BOSTON — Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Public Library announced that the renovation of the Roxbury Branch (formerly Dudley) is complete. The branch is now open for BPL To Go services; allowing patrons to place holds, check out, and return books, CDs, and DVDs.
The branch has undergone a $17.2 million renovation that began in November 2017. The programming, design and construction was managed by the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department, with consultation from the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, and architecture firm Utile, Inc.
“Libraries are an essential resource for Bostonians across the city, and we are excited that this newly-renovated branch will bring improved access and vital services to Roxbury,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am grateful to everyone who helped bring this next chapter of the Roxbury Branch to life, which was designed with a focus on workforce development, community engagement, and Black heritage and culture. I look forward to celebrating its completion when it’s safe for all of us to gather together again, and having neighbors experience the spaces that our teams worked so hard to create.”
The renovation was designed with the input of Nubian Square residents and the wider Roxbury community, and entirely reimagined and opened up the prior space. The 27,000 square foot renovation includes a new welcome area overlooking a redesigned plaza; improved visibility and openness; dedicated spaces for patrons of all ages – including a brand-new children’s corner; a prominently featured African-American collection space; a nutrition lab and a learning lab; a community room with state-of-the-art technology; new computer workspaces; and more. Additionally, a new roof, windows, insulation, and modernized HVAC and lighting will significantly reduce the building’s energy consumption and carbon footprint. The space will also feature two interior Percent for Art installations.
The former Roxbury Branch building opened its doors in April 1978, replacing two smaller locations. The Mount Pleasant Branch opened in 1915 on Vine Street, while the Roxbury Branch, housing the Fellowes Athenaeum, opened on Millmont Street in 1873, and served patrons for more than 100 years. The two locations were merged into what became the largest branch in the Library’s system, serving the entire Roxbury community. The Branch was renamed “The Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library” by the BPL Board of Trustees in May 2020. The name was chosen in recognition of the Roxbury’s contributions to Boston history, which date as far back as the Revolutionary War, and the neighborhood the branch serves today. Before the renaming, Roxbury was one of the only large Boston neighborhoods without a branch named for it.
“The construction on the Roxbury Branch was a complete reimagination of what a library branch could be,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library. “As the largest branch library in the BPL system, it was essential that the renovations help us create an accessible, versatile space with new resources to meet the needs of the community today. Although we cannot invite patrons into the branch yet, we are excited to start up BPL To Go services, and just to begin reconnecting with our community in person.”
Once open for additional services, the Roxbury branch will also host programming and staff from King Boston. While still in formation, programming and partnerships will include collaboration on creating a King Center for Economic Justice, and continuing to grow the African American collection at the branch into a destination for African American scholarship and collections.
“On behalf of the Friends of the Roxbury Library, we are so excited that the branch is reopening to the public,” said Elizabeth Nagarajah, President of the Friends of the Roxbury Library. “While we are all still learning to adjust to this unique moment in time, we believe it’s important to provide the community with access to reading materials and virtual services. We’re thrilled that the Roxbury Branch is once again able to share valuable resources with patrons, and we look forward to the day when we can welcome visitors into the new space.”
Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and for the safety of staff and patrons, the building is not currently open for visitors. Mayor Walsh and the BPL hope to hold a community celebration when public health guidelines dictate it is safe to do so. Patrons can learn more about the branch’s available BPL To Go and Printing To Go services at bpl.org/takeout.
In addition to the Roxbury Branch renovation, the City of Boston’s most recent capital plan (FY21-25) includes more than $130.5 million for libraries. The FY21 budget includes the construction of a new Adams Street Branch, major renovations to the Roslindale and Faneuil Branches, design for a major renovation at the Fields Corner Branch, continued repair, renovation and master planning projects at the Central Library in Copley Square, planning activities for the Upham’s Corner and Chinatown Branches, and programming studies at the Codman Square, West End, and Egleston Square branches, These projects include community engagement to gain input, feedback, and insight from patrons and local organizations.