Library Woes

Pretend time! Put on your thinking caps, dear readers!

You are an elder, a revered citizen in a noble town, but no one ever speaks with you. You have been around for so long, longer than most people in the town, and you rightfully feel as if more people should be coming to you. How do you fix that?

Okay, we’re done with pretend time, but you should still keep on your thinking caps, for the purposes of this article, and, well, because wearing a thinking cap fairly regularly is a good life practice.

The elder from the above scenario has the same dilemma as the Upham’s Corner Library, located at 500 Columbia Rd., Dorchester, MA. It has been in its current location, the Municipal Building, since 1904, and is one of the oldest branches of the Boston Public Library System.

Yet, for the last three years, it has consistently received the lowest number of visitors out of all 24 branches of the Boston Library.

It’s hard being a library, yes?

Yes! Just take a look at this graph:

See Upham’s Corner’s bar? What? You can’t because it’s so small?

It is. While the values of the bars are not visible on the graph, they are available at, where the library keeps PDF spreadsheets of their data for the last three fiscal years.

For the most recent quarter of the 2017 fiscal year, Upham’s Corner drew in 6,263 visitors, or .7% of the total number of visitors, 900,760, to all of the libraries so far.

Big deal. Parker Hill, Egleston and Lower Mills only drew in 1%, 1.1%, and 1.3% of the total number of visitors, respectively. (That’s 9,224, 10,104, and 11,639 visitors.)

Okay. Let’s take a look at the second quarter of fiscal year 2017:

(Note: Jamaica Plain does not factor into this report. It closed in September 2015 for an extensive renovation, and only recently reopened, on May 20, 2017).

During this quarter, the Upham’s Corner Branch drew in 6,516 visitors, or .7% of the 116,265 visitors to the libraries across the city. Parker Hill: 1%. Egelston: 1%. (9,444 and 9,651).

Upham’s Corner once again has the least number of visitors.

What about the first quarter of fiscal year 2017?

Upham’s Corner: .85% (8,988 out of 131,719)

Parker Hill: .93% (9,906 out of 131,719)

Egleston: 1.2% (13,141 out of 131,719)

There is a small, tiny, almost insignificant difference between the number of visitors Upham’s Corner received, and the number of visitors Parker Hill received. This is the case for all three quarters of the 2017.

This would not be remarkable if it weren’t for Upham’s Corner’s status as the library with the least number of visitors in ALL FOUR QUARTERS OF BOTH 2016 AND 2015.

Here are the charts for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 (for information the individual quarters, visit BPL By the Numbers.):

Upham’s Corner ranks in at 31,469 visitors, or .88% of 3,560,252 visitors. It is the only library that drew in less than 1% of the total number of visitors.

Upham’s Corner: 29,087, or .83% of 3,491,544. It is again the only library that drew in less than 1% of the total number of library visitors.

Rosemary, a representative for the Boston Public Library, says that “Upham’s Corner is part of the Boston 2030 initiative. The city is investing $18 million into a new facility.”

According to the Dorchester Reporter, the library will be moved into a former bank at 555 Columbia Rd., where it will be more visible to the community. The library’s current location, seen below, while historical, is not easily accessible to the eye. The building is marked “Municipal Building,” and there are no indications, beyond a flag fluttering off to the side and word-of-mouth, that a library is somewhere inside.

This more, likely than not, accounts for the low numbers of visitors.

If history truly does repeat itself, though, then things are going to look up for the library. In the second and third quarters of 2014, after renovations finished at the current location, the branch saw more visitors than Parker Hill and Egleston.

Upham’s Corner: 1.6% of 918,141, or 14,389 visitors

Parker Hill: 1.2%, or 11,065 visitors

Egleston: 1.2 %, or 10,585 visitors

Upham’s Corner:1.9% of 937,616, or 17,634 visitors

Parker Hill: 1.5%, or 13,590 visitors

Egleston: 1.3%, or 12,574 visitors

True, after the excitement of a well-known, historical branch reopening faded away, the numbers dropped. But, once the library’s in its new, more-easily-visible location, more people will be able to enjoy its resources.

And it definitely will not feel like it is just a novelty for people to look at, then simply pass by.