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New library hailed as Mattapan's future

$16.7m building is most modern in city

Aiyanna Canty, 3, Nazir Canty, 2, and Aaniya Riddick, 2, all of Mattapan, enjoyed the new children's room at the Mattapan Branch Library yesterday. Aiyanna Canty, 3, Nazir Canty, 2, and Aaniya Riddick, 2, all of Mattapan, enjoyed the new children's room at the Mattapan Branch Library yesterday. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / March 1, 2009
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Ten-year-old Kayla Maloney broke out in a wide smile as she ran her small fingers along the bindings of books stacked in the young adults section of the new Mattapan library. The fifth-grader, a voracious reader who says she often falls asleep with a book on her pillow, stopped every few steps to pull out a novel and look at the cover.

"I'll read most of them," she told her grandmother, who was standing nearby. "This place is amazing," said Kayla, gazing up at the orange ceiling.

The library, a $16.7 million modern building with an airy mixture of wood, glass, and attention-grabbing color, opened yesterday with fanfare, despite a budget crisis that has imperiled many city projects, programs, and services. Boston is facing an estimated $145 million budget shortfall this year.

The newly elected Boston Public Library president, Amy Ryan, called the Mattapan Branch Library, the first new public library in Mattapan since 1932, "the best possible solution for the community. "

"In times of economic downturns, people turn to libraries in droves," she said. "Why would you want to buy a book or rent a DVD when you don't have to because it can be checked out from the library?"

She said the library can serve as a job-hunting center for people who have lost work.

Ryan said the library was built with many cost-cutting and environmentally friendly features such as lots of glass that allows for sun to illuminate the interior during the day, and water- and energy-saving features throughout the 21,000-square-foot building. By contrast the former building on Hazelton Street, which closed earlier this year, was 7,200 square feet.

Library officials also touted the new branch as the most technologically advanced of Boston's 26 branches, with 30 computers available and several wide-screen televisions.

Boston Public Library is also planning to open a new Grove Hall Branch library April 4 that will be connected to Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester. This will be the first public library in the city to be attached to a school.

Ryan said requests for library cards citywide increased by about 33 percent over the past year, and she hopes the new branches will continue to attract more visitors.

"We wanted to create a place where the community can gather, where neighbors can see each other and spend time educating themselves and their children. That's really what this is all about," she said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino cut the ribbon to the library yesterday morning, saying it will be a gem for the community, a place where the young, middle-aged, and elderly can come to educate themselves through books, computers, and other materials.

"This library is the future of our neighborhood," he said during the opening celebration.

Inside the library, children lounged on green sofas reading or sat and colored in the arts and crafts room, as praise was heaped on the architects and city officials for bringing the concept to reality,

Mattapan Branch librarian Maurice Gordon said, "this place will go a long way toward helping to build the community. It will start building self-esteem with the children and adults who use it."

Bianca Valentine brought her four children to the opening yesterday. Sitting at a table in the children's section, she said: "I go to the library a lot and usually I have to travel far, but this one is less than a mile from where I live. I plan on coming here a lot. This place is really incredible. They did a fantastic job and the kids love it."

About 500 people showed up for the opening. Aisles were jammed with adults leafing through books and parents pushing strollers. After the library was dedicated, the speeches given and the ribbon cut, it was business as usual, as long lines of parents and teens gathered at the checkout desk with small stacks of books in hand.

Cynthia Cornelius checked out several books and some audio/visual material for her 7-year-old grandson, Lorren Harvey-Cornelius.

"It's SpongeBob!" Lorren said.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.

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