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$14.7 million renovation of Dudley library branch kicks off

An artist’s rendering on the library website of the renovated Dudley library branch.

To Che Madyun, the $14.7 million renovation of the Dudley branch of the Boston Public Library isn’t just about books and computers — it’s about honoring and beautifying the community she loves, the place where she raised her two children, who are now adults.

She attended her first library program — Parent Effective Training — at Dudley shortly after it opened in the late 1970s.

The renovations, by Boston-based Utile Architecture & Planning, will feature glass walls and will move the branch’s entrance to overlook a plaza. The new space will include a nutrition lab, a multi-purpose room with audio-visual technology, an African-American collection, and works of art commissioned by the city.


Madyun was one of dozens of attendees Saturday morning at the kickoff event for the renovation. Boston Public Library president David Leonard, with oversized orange balloons behind him and artist’s renderings of the renovated branch to his side, said the new building will be “filled with light, reaching out to the community,” in contrast to the current building’s Brutalist concrete architecture.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh was met with laughs from the audience when he addressed the building’s look in his comments.

“As much as we love concrete buildings in Boston — and I certainly love being in my concrete building at City Hall — this is going to be transformed,” Walsh said.

The branch opened in April 1978, and Madyun said the building is “not economically efficient,” in addition to being “just ugly.”

She hopes the new look will make the building “more visible” to community members and draw them in to see what the library has to offer.

“This space historically has been the space for the African-American collection,” she said.

She hopes that the added emphasis on the collection, as outlined in the renovation’s plans, will draw scholars and those seeking to learn more about African-American history.


State Representative Chynah Tyler said the improvements “just make sense for Roxbury.”

“It puts a spotlight on academia,” she said. “There’s always opportunity to create more space for services for folks.”

Duane Gelzer came up from the Cape to accompany his mother, Francina, the librarian who opened the Dudley branch, to the event. Supported by a cane and a friend at her side, Francina Gelzer stood as she was recognized by Leonard as one of the few black women who worked as a library branch head at the time.

Duane Gelzer, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, wants to see the renovated branch offer space for exploration to young people interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“I was quiet and introverted,” he said. “It didn’t click for me until engineering. That could be cooking in someone else.”

The library will close to accommodate the work from Nov. 17 to the spring of 2020, which causes Madyun some regret.

“A lot of young people come here in the afternoon to do homework or programming, or just have a place to go so their parents can come get them,” she said.

Still, she expects the end result to be worth it.

“The possibilities are absolutely fabulous!” she said.

Martha Schick can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MarthaSchick.