in the General Library Children's and Younj^ Adult rooms, thus
providing young library patrons with the same capabilities that the
students have in the schools.
For those seeking answers via the latest in communication, the
BPL's Internet address is \V\\^V. BPL.ORG.
THE LIBRARY and A DISTINGUISHED AUTHOR
In April 1995, a major award for worldwide fiction published or
translated into English was heralded in Dublin, The International
IMPAG Dublin Literary Award. The Boston Public Library was invited
to nominate books for consideration and then a judge.
Bostonian Robert Taylor, with numerous ties to the Library,
was selected as one of five panelists who will make the first IMPAG
award in 1966. He will join Ghristopher Hope of .lohannesburg. South
Africa; Lidia ,Iorge of the Algarve; Brendan Kennelly of Gounty Kerry,
Ireland; and Luisa Valenzuela of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
THE LIBRARY AS PUBLISHING HOUSE
Gontinuing its role as publishing house, the Library embarked on
several ambitious goals in FY95.
In the third creative collaboration, the Boston Public Library
Foundation and the Library added parochial and private schools to a
competition, which resulted this year in two books, each titled Boston
— Our City. Elementary young people through the high school grades
directed their talents and imagination to representing Boston in
photos, drawings, verse, essay, and drama. In the award ceremony for
the winners, Boston Public Library Trustee and Senate President
William M. Bulger noted that "one cannot pursue education without
reading books... one cannot read without becoming more educated."
More than seventy-five works are included in this remarkable
little book. They are light-hearted and sad, perceptive and delightfully
expressed in word and picture. To quote Alirio Moran, in part:
Our library is our blessing,
a part of Boston . . .
An oasts, in this
And by Kimberly Aiin Pecci, a student at Brijiihton Hij^h School:
/ Have Stood on a Hill
I was horn in 1S44.
I originated on
Upper Academy Hill Road.
I sent my first graduates
to Harvard and to Yale.
My students then
were not much different
from the ones today.
I have stood on a hill
next to St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
Sometimes I am called
and even a castle.
Two drawinj^s by Kenneth Washington and John Lennon add wit and
welcome to the book:
Dinind in Boston
Also released this year were numerous handsome, timely
booklists for adults, younjt^ adults, and children. Among them: "New
Aj»e Spirituality," "Sij^hts and Sounds of the Holocaust," "Readinj^
Rainbow," "Black is ...," and "Small Business Blueprint."
In Castle Island and Fort Independence by historian/teacher
Dr. William .1. Reid, the story of a small island in Boston Harbor
emerj^es as a chronicle rife in strategic impact, mystery, tragedy, and
social importance since 1638.
Dr. Reid describes how renowned builder of clipper ships, Donald McKay,
was remembered in a monument on Castle Island close to where McKay's
shipyard and dwelling were situated.
DONORS AND DONATIONS
Public-spirited people with deep commitment to books this year
donated to the buildings and services of the BPL:
A retired teacher at Hyde Park High School, Robert Artick
made a major donation in memory of his late wife Elvira Vecchione
Artick. His wife, herself a teacher, once said, "If you can read, you can
do almost anything." Moved by devotion to Mrs. Artick and his shared
belief in the power of books, Artick j^ave a substantial j^ift for the
purpose of renovatinj^ the Children's Room in the Central Library.
John D. Merriam, a brilliant lawyer and collector of thousands
of books and prints, this year bequeathed to the Library probably the
largest and most valuable individual donation since Vattemare j^ave his
modest gift of books. The bequest numbered thousands of prints,
drawings, illustrated books, and an endowment, all valued at more than
three million dollars. Merriam's home so overflowed with his
collections that as Keeper of Prints Hitchings put it, "The collector
himself slept in a Spartan bed in one small room."
Since 1977, Sinclair Hitchings had worked with .John Merriam
creating exhibitions and exhibit catalogs drawn selectively from
Merriam's collections, particularly illustrated children's books* and
fantasy prints and drawings. In November 1994, Merriam died just at
the time a special exhibition titled "Collector's Choice," was underway
in the Library's Wiggin Gallery. The collector had looked forward to
the show for many years but was unable to attend. With his death, the
exhibition time was extended and retitled "To Remember .John
Merriam." (*Note the Artzybasheff print on the cover of this report.)
The Boston Public Library Foundation raised 1^450,000 at a
gala featuring an elegant reception in the McKim building's newly
restored foyer and Chavannes Gallery and a dinner under a tent in the
central courtyard. Co-hosts were Governor William F. Weld, Senate
President William M. Bulger, and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
In their sixth annual "Literary Lights Dinner" the Associates of
the Boston Public Library assembled an impressive gathering of
authors for the fundraising event. Featured speakers were two
distinguished award winners: David McCullough and Saul Bellow.
McCullough is particularly known to TV viewers for his TV narrations
and as a recently appointed trustee of the Library.
FY95 yielded hundreds of donations in funds and gifts too
numerous to recite here, but valuable for the areas that they so
generously enriched. There were gifts from government agencies.
Friends groups, corporations, and individuals. When Officer DeMarco
of the Boston Police Department witnessed the outreach efforts of the
children's chess program at Uphams Corner, she recommended and it
was awarded a grant from the Department's One Step Closer
Neighborhood Policing Project. As a result, the branch purchased four
electronic chess sets and ten self-teachinj^ frames with a grant of
At West End Branch a wrouj^ht iron fence around the
perimeters of the lawns was erected. Fundinj^ came from the Browne
Fund of the City of Boston with additional funding from the Beacon
Hill Garden Club, the Society for the Preservation of New England
Antiquities, and the Charles River Park Management Corporation.
Many rare gifts (and purchases) were acquired by the Rare
Books and Manuscripts Department. For example, from the deputy
archivist of Baring Brothers, London, came a copy of the house
correspondence of .Joshua Bates when he was a member of that firm.
Other rare items included a signed document concerning the sloop
Molley out of Newport, 1752; and Nathaniel Low's Astronomical
almanaque for the year 1 779.
Without listing all the services to users and tourists, which
generate sometimes awesome visitor/patron attendance numbers, we
recite here the fact that there were 4,052 programs in FY95 with a
total attendance of 135,889. Here is a breakdown of the figures and a
sampling of the types of programs offered:
Children's Programs: 2,866 Attendance
YA Programs: 109 Attendance
Adult Programs: 1,077 Attendance
Part of the Library's greatness as a major research library
involves holdings that range from incunabula to silver and gold medals;
from the first book published in the colonies to a .loan of Arc collection
assembled by Boston-bom .lohn Cardinal Wright; from the Robert Feer
Collection of World Fairs of North America to the library of Nathaniel
Bowditch, the "American Navigator"; from memorabilia of comedian
Fred Allen to the personal library of our nation's second president,
.John Adams. The Special Collections now number more than 200 with
virtually hundreds of thousands of individual inclusions.
The Library numbers
hundreds of unique
exhibits and dioramas
amon^ its permanent
holdings. There are
dioramas crafted by
Louise Stimson: The
Arabian Nights, Print-
makers at Work, The
London of Charles
Dickens, and (at right)
Alice in Wonderland.
From the talented
fingers of Glare Dennis
the Library has more
than 350 portrait dolls
from literature and life.
Shown here is Alice
from a Japanese cata-
log. Both the Stimson
diorama and the Alice
dolls by Dennis were
exhibited in a chain of
stores for an Alice in
At Adams Street Branch the Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Glub
exhibited art works by its students — everything from handmade
puppets to gingerbread houses.
East Boston Branch's summer reading program, "Ticket to
Read," brought out more than 400 children accompanied by adults
during the summer. Ghildren made clown masks, engineer hats, flags,
and totem poles, viewed a model railroad car in the display case, and,
at the grand finale, ate ice cream.
Ej^leston Square Branch: Children viewed a performance by the
Roxbury Outreach Shakespeare Experience (the ROSE). The bard was
brought to life for younj^ people who may have never heard of him or
thouf^ht he was dull. As the report said, "ROSE makes Shakespeare the
rapper of his day."
Parker Hill Branch: A resounding show by The Children's
Symphony for Young Audiences. In addition to performing, the group
showed how wind goes through the various horns and even used a
garden hose to demonstrate another music point.
Another musical series was directed to children by the General
Library Children's Room. Music and Movement was designed as eight
sessions for ages 3-5.
At South End Branch, in a collaborative, creative effort, the
South End Drug-Free Committee of Boston Against Drugs joined forces
with the South End News to sponsor an essay contest on drugs. The
essay winners were feted at a reception funded by the Friends of the
South End Branch, and the essays were then exhibited. At Brighton
Branch an ex-gang member presented an anti-drug, anti-crime
And in a quite different focus, young people at .Jamaica Plain
attended their first young adult program at that branch: a performance
by the Roxbury Outreach Shakespeare Experience.
Brighton Branch hosted a meeting of the Brighton Board of
Trade on business information sources at both the branch and Wrstein
Business Branch. In still another focus on business, Grove Hall Branch
sponsored a series of seven marketing and sales training seminars for
minority business people. Like so many library programs, this series
was a collaborative effort, in this case involving the Neighborhood
Development Corporation of Grove Hall and the City of Boston's
Public Facilities Department.
Charlestown Branch featured a slide tour of the Boston Harbor
Islands, a unique Boston State Park. .\nd still another "living history"
experience was the presentation at Godman Square of Company A:
54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry re-enactors who depicted the
first black reji^iment raised in the North during the Civil War. Another
reenactment was performed by Supervisor of Neighborhood Library
Services Gloria Tibbs in her role as Elizabeth Eckford, the Little Rock
student who attempted to integrate Gentral High School in 1957.
Programs Ethnic and Cultural
Faneuil Branch celebrated St. Patrick's Day with an Irish Step
Dance perfonnance by girls ages 6-14 wearing traditional costumes.
Pots of gold, various Irish breads and cookies, and special hats were
part of the day.
Fields Gomer: "A Gup of Beauty," an exhibition of paintings,
crafts, poetry, and narratives by Vietnamese Boat People.
Mattapan Branch: a storyteller entertained with tales from the
Caribbean and a Kwansaa program.
Roslindale: a Black History Month program for children was
conducted by actor, poet, and storyteller Rachelle Gamer Goleman
about Nat Love, a slave born in Tennessee who went west at the age of
fifteen to seek freedom and equal opportunity.
South Boston: the 15th annual Memorial Lecture in memory of
Marjorie M. Gibbons featured the Rev. Albert Gontons, pastor of St.
Peters Lithuanian Ghurch, speaking on "A Gentury of Lithuanians
from the Baltic Sea to South Boston."
Gonnolly: In memory of children's librarian Edith Bravo, who
died this year, the staff and friends of Gonnolly Branch sponsored a
memorial program to purchase books in Spanish for the branch.
The General Library Children's Room put together a veritable
tapestry of ethnic programs and activities: With Russian focus: two
Russian ballets, a puppet show titled "A Russian Cinderella," and a
workshop on Ukrainian collage. With Chinese emphasis: workshops on
mask making, rice dough sculpture, and Chinese brush painting by the
Chinese Culture Connection, as well as five origami workshops on
Other Programs of Creativity
West Roxbury, in the spirit of several branch program efforts
that focused on creativity from art to music to drama to writing,
entered its seventh year of the Intergenerational Poetry Contest. The
effort has yielded some dynamic spin-offs: writinj^ workshops, judging
each year of some 450 to 550 poems, a peer-led writers' group, and
more and more.
The Young Adults Room witnessed increased attendance and
excitement over this year's creative writing workshop. Featured was
author Chris Lynch who, as the report notes, was always popular but
became "hot" because of his recently-published Gypsy Davy.
Other Collaborative Programs
The history of the Library continues to be one of collaboration with
educational, community, special interest, governmental, and age-level
groups. This year was no exception, as indicated by several activities
already cited. One such rewarding collaboration was involvement with
MOST (Making the Most of After School Time for School Age
Children). This enabled the Library to promote and demonstrate to
After School Time Programs the services offered to their charges.
The Special Projects arm of Community Library Services
continued a collaboration described by Special Projects Librarian Ellen
Graf as "a triad of libraries, bookstores, and publishers that brings to
the Library some of the most talented and distinguished writers —
among them, Doris Keams Goodwin, .Joseph Heller, .Joyce Carol Oates,
P. D. .James, Sister Souljah, Betty Friedan, and Nadine Gordimer."
The Music Department continued its cooperative microfilming
of the scrapbooks of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Codman Square Branch hosted four fall Saturday workshops
sponsored by The House of Have a Heart, an umbrella organization
which includes Catholic Charities, Project IMPACT, and Children's
Services of Roxbury.
North End: The 47th annual Mary U. Nichols Program featured
the awarding of books to two students for "excellence in English" and
Inga Boudreau, newly appointed Coordinator of Youth Services as
South Boston: 23rd annual Art Festival. In addition to a display
of art by local artists, there were two performances of "Strangers," a
play by local playwright, director, and actor Thomas Sypek,
REACHING THE DISABLED AND HOMEBOUND
In its materials, equipment, programming, and building adaptations,
the Library moved forward in welcoming and serving patrons with
specials needs. To name just a few examples;
A dynamic Deaf Awareness program, planned by Kathleen
Hegarty under the auspices of the Access Services section of the
General Library, reached two audiences, deaf adults and students from
schools for the deaf. The presenter, Alec Naiman, an independent
photojournalist, discussed in voice-interpreted sign languages his work
with deaf people in Beirut in 1989 and deaf refugees in Thailand in
Staff of the Mobile Library Services Department made a total of
476 visits to deposit collection sites and homebound individuals
reaching a total of 6,866 people.
AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
The Audiovisual Department continued its popular film series this year
highlighting Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Lauren Bacall, and westerns.
The most dramatic increase was in the circulation of non-print
media (videos, audio-cassettes, compact discs, and recordings):
More and more, first-time patrons, children, young adults, and
newly arrived immigrants used the department.
SERVICE TO NEW AMERICANS
In the twenties, when thousands of arrivals were answering the statue's
call of "Give us your tired, your huddled masses," the Library offered
evening courses for immigrants learning English and preparing for
citizenship. Down the years that commitment continues and has
In 1984 the Library received a federal LSCA Title I grant to
build special collections for adults learning English. In 1987 the Boston
Globe Foundation donated half a million dollars to establish an
endowment for reading enhancement proj^rams and collections. And
the Library embarked on system-wide coordination of literacy
activities. Most recently the City-Wide Friends launched a pilot literacy
proj^ram specifically j^eared to ESL (Enj^lish as a Second Lanj[^uaj^e)
students. V^olunteers were trained to serve as tutors.
In addition to workinj^ jointly with the Friends, the Special
Projects Office has assisted with "Conversation Tables," an offshoot of
the ESL tutorinj[5 activity. In this small-group format, students from all
over the world have an opportunity to improve their English.
Partnerships continued with the Jewish Vocational Service
Family Literacy Program and the Young Lawyers Section of the Boston
Busy, busy marks the Library's service for ESL adults, the
elderly, the disabled, and low-income people in everything from
learning English to income tax preparation.
It has been said that the philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose thoughts
so influenced the world's thinkers, never went beyond the bounds of
his hometown Konigsberg. Here in this remarkable public library and
its branches, we have worlds within worlds, worlds that have no walls,
no bounds. Kant is here and Kongisberg and all the thinkers, artists,
poets, historians — all the movers and shakers of history who accept
your company, feed your mind, and touch your soul.
In his speech at the celebration of the hundredth anniversary
of the McKim building, Vartan Gregorian, past president of the New
York Public Library and present president of Brown University, put
forth many moving, quotable truths about libraries. Listen to just a
part of his definition:
"Libraries have always occupied a central role in our culture.
They contain our nation's heritage, the heritage of humanity, the
record of its triumphs and failures, the record of mankind's
intellectual, scientific and artistic achievements. They are the diaries
of the human race, the instruments of civilization, a laboratory of
human endeavor, a window of the future, a source of hope, a source of
self-renewal. They are the symbol of our community with mankind.
They represent the link between the solitary individual and mankind
which is our community."
General Book Collections
Rare Books and Manuscripts 1,284,740
Government Documents 2,965,436
Musical Scores 107,282
Current Subscriptions 18,533
Films & Video Cassettes 20,509
Program Attendance 135,889
Items Borrowed 2,385,422
Volumes Consulted 976,033
Reference Inquiries 1,459,771
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This early postcard of the McKim Building, complete with trolley, carriage,
and a lady with a fancy hat wa.s distributed by the Metropolitan News
Company in Boston and made in Germany. Postage for postcards at the time
were one cent for the United States and Island Possessions, Cuba, Canada,
and Mexico. Two cents for foreign.
Libraries are as old as civilization — the
object of pride, envy and sometimes senseless
destruction. From the clay tablets of Babylon
to the computers of a modern library stretch
more than five thousand years of man s and
wo7nans insatiable desire to establish written
immortality and to insure the continuity of
culture, and civilization, to share their
triumphs, their memory, their wisdom, their
strivings, their fantasies, longings, exper-
ences with rnankind and future generations.
Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University, from
a speech delivered on December 18, 1995, on the
occasion of the celebration of the lOOth anniversary of
the McKim Building.