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Dudley Branch Library's entrance to be revamped

Posted by Patrick Rosso  December 4, 2012 12:36 PM

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Big changes could be coming to the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library.

Opened in 1978, the library is currently the site of a study to revamp its entrance and eventually renovate portions of library.

Members of the Community Advisory Group for the Dudley Branch Plaza and Entry Project sat down Monday night to hash out plans to make the library on Warren Street more welcoming.

The group has been meeting for the past three months to come up with ways to make the library not only more accessible, but more vibrant and appealing to the broader community.

At Monday’s meeting, members listened to a presentation by Utile Inc., a design consultant for BPL and the city’s Capital Construction Division.

Representatives from Utile laid out the challenges that the entrance currently faces, from an out of date design to a recessed doorway that “hides” the entrance.

The plaza that wraps around the library from Dudley Street to Warren Street is also part of the $75,000 design and planning project, as it looks for ways to increase traffic in the area and make the library a community gathering space and community “anchor.”

“We want to give it a strong presence,” Jonathan Evans of Utile said at Monday’s meeting. “We’re trying to bring this design into the entrance to create a certain sort of excitement to the library.”

Ideas for the entrance include lit marquee signage, a new vestibule and a revamped lobby. The CAC has been evaluating ways to spruce up the library and bring in a community flavor that reflects the neighborhood and its residents.

“Is there a way we can get the community engaged in the process?” asked Aziza Robinson, a community organizer. “I just don’t think it’s a great representation of the community right now.”

Currently the lobby of the library has a few display cases, but plans call for a slight redesign of the entrance with community bulletin boards, mosaics, and art displays.

“I don’t see any mention of signage internally, where would you factor in that kind of signage?” asked Mimi Jones, an area resident and member of the Friends of the Dudley Branch Library.

Others were also curious about what small changes could be made to make the library easier to use. Currently a number of handwritten signs guide visitors through the library.

“Right now there is a lot of ad-hoc signage so we want to do something more permanent, but this is just phase one,” said Evans.

While there was visible excitement in the room Monday, the project is still in the very early stages of development. A preliminary design for the entrance, lobby, and plaza is expected to be created in the coming months, but no money has been set aside for construction.

The study will also tackle much broader improvements needed at the library, from opening up and making the Dudley Literacy Center more accessible, to ways to improve acoustics and lighting in the main library.

The group has been conducting a study of the library over the past few months to find out not only what’s wrong with it, but who uses it and how.

According to Evans, structurally the library is in “pretty good shape”, aside from some cosmetic and mechanical issues.

The library’s office and community rooms were also analyzed to determine if they are functioning as well as they can. From the layout of the rooms to the amount of chairs they can hold, the CAC is working to find out how to best allocate and spruce up the library's spaces.

“The existing conference rooms are kind of narrow and not the best geometry for meetings,” said Maureen Anderson, senior project manager for the city’s Capital Construction Division. “We should also look at spaces in the area. Why repeat the same type of space over and over.”

Opening up the building was also a key topic Monday, with many saying the building can at times be harsh and imposing.

“The building is insular and you want to be able to project all the things happening inside,” said Evans.

From creating more connections between floors to removing the glass brick that encases portions of the building, a number of ideas were generated as to how to warm up the building and create that welcoming atmosphere.

While the CAC had plenty of suggestions Monday night, there is still a lot of work ahead for the group and its design team.

Utile and the city over the next couple of months will come up with a preliminary design for the entrance and greater library as they work with the budget office to find the necessary funds for the project. A work schedule and initial recommendations for the entrance, plaza, and lobby project will be presented at the CAC’s next meeting, which is slated for February.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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