May 28, 2022

Boston Public Library President Announces Management and Systemwide Safety and Security Action Plans

A special meeting of the Boston Public Library Board of Directors was held today. Below is a 1200+ word news release with details about the plans announced and discussed at the meeting.

One major change will be a restructuring of BPL’s public services.


Full Text of Today’s (June 3, 2015) Boston Public Library News Release Announcing Plans

Today, Boston Public Library (BPL) President Amy E. Ryan announced action plans for the BPL’s collection management and systemwide safety and security. The plans include an expanded and accelerated inventory and assessment of Special Collections with a focus on the most important and valuable, the transfer of 24,000 paper catalog cards to the electronic catalog over 12 months, and a completed comprehensive Systemwide Safety and Security Plan by the end of July 2015.

President Ryan made the announcement at a special meeting of the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees at the Central Library in Copley Square. The meeting included an update on the ongoing investigations into two missing artworks, the recently released external Operational and Financial Assessment of BPL by Chrysalis Management, LLC, an overview of the library’s systemwide safety and security, and an overview of BPL collection management.

Collection Management Action Plan

  • Inventory of the Print Collection
    • Expert preservationist Dr. Martha Mahard, with 35 years of experience at Harvard University, has begun an item-by-item inventory of all 200,000 prints and drawings and 120,000 chromolithographs to be completed by the end of the year.
  • Print staff redeployed to inventory; public service curtailed
    • Digital access remains
  • New curators in Fine Arts and Music identify material to be transferred to Rare Books Department
  • Special Collections Assessment
    • The library will conduct a needs assessment of its 100+ special collections to develop a priority ranking of collections for full inventory beginning August 2015 to the end of the year.
    •  Special Collections Inventory will proceed once assessment has been completed and financial resources have been secured.
    • Expedite and expand the transfer of catalog cards to electronic catalog
    • The library will identify funding to transfer approximately 25,000 catalog cards to the electronic catalog during the next fiscal year.
    • In FY15, nearly 18,000 catalog cards were transferred, at a cost of $194,000.
  • Public Services Restructuring
    • First phase launched with Youth Services in Central Library.
    • Research Services in negotiation with Unions.
    • Development of Special Collections Reorganization has begun.
    • Consolidation of collections, staff, and functions in related departments
    • Provide better intellectual control
    • Collection Management
    • Public access
    • Public services
  • Staff Redeployment
    Staff in Special Collections (Print and Rare Books) and from across the Central Library have been redeployed to assist in the search of the Print and Rare Books collections and to prepare for the above listed action items.

Collection Management Background

The Boston Public Library has more than 23.5 million items in its collection and is one of the five largest research libraries in the United States. Its collections are internationally recognized as preeminent among other libraries and cultural institutions, with a collection second only to the Library of Congress in size.

Six-percent of the collection is circulating, which includes children’s books, e-books, and best sellers; 69% of the collection includes Research Collections, such as genealogy resources, scholarly journals, and company directories; and 25% of the collection is Special Collections, including the Print Collection, first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” and, in its Rare Book collection, the personal library of John Adams.

Sixty-eight percent, or more than 16 million items, of the library’s total collection is accessible through the online catalog. The rest is largely discoverable through card catalogs, print finding aids, micro fiche, and with the assistance of expert librarians.

For its nearly 170-year history, the collecting philosophy of the Boston Public Library has been to acquire as much as possible. Before 2009 a priority had not been placed on cataloging or on access to those materials by the public. In the 1980s there were substantial financial resources and grants available to libraries across the U.S. to automate their collections and convert catalog cards into electronic records, however, the BPL did not take advantage of the financial resources at that time.

Since 2005, the BPL has been working to digitize and make its collections available online.  To date, over 150,000 objects from books to photographs have been digitized and are available to the public through the Internet Archive, Flickr, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, and Digital Commonwealth. These digitized objects have been viewed over 100 million times to date.

In addition, since 2009 the Boston Public Library has: converted over 450,000 catalog cards to electronic records; added five cataloging and digitization positions; adopted a new collections strategy department to oversee all BPL collections; adopted a new Collection Development Policy limiting gift acceptance, placing a higher emphasis on digitization and making more focused decisions on new acquisitions; and completed the first year in a two-year project to assess, inventory, and develop an organizational structure for the entire Print Collection.

Systemwide Safety and Security Action Plan

  • Work with the KCMS Security Consultant to complete the initial report by June 30 and then develop a plan for review and implementation.
  • Make specific additional improvements to each of the nine Secure Collections areas as needed, deploying the correct selection of additional measures, such as security cameras, motion detectors – inside and outside spaces – door contacts, glass breaks, security film, door alarms; deploy electronic keys management systems and coded access panels; connect additional feeds to Municipal Protective Services. Plan to be fully developed by June 30.
  • Deploy additional card key access panels and/or coded punch code door security at any remaining borders at the Central Library between public and staff areas. Plan to be fully developed by June 30.
  • Complete Comprehensive Systemwide Safety and Security Plan by July 31.
  • Update all guard posts and duty lists in conjunction with award of new guard and patrol contract – complete by September.

Systemwide Safety and Security Background

The Boston Public Library takes security both inside and outside its properties very seriously and continues to update and develop new security procedures and protocols as technology evolves.

Since 2009, the BPL has implemented a range of security measures. In the Rare Books and Prints Departments measures such as glass break alarms, door contact alarms, motion sensors, user-specific access control key pads, and alarms that are connected to Municipal Protective Services and the Boston Police Department have been installed. In addition, locks to secure areas were rekeyed twice during this timeframe, and security cameras have been added at various locations across Central Library.

The $78 million redesign of the Johnson building takes security concerns into account including better sight lines, the elimination of blind spots, the location of staff desks, the location of public seating areas, the locations and distribution of restrooms, etc., and the use of glass for increased visibility.

In October 2014, the BPL hired a Manager of Systemwide Security, charged with updating and developing security policies and procedure across the library system. In addition, since early 2015, the BPL has been preparing a Systemwide Safety and Security Plan, addressing security systems and procedures already in place at the library, updates underway, and what can be implemented in the coming months. The final plan will be available at the end of July 2015.

Following the discovery of the two missing artworks from the BPL Print Collection, changes were made to secure area access, including: the addition of a two-factor system preventing individuals from entering the secured area alone; a two-person access requirement for opening and closing of the department; new logging procedures for employees accessing secure materials; a detailed register of materials being moved by staff; locks in secure areas were changed; access to secure areas was further restricted to a limited numbers of individuals; an external consultant was hired for a security assessment of Print and related collections; and additional security measure were implemented for physical keys.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.