After a year of waiting, city officials joined community members on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the newly renovated Boston Public Library’s Roxbury branch in Nubian Square.
The Roxbury branch underwent a $ 17.2 million facelift that began in November 2017 and ended in October 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have been forced to postpone the celebration of the new building until now.
Saturday’s community celebration included a handful of interactive and family-friendly activities in partnership with the Boston Book Festival and was funded by the Wagner Foundation.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey marked the occasion with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Libraries are more than the books they contain,” Janey said. “They are an urgent community resource. And when we put resources into our communities, they are able to thrive. They create opportunities for us to come together, learn and connect. I want to thank all of our partners for coming together to make this incredible renovation of the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library in Nubian Square.
The 27,000 square foot renovation was designed with input from residents of Nubian Square and the wider Roxbury community. The renovation opened up the previous space and includes a new reception area overlooking a redesigned square; improved visibility and openness; dedicated areas for customers of all ages, including a brand new children’s corner; a prominent African-American collection space; a nutrition lab and a learning lab; a state-of-the-art community hall; new computer workspaces; and more.
A modern reflection of Roxbury
A new roof, windows, insulation, as well as an upgraded HVAC system and lighting will significantly reduce the building’s energy use and carbon footprint, officials say. The space also includes two Percent for Art indoor installations.
BPL President David Leonard described the modern library as a reflection of its community.
“All the particular elements of this new branch – the nutrition laboratory, the space dedicated to the African-American collection; the technology class; and the return of public art and new artistic endeavors – is a direct response to so many who have had a voice during the community process, ”said Leonard. “It truly is the vision of the Roxbury community of what this place could be that brings us together to celebrate today.”
As part of Saturday’s celebration, visual artist Zahirah Nur Truth hosted a participatory chalk art activity to help spruce up the new branch. This event was followed by Janey’s Ribbon Cutting and then a Boston Education Activism Tour (BEAT) from Nubian Square.
During this tour, high school students from METCO – the voluntary school desegregation program between Boston and the predominantly white suburbs – took participants on a trip to Boston’s past to learn about the rich history of Roxbury’s black community. The tour took note of the landmarks of Nubian Square, from the Dillaway-Thomas House to Hibernian Hall, to uncover the stories of decades of art, activism and achievement. The visit culminated at METCO’s new Nubian Square headquarters.
Finally, the library celebration ended with a reading of the upcoming Dream Street picture book, written by Roxbury-born Tricia Elam Walker and Ekua Holmes. The book is described as “a love letter to growing up in this bustling Boston neighborhood.”
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