BPL’s special collections dilemma

The swift-moving narrative on management of the Boston Public Library is likely to take another turn this week, as a consultant’s report suggests inadequate staffing and funding may be the primary causes of the problems plaguing the facility’s special collections.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s focus so far has been on the need for management changes. He pressured library president Amy Ryan to resign during the high drama that accompanied the loss of two valuable prints by Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt, which were subsequently found misfiled 80 feet from their storage place. At the height of the lost-and-found saga, Walsh’s chief of staff, Daniel Koh, said he and the mayor were concerned “things are not being taken as seriously as they should be.”

The Boston Globe reports today that a draft of a consultant’s report indicates the library’s 320,000 prints and drawings have been neglected for years and are in need of additional space, reorganization, and a full inventory. The draft report said “benign neglect is no longer acceptable” when it comes to the special collections.

“The Print Department cannot be expected to function effectively without better oversight, specialized departmental leadership, additional staff, and adequate space for both storage and access,” said the report, written by Martha Mahard, a Simmons College professor. Mahard was hired a year ago by Ryan.

An earlier report released on May 1 suggested the BPL may have too many employees based on a review of staffing at peer libraries. But the report, written by Chrysalis Management, noted that peer comparisons are difficult because no other library has the vast special collections that the BPL oversees.

The Chrysalis report said the bulk of the special collections consist of “invisible” items that can only be viewed with the aid of specialized librarians. “The library incurs significant costs to store and manage these items year after year with very little possibility of public use,” the report said. “Additionally, because no consolidated inventory list exists for all BPL holdings, the quantity, type, value, and condition are based largely on dated estimates.”

As the BPL debate shifts from who’s running the place to how much funding it receives, it will be interesting to see if Walsh is willing to invest more funds in collections that few members of the public ever see.



The Lawrence City Council cuts $282,680 from Mayor Dan Rivera’s budget proposal after a contentious debate. Rivera and City Council President Modesto Maldonado differ on immigration law. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Herald says the Marty Walsh make-over of the Boston Redevelopment Authority continues with the exit of its director of development review of policy.

An Eagle-Tribune editorial says bigger salaries won’t attract better mayors.

Rockport moves to lower the amount of fluoride in the town’s water after an unsuccessful vote to ban fluoride failed. (Gloucester Times)

Thousands of Asian long-horned beetle traps are placed across Worcester County. (Telegram & Gazette)


The Standard-Times gives New Bedford voters everything they need to know the day before they go to the polls to vote on a proposed waterfront casino.

Globe editorial writer Alan Wirzbicki suggests Boston Mayor Marty Walsh clarify his casino goals: Is he just against an Everett casino? A lot of people in East Boston would like him to be opposed to a Suffolk Downs casino as well. (Boston Globe)


According to Massport, Logan Airport does not need any further upgrades to handle crowds for a possible Olympic Games. (Boston Business Journal)


Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin call for the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina Capitol building to be sent to a museum. (Washington Post/Politico) Republican presidential candidates are generally waffling on the issue, reports the Post.

US Rep. Stephen Lynch says he’s “disappointed” in President Obama over the controversial trade bill. (Keller@Large)

The Herald‘s Jessica Van Sack rips the federal government over its failures to fend off hacking of an enormous database of information on federal employees.


The leader of a white supremacist group with ties to accused mass murderer Dylann Roof made donations to the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Rand Paul. (New York Times)

A study in conservative contrast: Jeff Jacoby wishes Donald Trump, a “conspiracy-mongering blowhard” who trafficks in “incoherent demagoguery,” would go away. John Sununu is inexplicably taken by his act, writing that Americans “yearn for leaders who are direct — even blunt — who are willing to go off-script, and who have a record of success.” (Boston Globe)


Apple reversed course and will pay royalties to artists on its new streaming service after singer Taylor Swift publicly criticized the company for its decision not to pay during its three-month trial period. (USA Today) “We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” she wrote. (New York Times)

Veep, HBO’s award-winning political satire, is leaving Maryland for California, where the tax incentives are higher. (Governing)


The state has changed its method of determining whether students come from poor families, and the new approach is leading to a sudden reduction in the percentage of children in school districts regarded as coming from poor households. (Boston Globe)


Only two of the 34 states whose residents buy health insurance through the federal exchange have a contingency plan to keep subsidies flowing to recipients if the Supreme Court strikes down that part of the the Affordable Care Act in a decision expected soon. (New York Times) Health policy expert John McDonough, who helped craft the Massachusetts and federal reform laws, writes that a new Congressional Budget Office report projects that repeal of the law would send the federal deficit soaring and strip coverage from 24 million Americans by 2020. (CommonWealth)

Hospital rankings come in all forms, and some analysts say they aren’t always accurate. (Lowell Sun)

Sen. Ben Downing is pushing legislation advocated by a union group that would cap the reimbursements hospitals collect. The measure is aimed at reining in reimbursements collected by Partners HealthCare. (Gloucester Times)


The Patriot Ledger breaks down maintenance records for the Red Line that show repairs and replacement of equipment are decades overdue.

Delta pushes back successfully against an airline trade industry group that wants to see small carryon bag requirements. (MetroWest Daily News)


New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton tells the Herald police are unfairly under attack and that they do as good job today as ever in dealing with problems like chronic mental illness among many of those committing violence, which the rest of society has failed to address.

Boston police designate Divan Silva, the 7-year-old Dorchester boy wounded recently by gunfire while riding his bike, an honorary member of the force. His shooter remains at-large. (Boston Herald)