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Roslindale branch of Boston Public Library reopens after renovations

The Boston Public Library. The Roslindale branch of the BPL reopened Saturday after two years of renovations. CHLOE GRINBERG/ DFP FILE

The Roslindale branch of the Boston Public Library reopened Saturday after two years of renovations. The $11.7 million library project began under Mayor Marty Walsh in 2019 and underwent 14,855 square feet of renovations.

The ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 4 marked the resuming of in-person services. The event featured mariachi music, hot chocolate, crafts for kids and a speaking program. Mayor Michelle Wu and BPL President David Leonard were in attendance.

Wu — who lives down the street from the Roslindale library — cannot wait to take her kids to the library, as she was quoted saying in a Dec. 1 press release.

“The renovation is a true reflection of our community, and I can’t wait for our families to have this space to meet, read, learn and play once more,” Wu said in the release.

The Roslindale branch is Boston’s only round, domed library. The circulation desk is now placed directly beneath the dome of the library, allowing library staff to observe the various sections of the library which surround it. 

“People who need help know where the library staff is because it’s right in the center,” said Tom Chung, principal architect at Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the architecture firm behind the renovations.

A new terrace area equipped with wooden benches was also constructed for library patrons to enjoy the outdoors.

Laura Gang, a volunteer with the community outreach group Friends of Roslindale Branch Library, said she is happy with the outcome of the renovations. 

“[The new library is] bright, white, clean [with] very open, comfortable chairs,” Gang said. “It’s just uplifting.” 

Other improvements included the addition of an elevator that goes to the basement of the library, where offices are located.

“The basement is not open to the public, but it makes it a lot easier for staff to move books from downstairs,” said Gregory Rideout, senior project manager at the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department. 

The library also functions as a space for members of the Roslindale community to meet and gather, Chung said. 

It houses a large community room, small study rooms and a space designed for teenagers. 

“The library in the 21st century is more than just a place to house books. It’s really a community center,” Chung said “Roslindale is a very diverse, active community. And so I think we’re really excited that this new library will serve their community really well.”

The renovation’s progress halted last year when a city-wide COVID-19 ordinance paused all nonessential construction efforts.

During these two years, Roslindale residents could still access library services and events online. Friends of Roslindale Branch Library also set up mini libraries in local businesses and homes of selected residents, Gang said. 

“We moved some of the programming online,” she said. “We had a very popular race and inclusion series that’s moderated where people read books and discuss them.”

Public Facilities Department planners and Leers Weinzapfel architects made models of the proposed changes of the library to engage with the public throughout the renovation process, Rideout said. 

“We showed things to people in three dimensions,” he said. “We were addressing community concerns.”  

Friends of Roslindale Branch Library was also involved in the consultation process. One of their priorities was to make the library accessible for all, allowing everyone to enter through the front door without climbing any steps.

Eco-friendly architecture was included in the renovation of the library, Chung said. Existing walls were also insulated for better thermal performance.

“We made sure that we could make the building as sustainable as possible.” Chung said.

Rideout added that a variable refrigerant flow system was used to efficiently heat and cool the building. 

The library was given a light-colored roof to reflect heat during summer, Rideout said. Improvements to the plumbing and lighting system were made to reduce the usage of water and electricity, respectively. 

As one of the busiest branches of the BPL, the Roslindale library’s reopening will provide Boston residents with a place to read once again.  

“Opening the doors of the Roslindale Branch once again will connect the community with the library’s essential services, as well as providing safe and joyful spaces for our patrons,” Leonard said in the release. 

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