FOL Members Tour Mattapan Branch with Design Team

September 28, 2011
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The Friends of the Library group charged with being a conduit between the community and developers of the new library in East Boston recently toured the newly built Mattapan branch library and saw things they liked and did not like.

William Rawn Associates who will be charged with designing the new Eastie library is the same team responsible for the new Mattapan branch finished last year. There, architects from William Rawn Associates created an up-too-date library facility, an open reading room, and an outdoor courtyard configuration. The sustainable building merges indoor and outdoor spaces and had redefined the experience of the library there.

“We handed out our concerns at the Boston Public Library’s Trustee meeting,” said Friends of the Library member Maddy McComiskey. “The three majors are the Frederick King paintings; the fact that seating for the children is scant the way the library is currently designed; and there won’t be enough books for people to plow through to feel, touch, look at and read.”

The King Paintings were produced during the Works of Public Art Depression era program via the Federal Arts Program and are part of BPL’s Special Collections.  President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” mandated art should reach all people and be a part of their lives.  “William Rawn Associates hasn’t been told to hang all 14 paintings,” said McComiskey. “There were originally 29 images.  We have the best architects who could create a display that would insure the visibility enjoyment and protection of the remaining paintings.  The Mayflower is one of the missing.  The East Boston branch of the BPL could be a national model of incorporating historic material in its design.”

If you access the BPL.org website and view the schematic for the new library you will notice there are only two tables in the children’s area.

“The librarians tell us that after school the library is mobbed with kids doing their homework,” said McComiskey. “There are four tables now and those aren’t enough.  Our new library consolidates two libraries and is near the YMCA and a playground on Bremen Street.  We were told at the trustees meeting that they could pull out tables if need be.  Could you imagine that drill when there are tons of parents and kids waiting to sit and read or do homework only four or five librarians to have one or two stop what they are doing to pull out and set up tables and chairs?”

The Friend of the Library also argued that books for circulation would be scant at only 15,000 books compared to the 60,000 in circulation now between the Meridian and Orient Heights branches.

“People like to see, hold, look at and read books,” said McComiskey. “Not everyone has access to funds or knowledge required to have or use new technology to access books from library’s mega collection.  Part of the fun of going to library is plowing through books on the shelves to find one.  Kids especially love that.”

In the end McComiskey and the Friends of Library want Eastie to have a ‘big say’ in the new library design and so not resistance at every turn when manageable requests are made.

“This is our new library the people of East Boston are going to have to live with it long after any of the decision makers are gone,” she said. “We want it done right.”

Architects for William Rawn, Mark Oldham and Carla Ceruzzi, unveiled a prototype of the Eastie library at a meeting over the summer. The building is a sleek non-linear building with a wave-like roof, open floor plans, huge windows that overlook the Bremen Street Park and outdoor classroom and reading spaces.

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