The latest edition of American Libraries Direct included what I consider bad news. Bernie Margolis, the President of the Boston Public Library [i.e. the library director there], is not having his contract renewed. On November 4, Boston.com (the online version of the Boston Globe) reported that the Board agenda included a discussion of not renewing his contract when it expires on June 30, 2008. Today's issue reports that one of the issues is about support for the branches.
While my current library has only one location, I have had experience with branches. One thing that annoys me about the article is the constant reference to the "main branch." That is an oxymoron! Either it is the "main" or "headquarters" or it is a "branch."
A key concept that people like the mayor of Boston clearly do not understand is that the health of a system is dependent on the main/headquarters location. While there are a few library systems without a "main" branch (Baltimore County comes to mind), for the vast majority, "main" is where the administration is, where technical services is located, where the historical archives, strongest and deepest collection, and most talented reference staff. If you do not support the central location, then the branches whither.
One analogy which occurred to me as I was stewing over this is to use that of the body. Part of what Bernie did with Boston was to do open heart surgery and made the Copley Square main library back into the key library it needs to be. What the mayor seems to want to do is to do major surgery on the arms and legs and leave the heart to disintegrate. (Yes, I may be over the top in the analogy, but I really believe that the mayor and library board do not understand this important relationship.
To me, it is sad because Bernie is such an articulate and thoughtful library leader. I know that he will land on his feet somewhere else. I have had a similar experience in the past and wound up in a much better place as a result.