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A mayor who built the branch libraries would be a hero

I am not interested in arguing the list. I have a pretty good feeling that my library can beat these other libraries. But that's what the cutters want, they want to pit us one neighborhood against the other. I imagine the West End library is still there because modernizers of the past, in an effort to bring the West End into the 20th century, flattened the neighborhood in the name of progress, dense urban living and a major road interchange. But instead of a modern neighborhood, the West End became an infamous name, and a symbol of everything that went wrong in urban renewal. Even our own Brighton library was a clunky modern replacement for a much-loved and mourned older building.

As we have read in many comments, the present library system has arisen not from a coordinated plan, but often in a haphazard manner. Many of the defenders of these libraries remember the older, better library too. As any visitor to the Copley library can see, the older section was obviously built by a wealthier society that knew much more about what looked good and what aged well. But we are left with what we have, and even the shoddy replacement Brighton library serves patrons.

I see the branch library as filling the segment which Christopher Alexander called "small services without red tape" in his book "A Pattern Language":

There is a great deal of literature on the way red tape and bureaucracy work against human needs...

...red tape can be overcome in two ways. First, it can be overcome by making each service program small and autonomous. A great deal of evidence shows that red tape occurs largely as a result of impersonal relationships in large institutions. When people can no longer communicate on a face-to-face basis, they need formal regulations, and in the lower echelons of the organization, these formal regulations are followed blindly and narrowly.

Second, red tape can be overcome by changing the passive nature of the clients' relation to service programs. There is considerable evidence to show that when clients have an active relationship with a social institution, the institution loses its power to intimidate them.

We have therefore concluded that no service should have more than 12 persons total (all staff, including clerks). We base this figure on the fact thas 12 seems to be the largest number of people that can sit down in a face-to-face discussion...

Now Alexander was not followed at the time, and modernization took a more destructive path, eliminating mid-level institutional buildings and so on. Taking it all onto the internet only compounds the anti-social effects. I think closing the branch libraries would be another step along a this discredited and destructive path. If I had the money I would build more branches. If the branches didn't exist, any mayor who built the present system would become a hero for the ages.



I agree with much of this, and I think you are right when you say the older section of Copley and many of the now defunct libraries of the past are nicer than the present more modern ones (though the one Harvard built in Allston is great). I think this doesn't reflect a wealthier society of the past as much as, sadly, different values. Americans have lots of money, overall, notwithstanding the current crisis. The difference is that people don't want to pay for public institutions or services (taxes) except for war and highways. So we get less and less grand public services and institutions. Our libraries would never be built now, and our park system? No way, look at the greenway to see what meager funds and land would be given now if Olmstead were designing the emerald necklace now. Everything has to be supported by private corporations (that get tax subsidies, oddly) so the library or other service would have to support the corporations mission, making money.

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