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Boston Public Library announces new ‘Repairing America’ initiative

The Boston Public Library's main branch on Boylston Street.
The Boston Public Library's main branch on Boylston Street.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Boston Public Library announced Monday a new initiative called “Repairing America” that aims to provide library programs and services that can “help bridge gaps that divide America.”

The main themes of “Repairing America” include economic recovery, civic engagement and discourse, COVID-19 recovery, racial equity, workforce development, and youth engagement, library officials said in a press release.

Boston Public Library president David Leonard said the library hopes that patrons will find the new programming to be valuable.

“As we leave 2020 behind, and head into the year ahead, the library is taking a more integrated approach to key programs and services,” Leonard said in the statement. “The 2017 Pew study showed that nearly 80 percent of American adults believe that public libraries are trustworthy and reliable. We hope that patrons will find the Repairing America initiative and resources valuable and a trusted forum for dialogue and perhaps prompts for action. As one of the country’s original truly democratic institutions, we need to both help understand and help bridge the divides in our country regarding recovery, equity, and community.”

The initiative will feature a Zoom speaker series featuring high-profile figures such as Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter; Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor in chief of The Cut; Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin; and Debra Lee, the former chief executive officer of BET.


As part of the new initiative the library has partnered with three organizations to facilitate and foster “community conversations” around the “Repairing America” themes. Library officials also announced “Reading Together,” a yearlong reading challenge in which patrons read a book each month that falls under a suggested theme.

“One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that at a time when Bostonians need each other more than ever, communities are unable to gather in person to share experiences and support one another,” officials said in the press release. “In 2021, the BPL’s Reading Together yearlong challenge strives to give Boston’s community of readers an opportunity to read diversely, recommend books to each other, and discuss their reading together.”


In addition to those programs, the library’s Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center will host a series of career skills building events that will focus on a range of topics, from interviewing to online job searches to salary negotiation. The Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School will facilitate free weekly virtual drop-in office hours where staff will be available to offer advice to patrons about housing law, tenants’ rights, disability rights, LGBTQ+ related concerns, taxes, and other legal issues, library officials said in the press release.

Library officials said they also recently hired a new community history and digitization specialist to develop projects “through which Boston residents can share the underrepresented stories from their community’s past.”

Two projects that will be taken on during 2021 will be to collect and preserve the stories and memories of East Boston residents and people affiliated with the Harriet Tubman House in the South End. For more information about the library’s “Repairing America” initiative, visit bpl.org/RepairingAmerica.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.