ESNA Letter about Egleston Branch Library

To:      Egleston Square Branch Library Study Team
Re:      Egleston Square Branch Library – Response to Egleston Square Programming Study Final Report (posted online for community view in December, 2021)
From:  Egleston Square Neighborhood Association (ESNA) Housing Committee & The Friends Group of the Egleston Square Branch Library
Date:   1/18/22

We are in support of development of Approaches 3 or 4 as proposed in the Final Report, for a stand-alone library, with better integration of outdoor programming.  We are opposed to Approaches 1 and 2 for a library with housing.

The Egleston neighborhood deserves a state-of-the-art and beautiful Library with generous open space, on a lot that is fully dedicated to a stand-alone Library. 

The Egleston Square Branch Library, in its renovation and design, should demonstrate the public commitment to the myriad functions of the Library as a community anchor, center of learning, and gathering place.  Devoting the current parcel of land solely to the Library prioritizes and makes visible that commitment.

We are a diverse neighborhood – diverse in race, income, age, and family size.  The Library is our shared public building.  Preserving the existing site completely for Library use indicates value and respect for our neighborhood Library.

Outdoor space for the Library is essential, with square footage for programming, pathways, and permaculture.  The outdoor educational programming is an established feature of the Egleston Library, and designated space should be added to the program for the new library design.  Outdoor space needs include:

  • Designating sufficient back yard space for the permaculture orchard and gardens, outdoor classroom & event space, storage, and composting, approximately 50% of current back yard, away from the noise of busy Columbus Avenue;
  • Retaining front yard space for educational gardens, flowering trees, book box, free seed library, and public art, approximately 50% of current front yard;
  • Preserving width of existing pathway that links Walnut Park with Columbus Ave., providing pedestrian access to homes and the Library;
  • Improving the border between the Library and St. Mary of the Angel Church.

We support the existing program to double the inside space of the Library in order to accommodate increased programming, classroom & meeting space, and better facilities for staff and patrons.  We welcome the increased accessibility and attention to energy efficiency in a new building.

We originally supported consideration of adding housing to the Library site, and participated in the meetings with the Library Study Team, the Housing Innovation Lab, and the Department of Neighborhood Development about that topic.  ESNA offered some initial thoughts about housing considerations in its letter to the Library Study Team 2/24/21, including considering additional height and affordability.  The Friends Group of the Egleston Square Branch Library offered its renovation priorities 11/30/20, which also included consideration of housing.

After participating in the Study and in reviewing the proposals in the Final Report, it is not possible to achieve our goals for a quality Library with generous outdoor programming space and good connections to its surrounding neighbors if housing is included.

Here are some of the issues raised by adding the housing:

  • insufficient provision for outdoor classroom space & permaculture programming, ignoring community investments and commitments;
  • the housing footprint covers the lot, and does not allow the setbacks and open space required to respect the community’s investment in the outdoor gardens, orchard, seating areas, and green space, and the Library’s commitment to outdoor education;
  • loss of open space in the existing densely populated section of Columbus Ave.;
  • loss of community created outdoor gardens, public gardening opportunities, gathering spaces, and pathways;
  • zero parking for staff and residents, with no provision of any kind for on-site ride share, delivery/pick-up, trash collection;
  • housing proposals seek variance from the setbacks and stepbacks in addition to those provided under Plan JP/ROX;
  • a longer construction schedule that delays opening the Library.

We call for a commitment from the Study Team, the Boston Public Library, and the City to these goals:

  • Dedicate the space to a stand-alone Library.
  • Incorporate enough open space to meet the variety of outdoor programming objectives.
  • Move forward promptly with budgeting for a Library that meets these criteria.

Thank you for your consideration.


Carolyn Royce
Egleston Square Neighborhood Association Housing Committee

Julianna Brody-Fialkin, President
The Friends Group of the Egleston Square Branch Library

Egleston Square Neighborhood Association (ESNA) is a long-standing organization of people who care about Egleston Square.  We are interested in all things Egleston -health, safety, housing, parks & playgrounds, clean streets, and more.  ESNA meets monthly, with meetings open to the public.

The Friends Group of the Egleston Square Branch Library seeks to bring diverse content in books and programs, to encourage branch use by all community members, and to develop a space that is welcoming, useful and restorative.   It is a volunteer driven non-profit community organization consisting of a board of directors with a membership of several hundred; it supports the library through fundraising, convening programs and events, and advocating on behalf of the branch and its staff. The Friends Group collaborates with local residents, housing agencies, schools and other organizations that use and need the library, including Urban Edge, Rogerson Communities, St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, the Rafael Hernandez School, Egleston Square Main Street, and Egleston Square Neighborhood Association. 

Over the past five years, The Friends Group has developed and raised individual and grant funding for outdoor educational space, renovating the front and back yards of the property, creating gardens, pathways, outdoor classrooms, and seating areas.   During the pandemic, the Friends Group spearheaded a seed and supply distribution project to help those in the neighborhood with limited access to food and garden supplies. The Boston Public Library has since adopted the seed distribution project to be city-wide.


Kendra Lara, District 6 City Councilor

Michael Flaherty, At-Large City Councilor

Ruthzee Louijeune, At-Large City Councilor

Julia Mejia, At-Large City Councilor

Erin Murphy, At-Large City Councilor

Rep. Liz Malia

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz

Tiffani Caballero, Jamaica Plain liaison, Office of Neighborhood Services

Egleston Square Branch Library Study Team Members:

Paul Donnelly, Assistant Director, Boston Public Facilities Department

Maureen Anderson, Senior Project Manager, Boston Public Facilities Department

David Leonard, President, Boston Public Library

Alison Ford, Major Projects Program Manager, Boston Public Library

Priscilla Foley, Director of Neighborhood Services, Boston Public Library

Joseph Backer, Housing Development Officer, Boston Dept. of Neighborhood Development

Amanda Malone, Ann Beha Architects