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With a renovation, BPL transforms not only the building, but its attitude

Major renovation project meant to make the library the hub of the Hub.

To take a 360-degree tour of the renovated library space, click and drag your mouse around the video above.

On paper, it was just a renovation. But the nearly three-year, $78 million overhaul of the Boston Public Library’s Johnson Building completed last year was more than a freshening up  —  it was a thorough reimagining of the city’s flagship library in Copley Square. Gloomy tinted windows and interior dividing walls are gone. In their place is a grand, inviting space worthy of the library’s ambition to become a center of collaboration and civic life in Boston.

BPL president David Leonard, previously the library’s operations chief, drove the project. Working with William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc., and Consigli Construction Co., he translated his staff’s facility wish list into reality — on time and under budget. “This project will most likely be the most important thing the library has done in 40 years, and one certainly felt the responsibility and awesomeness of that challenge,” Leonard says. “But I think we succeeded. The Johnson Building used to have this cold, intensive posture. Now you start to feel like you’re part of the library as soon as you set foot on the block.”


To Leonard, the physical improvements offer means to bigger ends: Foot traffic is way up, and the project’s success boosted staff morale and public opinion after a bruising scandal over misplaced prints. “More people are using it, and there’s no greater compliment,” Leonard says. “It proves this institution is bigger than any of the crises it went through.”

Dan Adams is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.