The Friends of the West Roxbury Branch Library seeks to foster an appreciation for the value of learning; promote a love of books and reading; and support access to educational, cultural and social opportunities for the members of the West Roxbury community, through the West Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library. In cooperation with library staff, the Friends implement adult and children’s programming at the library; raise funds to support their own and the library’s programming; promote awareness of library programs and services; enhance the physical space and gardens of the library; and cooperate with other community organizations to enhance the quality of life in West Roxbury.
Board of Directors
Anna Goettle (director emerita)
Rickie Harvey, Co-Chair
Alice Hennessey (director emerita)
Carleton Johnson (director emeritus)
Marion Joyce (director emerita)
Jenna Leschuk, Secretary
Theresa Lynn, Co-Chair
Gwynne Morgan (on leave until 9/16)
Mary Murphy, Treasurer
Judith Robbins (director emerita)
Peg Sawyer (director emerita)
Barbara Van Dyke (director emerita)
Sheila Scott, Branch Librarian
A Brief History of the Friends
(updated for the 40th Anniversary, 2014–15)
The Friends of the West Roxbury Branch Library was created in 1974 when Fred Kerrick and Alice Hennessey convened a small group of library lovers to discuss ways in which they might be helpful to the West Roxbury Branch. The Friends worked closely with library staff and helped with children’s story hours and other special programs. As support for the organization increased, membership dues bought books and periodicals chosen by library staff.
The first Annual Used Book Sale was held in the spring of 1978 in the basement of the old library building and the proceeds used to purchase small chairs for the children’s story hour. Marion Deveau Joyce helped with that first sale and headed up the annual effort for the next 21 years. The Used Book Sale has developed into an enormous undertaking, with donated books being sorted and boxed throughout the year by devoted volunteers who have followed in Marion’s footsteps. The Annual Used Book Sale, which generated $300 on a Saturday afternoon in 1978, is now a five-day event, with an additional evening devoted to a members-only wine-and-cheese preview. This activity currently brings in between $6,000 and $7,000 annually for library programming and materials, including the annual Poetry Contest for All Ages, which marked its 25th year in 2014.
The West Roxbury Branch Library has traditionally had the highest circulation of any branch in the Boston Public Library system, aside from the central downtown branch. In the 1970s the facility—which at that time consisted of only the older, single-story building—was bursting at the seams, but space for expansion did not exist until 1973.
Disaster struck the Congregational Church at the corner of Centre and Mount Vernon streets on May 26, 1973, when fire demolished the old wooden building there. When the Trustees of the Church decided not to rebuild, Fred Kerrick worked with them to turn the land over to the Trustees of the Library to be used when the city budget permitted the building of a new addition.
The downswing in the nation’s economy and subsequent constraints on the state and city budgets put plans on hold until 1984, when Mayor Raymond L. Flynn agreed to fund the much-needed addition. The Friends spearheaded a community effort to include in the design process all organizations and individuals who would use the new facility or be affected by the plans. Working closely with library administration and the city’s Public Facilities Department, a planning team produced a design for the new addition. After years of effort, the addition was dedicated on September 24, 1989.
With the expansion of the library, services and programming for patrons have flourished, and the Friends has been instrumental in providing for the cultural, educational, and social needs of the West Roxbury community. Along with the Poetry Contest, the Friends supports the Book Discussion Group and the Summer Reading Program for school-age children, pays for passes to Boston museums and the Franklin Park Zoo and subscriptions to an assortment of magazines and newspapers, contributes to the upkeep of the Reading Garden, sponsors the ReadBoston Storymobile during the summer months, and offers Mah Jongg classes as well as pays for Charlie the ChessMaster to teach the game of chess twice a week. The Friends also initiated the Children’s Art Gallery located at the entrance to the Children’s Reading Room and the Daily Book Sale in the front lobby.
As the organization grows, so do its plans for the future. Among other endeavors, the Friends has worked to supplement the library’s computer capacity for its Homework Assistance Program, which is dedicated to longtime Friend Linn Landraitis. The Friends has budgeted funds to increase the library’s collection of Audiobooks, keeping pace with the changing needs of our more technologically advanced patrons. Each year at its Annual Meeting, the Friends sponsors a noted speaker to kick off the new year; recent speakers included James Carroll, William Bulger, Dennis Lehane, and Megan Marshall.
The Friends is now working to foster greater ties with other community organizations in order to increase communication and to find areas of common interest among the many community-spirited individuals in West Roxbury. Primary toward advancing this goal is the West Roxbury Reads (WRR) initiative, held every two years. One book is chosen for the community to read together, and the author is invited to speak as the highlight of a one-month round of programming of events and activities related to the book selection. Recent WRR authors and titles include Geraldine Brooks and March, Michael Pollan and In Defense of Food, and the 40th anniversary year’s Lois Lowry and The Giver.
As the Friends looks to the future on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, it sees its membership and responsibilities growing and the needs of the community it serves ever-evolving. The Friends’ commitment to its roots of service to the West Roxbury Branch Library remains strong and meaningful.