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At long last, new Mattapan library open to the public

St. John Barned-Smith | 3/4/2009, 4 a.m.
Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M....
Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

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Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

photo

Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

photo

Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

photo

Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

photo

Flanked by state Rep. Willie Mae Allen (left) and City Councilor Charles C. Yancey (right), Mayor Thomas M. Menino (center) joins members of the community to celebrate the official opening of the new Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.

Jubilant readers gathered with city officials last Saturday to celebrate the opening of the Boston Public Library’s new Mattapan branch, located at 1350 Blue Hill Avenue.

About 500 people crammed into the main hall of the $16.7 million, energy efficient and technologically advanced building to peruse the library’s 42,000 magazines, books and DVDs.

While city officials were happy to press flesh and some library-goers were gazing at the building’s soaring ceiling, planted courtyard and host of rooms, 23-year-old Mattapan resident Derrick Shepard was already busy checking his e-mail.

“I’m happy about the computers,” Shepard said, “and the way they made and separated the areas, from adults, to child[ren], to young adults.” A young adult room, children’s room, pebbled courtyard and two community meeting rooms flank the library’s central reading room.

At 21,000 square feet, the new Mattapan library is three times larger than its predecessor. And thanks to an environmentally conscious design featuring a reflective roof to save on energy costs during the summer, it’s also the most technologically advanced library in the city.

While many of the guests were intent on checking out the new library’s offerings, for one, just attending the opening was something of a cathartic experience, one that’s been a long time coming.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said City Councilor Charles C. Yancey, who represents Mattapan and parts of Dorchester.

Yancey first pushed for a new Mattapan library in 1995, and secured the funds for the project in 1997, when Menino approved his $10.2 million loan order into the city budget. Now, 14 years after beginning the work of bringing a new library to Mattapan, Yancey said last Saturday that the finished product was well worth the wait.

“This is a very important victory for the community,” he said. “Typically, people complain that City Hall doesn’t care, or that children are not receiving resources they need. [But] a library provides opportunities [that the community] needs to take control, to empower itself educationally, politically and socially.”

As children sprawled on couches to read, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other city officials noted the library’s sophisticated design, lauding it as a new gem for the city.

“This is the most technologically rich library in the City of Boston,” Menino said.

William Rawn Associates, the Boston-based architectural firm that designed the library, also committed to making it environmentally friendly. The structure’s high ceilings, building-length windows and other design features will cut energy usage by almost 20 percent, and water use by more than 30 percent, according to city officials.

Boston Public Library President Amy Ryan said that she hoped Bostonians would use the library’s computers to search for jobs, while Menino said he believed the library would serve as more than just a place for people in Mattapan Square to read books.

“This library will be a connector for Blue Hill Avenue,” he said. “People assume the square stops at [owner Edward] Jay’s [Mattapan] Car Wash and nothing else happens, [but] this will continue the growth and vitality of Blue Hill Avenue … so you’re going to see new development to Blue Hill Avenue, a more connected and well-rounded neighborhood. I think it’s really exciting.”

Dave Jackson, a local mechanical engineer and president of the Friends of the Mattapan Library, trumpeted the amount of community involvement in the long-developing library.

“You could ramrod a project through very quickly with very low input,” he said. “But by taking the long process in terms of getting input, you’re able to get ownership. People are going to say this is their building.”