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New library branch opens in East Boston

Posted by  November 4, 2013 02:39 PM

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The new East Boston Branch library officially opened this weekend as Mayor Thomas Menino cut the purple ribbon on the new building, officially inviting hundreds of community members to enter the building for the first time.

The $17.25-million project, designed by the architectural firm William Rawn Associates, was begun in spring 2012.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here this afternoon to fulfill the dream of a lot of folks in East Boston,” said Menino, standing at the center of the library with a crowd of children nearby. “I’ve learned in my years as mayor, it takes the spirit of cooperation. That’s how we got this done.”

Check out photos from the grand opening ceremony.

After the ceremonial purple ribbon was cut, community members dispersed throughout the 15,000-square-foot facility and outdoor reading porch. More than 16,000 books, CDs, and DVDs were on display, some of which came from the other two East Boston branches in Orient Heights and Meridian Street, both of which recently closed.

For residents who frequented those libraries, the new facility’s architecture and design make a big difference, in part because of the building’s dramatic, wave-shaped glass wall overlooking Bremen Street Park and the Boston city skyline.

“It was very tight over there,” said Rachel Edwards, 39, who used to take her daughter, Kaia, to the Meridian branch. “This building is brighter, cleaner, more modern, and more organized.”

The new library is divided into reading sections for early literacy, children, teen, and adults, with additional spaces such as a quiet room, conference room, and the Mayor Thomas Menino Community Room for programs and events.

Throughout the next month, these spaces will provide programs such as kids homework assistance, Lego club, toddler story time, arts and crafts, and Zumba classes. For adults, there will also be guest speakers and computer training.

The library holds 54 new public computers more than the two closed branches combined. Each computer desktop is loaded with learning games and programs geared for children, teens and adults.

“We really want to target each age group,” said Branch Librarian Margaret Kelly, 46, who has worked at East Boston libraries for the past fifteen years. “I think kids and adults really want to learn, and this library is all about learning and fun.”

There is also a greater emphasis on providing programs for Spanish-speakers, such as bilingual story time and English conversation groups.

“I didn’t go to the other libraries because I couldn’t find out how to get a library card,” said native Spanish-speaker Glenda Garcia, 35, while in the process of signing up for her first card. “Now my children can come here to read and have fun.”

Programming over the next month will be monitored for popularity by Angela Veizaga, 30, the branch’s youth services librarian. “I want to feel it out and see what kind of programs children and teens want,” she said. “If there’s a high demand for more Spanish programming, that’s something that we’ll definitely do.”

On schedule Saturday afternoon in the Multipurpose Room was Jungle Jim’s “Wild About Reading,” an interactive program hosted by Jim Manning to encourage kids to frequent the library. “I have over 200 balloons and 20 volunteers,” said Manning as he organized his props, including a giant balloon spider and basketball equipment. Many of the older children went to the conference room for Mehndi (Henna) tattoos, or to play on one of facility’s computers.

“It’s cool and a nice way to learn for kids,” said fifth grader Ayoob Darouanou, 10, while playing a game on the library’s touchscreen computer table.

Those who wanted to go outdoors could sit on an Adirondack chair on the building’s reading porch or walk to each of the 21 stone pavers lining the building, each one engraved with the name and capital cities of the top 21 countries of origin of the residents of East Boston.

“For my daughter and for the community it’s an amazing resource, not just for reading but for activities,” said Edwards as Kaia reached for books. “It’s a fantastic building.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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