The Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library, a concrete building with few windows, will be transformed into an inviting community center complete with glass walls, technology labs, displays of public art, and even a fully-equipped kitchen.
A two-year, $14.7 million renovation set to begin in November will bring several new features to the facade and the interior of the branch, said Boston Public Library President David Leonard.
Leonard said the remodel will make the library’s Roxbury location less “inward looking.”
“If you’re walking by on the outside, it doesn’t feel like a really inviting place to go it,” he said. “You don’t really get a sense of the library until you go inside.”
When the new building is complete, modern design features such as glass walls will serve to draw people in, Leonard said, “which will really make the branch feel like part of the Dudley neighborhood.”
The interior of the library will also be enhanced with several new facilities, including classroom spaces, a technology lab, new book collections, and community art.
After the renovation, the Boston Public Library system’s first “nutrition lab” will open in the refurbished branch, Leonard said.
“It’s a small, demonstration kitchen, which will be a resource for people to attend classes in and learn some skills about nutrition and cooking,” he said.
That particular idea came at the request of community members, according to Leonard. The city and the library system spent several years leading up to the renovation hosting public forums with the community, library staff, and the architecture firm responsible for the project, Utile, Inc., in order to understand how the facility can best serve its patrons.
“We want our libraries to be really connected to the community,” he said. “These days, what we want is a library that you see from across the street or down the street.”
The initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Boston Public Library, the city’s Public Facilities Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the library said in a statement.
Construction won’t officially commence until Nov. 17, but the project’s launch will be celebrated Saturday morning with a ceremony led by Mayor Marty Walsh at the Dudley branch, the library said.
“People in the community have grown up with this library, and members of all ages use their great programming,” Walsh said in a statement provided by the library. “This renovation will expand the library’s capacity to foster new learning and growth opportunity for more people of the community, for many more years to come.”
The majority of the funding for the project will come from the city’s capital projects budget, although the from Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners will contribute $5.5 million in grant funding to the project, the library said.
The branch will be closed throughout the renovation until spring of 2020. During that time, several programs will continue to run at relocated spots.
The list of relocated programs has not yet been finalized, but will be available on the Dudley branch’s website closer to the closing date.
Even with modern designs and advanced technology coming in to the Dudley library and libraries across the country, Leonard said the Boston Public Library remains dedicated to providing the basic services libraries are known for.
“We’re still about books, we’re still about computers and free WiFi, so all of that will be refreshed,” he said. “Libraries remain at the heart of all our communities.”
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