The Fight for Kirstein

The BPL is having problems, same as every other library in the state, but their’s an extra layer of politics involved in their situation that makes things interesting.  Last year in a widely publicized battle the BPL’s director, Bernard Margolis, was ousted thanks to his conflict with Boston’s Mayor Menino, to be replaced with Amy Ryan in October.

Ryan is the political player that Margolis wasn’t, not to mention someone who gets along very well with Menino.  Which calls into question her decission to close the Kirstein Business Branch in the financial district and move the collection to the main library at Copley.  On the surface it makes sense, it saves on the upkeep of an extra building, adds accessible hours to the collection, and avoids the need to duplicate materials in both locations.

However, the other thing the Kirstein is known for is its $5.2 million endowment, which may or may not be dependant on the building (the legal battle is ongoing).  Now one of the key points that contributed to the Menino/Margolis conflict was the Mayor’s desire to meddle in the BPL’s budget, and its endowments specifically.  So here we’ve got a new director who has Menino’s ear, whose first major budget cutting solution is to move the one outlying collection with such an endowment so that it lies withing the purview of Copley.

I can sympathize with the wish to have tighter control over endowments.  We have one at my library so restricted that we can almost never use it.  There are thousands of dollars sitting in an account, and if we’re lucky one book comes out a year that fits into the requirements necessary to tap into those funds.  It’s incredibly frustrating when you need funding and there’s a pile of cash just sitting there that’s still out of reach.  

But that’s how they work, and if we can deal with it for a fund that’s totally useless than the BPL ought to be able to do the same for what is one of their greatest assets.

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