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Gala Celebrates JP Branch Library's 100th Year

Library lovers, officials and legislators commemorated the branch’s centennial with style at Saturday's glittering gala. Support for the once-threatened institution spans generations.

It was standing-room only on Saturday when library lovers, officials and legislators packed the  to commemorate the building’s 100th anniversary.

The was the culmination of a month-long series of events held by the Friends of the JP Library in cooperation with local businesses and organizations. Proceeds from the glittering gala will be used by the Friends group to fund library programs and other needs. 

“Look at this place,” remarked City Councilor Matt O’Malley. “It’s incredible,” he said of the little library that was packed with scores of passionate supporters.   “This is such a special library!”

“I’m so excited to be here,” said State Rep. Liz Malia. “If it wasn’t for libraries in my life, I wouldn’t have made it. They provide a kind of support that is priceless.”

A cash bar was set up in the stacks and during the stylish reception attendees were serenaded from the library’s mezzanine level by the sounds of the duo “International Strings.”

JP residents Adrian Haber, Gracelyn Bullard, Alie Reilinger, sisters Tara and Mimi Colson-Leaning, all of whom are lifelong library users, were some of the tastefully attired teens who volunteered as servers and politely presented plate after plate of tasty canapés in the library’s crowded reading rooms.

After an hour or so of pleasant schmoozing and boozing, the formal portion of the night’s program shifted to the branch’s downstairs auditorium.  To loud cheers, speakers Don Haber and Gretchen Grozier, co-chairs of the JP Library’s Friends group, acknowledged the community’s strong support of the institution and recognized the work of its dedicated staff.

“During tough economic times,” Mayor Thomas Menino then told the crowd, “the JP Library plays a central role.”  The Mayor also affirmed the City’s and the BPL’s commitment to its branch library system.

“It’s what you can’t see that sets this library apart from others,” continued Menino.  “It’s the spirit of the Friends group that works with the City and sometimes against,” he joked, acknowledging the sometimes thorny relations between library activists, who during last year’s fiscal crisis ardently fought to keep the JP Branch open and have been frustrated by a long-stalled renovation project.

“Let’s keep working together,” said the mayor.

“The branches really matter,” stated subsequent speaker BPL Chair of the Board of Trustees Jeffrey Rudman.  “We’ve heard you.”

Final speaker O’Malley recalled his experience as a child when his mother took him on weekly outings to the . “I became a bibliophile ever since. This is a place worth fighting for,” he added.  “The first 100 years are only the beginning.”

Rob Festa of then acted as auctioneer for works in the library’s exhibition entitled “.”  The library-themed pieces were all donated by JP artists and proceeds from their sale will be used to benefit the branch.

The evening concluded with the cutting of an ice cream birthday cake decorated to look like what else?  A book. 

Jullieanne Doherty, JP Coordinator of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, took advantage of the moment to recall her childhood with children’s librarian of twenty-one years Barbara Rhodes, who read the book “Arthur’s Birthday” to her. As a child Doherty was a regular at Rhodes’ weekly “Story Hour.”

“My earliest memory of the library was of Barbara reading me a story,” she said.

Newlyweds Bryan Hirsch and State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz also expressed their affection for the library.

“I have a love of learning, books, and the neighbors,” said Chang-Díaz.  “It’s the hub of the community.  We’ll bring our children here."

When asked whether the renovation project would go forward, O’Malley replied, “Absolutely. We can make it a reality in the not too distant future,” he said. “This opens the next chapter.”

rhea becker October 24, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Thanks for this report. I couldn't be there but was curious to know how it all went.
Gretchen Grozier October 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Thanks to everyone who made this such a fantastic event! There is a long list of sponsors, partner organizations and ticket buyers but special thanks to the amazing library staff and members of the Friends Board. It was a celebration of one our great JP institutions by the people who make our neighborhood great!
Rich Wilson October 24, 2011 at 07:59 PM
The Friends' board did a magnificent job putting all the pieces together and making this happen. Big thanks to them plus all of the businesses and individuals who put together a flawless and fun celebration for the beloved branch. Thanks to you too, Jim. I didn't realize you were taking that audience picture while I was still waving, but fortunately it doesn't stand out too much... I hope!

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