The historic rotunda skylight above the circulation desk at the Chelsea Public Library has served for decades as a nice ceiling, but few knew that the elegant egg-shaped ceiling was designed to provide beautiful natural lighting to the striking entrance of the historic library.
Now everyone knows.
The rotunda above the foyer of the library was completed last Friday, June 15, and made a bright showing for patrons when the library opened on a sunny Monday.
Library Director Sarah Jackson said the rotunda is one part of several small, but effective, renovations that have occurred in the last three years at the library – which had been showing its age severely when she took over three years ago.
“The rotunda is original to the 1910 building, so that means it was 108 years old,” she said. “It certainly got its use, but it was time to replace it. The skylight is new and they re-built the entire structure off-site and moved it back on. It was one of the most extensive renovations that company has done. It was structurally deficient and leaked badly. There has been a tarp over it since I’ve been here. It lasted over 100 years and we decided to make it as historically accurate as possible, but with a modern look.
“It is beautiful and they did a beautiful job,” she continued. “It’s nice to have it open with so much natural light coming in, and we might even be able to see the stars in the winter.”
The rotunda was part of a five-year strategic plan for the building that Jackson wrote with her staff and the Library Trustees three years ago.
Two years ago they began putting new carpeting in the areas most heavily traveled.
Last year, they added more carpet and painted the reference and reading rooms, as well as putting in new lighting there.
“It’s really looking like a brand new building at this point, but with the beautiful details and woodwork still included and not touched,” she said. “It was very dim in the reading rooms, but now that’s changed too.”
Additionally, by getting rid of some of the obsolete books, mostly in the reference section, they were able to create new space at the front of the library to make a Teen Section. There, they have included games, magazines and an area with new furniture for teens to hang out and read.
Jackson said it all came together with very little money and was a way to make the old library new again.
“Every time someone walks in the door, there’s something new that we’ve done that they see,” she said. “I don’t like hearing people come in and say it looks exactly like it did when they were a kid. We’ve tried to change that and the skylight is the bright spot certainly. It didn’t take a lot of money, but really the will and desire to get it done.”
In addition to the great renovations, the library announced that it will be extending its hours to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays through the summer. Previously, they were only open late on Tuesdays.
“We re-arranged the schedule and made it work,” said Jackson. “We were pretty packed on Tuesday nights, so this opens up another evening for programming in the summer.”
The Boston Bruins will be returning to Massachusetts and New Hampshire libraries this summer to continue their “When You Read, You Score!” reading programs, presented by Velcro Companies. They will be at the Chelsea Public Library (569 Broadway), on Tuesday, July 10th from 2 – 3 p.m.. On Wednesday, June 27, the Bruins will host a kick-off event pairing Bruins Development Camp prospects and local students for games and other reading activities at the Waltham Public Library (735 Main St., Waltham).
2018 marks the ninth year the Bruins will partner with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Massachusetts Library System, and the third year partnering with the Children’s Librarians of New Hampshire to support literacy programs and encourage reading among youth across the two states.
Throughout the summer, Bruins Mascot Blades and members of the Bruins promo team will visit libraries across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in an effort to promote youth literacy. At each “When You Read, You Score!” library visit, children and teens will be able to meet and interact with Blades, participate in Bruins arts and crafts, fun backyard games, and have the chance to win official Bruins prizes by competing in hockey trivia.
“Literacy is one of the most important abilities for students to develop and builds a strong foundation for success in life; so we are proud to be working with the Bruins to bring educational and literacy programs to the kids,” said Fraser Cameron, CEO, Velcro Companies. “‘When You Read, You Score!’ is an innovative way to connect with kids and sharpen their reading skills by making learning engaging, exciting and fun outside the classroom.”
To help inspire children and teens to keep reading over the summer, Bruins players, including Patrice Bergeron, ZdenoChara, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask have helped libraries develop a summer reading list that also includes librarian picks for the best hockey books. To see the “Favorite Books of the Boston Bruins” list, visit BostonBruins.com/SummerReading.
Closing a $3.1 million budget gap is never painless, but now in the weeks after those cuts were announced, many in the community are starting to take notice.
This week, one of the most notable cuts that is being discussed is the removal of the librarian from the Chelsea High School (CHS) Library.
Supt. Mary Bourque said the cuts, including the librarian, were part of the School Committee’s attempt to deal with state funding discrepancies that have been dealt to the City over the last few years. She pointed out that last year, the Schools had to cut the elementary school librarian as well.
Now, the school system is left with only two librarians at the Middle School level.
Bourque said they had to prioritize teaching and learning, as well as their turnaround plan that is already in place. When making tough decisions, the librarian at CHS was a hard, but clear, choice.
“We needed to stay close, first and foremost, to the principles that would help meet the needs of our students,” she said. “We used data and we based the decision on the data. This is our third year of budget cuts. It’s illustrative of the broken state funding formula…This year we’re cutting the librarian at the high school because of the standards we stood on. We looked at the data and circulation numbers are down. Kids at the high schools are doing a lot of research online now. There were only about nine books a day being checked out for a 1,500-student body.”
Speaking up big for the CHS librarian was fellow librarian Martha Boksenbaum, who is the Children’s Librarian at the Chelsea Public Library. She said a school librarian shouldn’t be sacrificed, especially since the librarian at the elementary school was cut last year.
“One might argue that if there isn’t a School Librarian, students can just go to the Public Library instead,” she wrote in a letter to the Record this week. “In reality a School Librarian does things the Public Library cannot possibly do. School Librarians are part of the school; they know the teachers, the teachers know them and they work together on a daily basis so School Librarians can make sure students have what they need to complete their assignments.
“Students in Chelsea deserve more than this,” she continued. “While school funding is tight and hard decisions have to be made, this is a sacrifice Chelsea High students should not have to make.”
Bourque said she did a survey and found that most schools in the area were down to one librarian districtwide. That was true in Revere, Saugus and Malden. In Winthrop, there is no librarian in the schools.
In Chelsea, they left the two middle school librarians because they also teach classes, where the elementary and high school librarians did not teach.
“Librarians are the support services for students and are necessary, but when you have to decide whether to increase class sizes by keeping the librarian or keeping class sizes at 30 and cut support services like librarians, that the choice,” she said. “We can’t cut the teachers in the classrooms.”
The school librarian was only a small part of the cuts made to the School Budget.
Other cuts included:
Three administrative positions.
10 instructor positions.
Two whole-class paraprofessionals.
10 one-on-one paraprofessionals.
Discontinuation of the 5th to 8th grades Citizens Schools at the Brown Middle and Wright Middle Schools.
Mandatory Connect Digital Lead Teacher Platform.
Reduction in the extraordinary maintenance and technology budget.
Of all of those, Bourque said they needed to be careful about pushing off the maintenance and technology budget.
“You can only do that so many years in a row before it comes back to bite you,” she said. “We have to be careful in doing that.”
Meanwhile, Bourque said the cuts are a call for the community to unite in lobbying the entire legislature to support Senate Bill 2325, which was proposed by Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz. Bourque said that bill contains all of the fixes to make sure cuts like this wouldn’t have to happen for a fourth year in a row.
“It behooves us all to be on the same path with our advocacy,” she said.
House Budget contains pothole account to help schools like Chelsea
The House Budget passed last week by the state House of Representatives has some encouraging news regarding school financing – and word from Beacon Hill is that the funding changes will outlast any vetoes from Gov. Charlie Baker.
The House put in a $12.5 million “Pothole Account” to help districts hurt by the change in ‘Economically Disadvantaged’ definitions a few years ago. Last year, there was no such funding, but this year it looks like that money will make it through.
The money would be allocated to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and they would be charged with disbursing it to the affected district.
Supt. Mary Bourque said the pothole account in the House Budget is good news, but she hopes that there are some changes.
“First of all, $12.5 million will go fast,” she said. “I have asked Sen. Sal DiDomenico to petition that DESE isn’t in charge of disbursing that account…We need to get it passed first, but second I would like to see that DESE isn’t in charge of that money.”
Six birds of prey that are native to Chelsea were presented during the Chelsea Public Library’s Wingmasters Bird Exhibit on April 7. Jim Parks and his partner, Julie Collier, rescue, rehabilitate, and release raptors such as eagles and osprey. The falcons, owls, and hawk displayed were born in the wild, but due to permanent injury are non-releasable; and so Parks and Collier care for them permanently.
“Ninety percent of the time the birds we rescue are releasable. They’re resilient,” said Parks. “Sometimes they are injured in such a way that their injuries can’t be fixed by any doctor.”
Parks and Collier visit 200 schools, museums, and libraries each year to educate the public about these remarkable animals. They work closely with Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton where veterinarians help Parks and Collier free most birds back into the wild.
“One of the biggest problems these birds deal with is their reputation. They’re often thought of as being dangerous,” explained Parks. “It’s good that we have birds of prey. These birds do us a huge favor by controlling the populations we want nothing to do with.”
Parks presented a four-ounce male, and a six-ounce female American kestrel falcon with cataracts. The female’s larger build is excellent for protecting her young; and her brown-shaded feathers keep her camouflaged.
“Falcons are built for speed because they hunt other birds. This is an incredibly difficult lifestyle,” Parks said. “They get high above the earth, close their wings and drop. They accelerate and capture a bird below. They can outfly every other bird in the world.”
The male falcon was picked up off the ground at three-weeks-old and hand fed. He bonded with a human and will never understand what it is like to be a wild falcon. Male falcons, built for hunting, are considered the most colorful bird of prey in North America.
“Unfortunately, this is a bird about to be added to the government’s endangered species list,” said Parks. “This is a bird running out of a place to live.”
Seven species of hawks live in Massachusetts, with the most common being the red-tailed hawk. The female red-tailed hawk that Parks exhibited was once a mile-high flyer. At 32-years-old, the six and a half-pound bird is the oldest bird that Parks and Collier have ever rescued. Her wing was shattered when she was hit by a car while hunting a rodent on the grassy median of Rt. 128 on Thanksgiving Day 13 years ago.
“A circling hawk is showing off his red tail in the sky as a way of telling other birds to go away,” described Parks. “When they’re hunting they stand in trees, keep their bodies still, and dart out feet first after their prey. Eagles and hawks have the best eyesight.”
Parks also showed an eastern screech owl, the most common owl living around us, a barred own, New England’s second largest owl, and the great horned owl, New England’s largest owl. Owls are one of the slowest and most silent flying birds in the world. They hide during the day, and hunt and nap at night; but because of their incredible camouflage often go unseen. Owls can also see eight times better at night than humans can, and use their acute hearing to locate prey.
“They are masters of deception. They know how to blend in,” said Parks. “No other bird looks like this. We stand upright, have round faces, and have eyes on the front, and so do owls.”
Parks explained that most birds are injured in their first year of life while they are still learning. He has been working with birds for 24 years; and prior to that worked at an engineering firm in Boston.
“As a photographer, I was always interested in the natural world,” explained Parks, who grew up in Lynn. “I liked all aspects of nature growing up.”
With decreasing habitats and an increasing human population, Parks hopes that more corporations will develop properties to accommodate wildlife.
“Impact injuries are sad because there are many man-made obstacles now in the world that cause them. Julie and I do what we do to give birds a second chance to live,” said Parks. “If you want to help, donate to an organization that buys land. If you don’t have a place to release a species, they won’t know where to go. Many animals cannot adapt, and that’s when you see animals fall off the map.”
Chelsea City Councilor Judith Garcia announced that she has been selected as a political surrogate on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reelection campaign, chosen from a sprawling list of notable political figures in the state.
Councilor Judith Garcia.
The 26-year-old, now in her second term, kicked off her efforts to reelect Sen. Warren at the Chelsea Public Library during this past Saturday’s caucus, where Garcia served as a spokesperson for the campaign.
“Senator Warren has remained committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our community, rebuilding economic security for our working families, and making a difference in our state,” Garcia said.
“During the last six years, Elizabeth has been a devoted leader who remains connected to our residents and the issues that affect us,” continued Garcia. “She pushed for the permanent extension of Earned Income and Child Tax Credits helping to keep 250,000 Massachusetts residents and more than 100,000 children out of poverty. Her values and morals are where they need to be.”
Councilor Garcia is a native of Chelsea, who grew up in a proud Spanish-speaking household. As the City Councilor of District 5, she is the first Honduran American woman to serve on the Chelsea City Council, as well as the youngest current member. Now, Judith dedicates her time to creating government that truly represents and works for its people.
Registered Democrats in the City of Chelsea Ward 4, held a Caucus on February 3, 2018 at the Chelsea Public Library to elect Delegates to the 2018 Democratic State Convention.
Elected Delegates are:
Olivia Anne Walsh
91 Crest Ave.
103 Franklin Ave.
Thomas J. Miller
91 Crest Ave.
Theresa G. Czerepica
21 Prospect Ave.
This year’s State Convention will be held June 1-2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, where thousands of Democrats from across the Commonwealth will come together to endorse Democratic candidates for statewide office, Including Constitutional officers and gubernatorial candidates
Those interested in getting involved with the Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee should contact Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh, Ward 4 Chair, at 617-306-5501.
The Chelsea Public Library (CPL) held a NASA@ My Library Community Dialogue on Jan. 31, to discuss the community’s view of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). City leaders, library and school administration, high school students, and parents participated in the casual conversation to plan programming that will positively impact the entire city and inspire a passion for STEM learning among residents.
“We should try to build bridges between what’s happening in schools and formal education, and what’s happening in the community as we develop and grow,” said Lisa Santagate, Chelsea Public Schools/Chelsea Public Library trustee. “Science pervades our lives. STEM is everywhere and all connected.”
The Chelsea Public Library is one of 75 libraries across the country that was awarded the NASA@ My Library Grant, funded by NASA and the American Library Association. The initiative collaborates with libraries to increase and enhance STEM learning opportunities and activities.
“The main focus of this grant is to help underserved groups — especially youth – find more resources within STEM, and have more models for STEM careers,” said Martha Boksenbaum, CPL children’s librarian. “Often, women and people of color are underrepresented.”
Since May 2017, CPL has hosted a solar eclipse viewing party on City Hall lawn, offered a science café for adults, and presented a series of Tinker Time Workshops for children to explore scientific instruments such as a green screen and inferred thermometers.
Some panelists explained that, while there are elementary school events and an abundance of library programs for children, teenagers are an underserved population. Members of the community suggested increasing connections to the schools and library, and creating a more inviting atmosphere for young adults.
“In school there are a lot of classes in biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering, but it’s usually announced to the younger kids, and I think that’s great. The younger you are when you learn about science, the more you love it,” said Stephanie Alvarado, Chelsea High School senior. “We do tree mapping and water quality testing. That’s how I’m able to connect with STEM, but not the community as a whole.”
One of the main concerns mentioned during the community gathering was outreach to local STEM professionals that Chelsea residents could better relate to.
“A struggle I am experiencing in implementing this grant is showing examples of role models. I would like to represent people of color and women, but when I reach out, they are overwhelmingly not a representation of the majority of people here in the community,” explained Boksenbaum. “If the kids are learning that somebody next door is in a STEM field and looks like them, then they’re going to feel like that’s something they can do as well.”
The Chelsea Public Library announced Tuesday that it has been awarded a grant from NASA and the American Library Association called NASA@ My Library.
Chelsea Public Library is one of 75 libraries that have been chosen from a total of 513 applicants to receive the NASA@ My Library grant, and is the only library in Massachusetts selected to participate in the initiative.
The NASA@ My Library project is led by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute. Partners include the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, Pacific Science Center, Cornerstones of Science, and Education Development Center. NASA@ My Library is made possible through the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate as part of its STEM Activation program.
The Children’s Librarian Martha Boksenbaum said, “We are very excited to have won this grant, it will enable the library to bring more STEM programming to Chelsea, and build an environment of exploration, play and learning.”
The library will receive the following from this grant:
Two NASA STEM Facilitation Kits including STEM tools and programming materials including a green screen and solar eclipse viewing glasses
A $500 programming stipend
Travel reimbursement for the Children’s Librarian to travel to Denver, CO for training
In implementing this grant, the Chelsea Public Library will run at least three programs between May 2017 and October 2018.
A Solar Eclipse Viewing Party on August 21.
A series of workshops in which children and adults can explore the NASA Facilitation kits
materials and activities
An Earth Day Celebration in Spring 2018
Guest visits from Subject Matter Experts to engage with children and families
The Chelsea Public Library provides programming free of charge, and strives to create an environment of learning and exploration to the Chelsea community.
On rare occasions, community institutions and residential property developers come together in synchronicity – with both parties meeting at the intersection of win-win.
The development of the Girard apartment building on Harrison Avenue, behind the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, is by most accounts just such an occurrence.
The Girard began moving new residents in to its 160-unit apartment building on Harrison and Malden Streets last weekend, continuing full-force this week, and has hopes that it has delivered the best property on the market right now.
“We’re hopeful that it will be regarded as a contemporary landmark in the community now that we’re through the construction and it is becoming occupied,” said developer and Southender Peter Roth, of New Atlantic Development. “It’s a strong building and very respectful to its historic context, but there’s nothing historic about it. It’s strikingly contemporary…Our goal is to really share information about design, architecture and the arts and build that into a community…We’ve really tried to make the experience more than having just a fantastic apartment…Now that we can move people in, qualified renters who walk through the door, and are interested, are closing the deal because the quality of our apartments. We really do have the best product on the market.”
While there are curated finishes, extensive art program, unique amenities and a noted property manager (Pezzutto Management, which is fairly new to Boston), the best part of the Girard story is the cooperation between the Cathedral, Roth and the community to produce a project nearly everyone sees as a positive in a booming area of the neighborhood.
Roth began working on the Girard soon after completing the ArtBlock condos on Harrison Avenue near the Boston Medical Center campus – a successful partnership with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) that opened in 2008. Roth lives and works out of the ArtBlock, and got high marks from the community, something that the Cathedral’s Father Kevin Balliri heard about.
Father Balliri was in a conundrum at the time.
He had a parking lot that was very valuable, but not getting used all that much. He also had a large congregation that was unable to sustain the Parish. Putting two and two together, Father Balliri approached Roth though a mutual friend.
“He had these severe deficits,” said Roth. “He had property in an area with the largest increasing property values in New England and also he had one of the poorest Parishes in the system. He wanted to see how the land could actually sustain this institution through the future. The idea was really his. We met through a mutual friend and sat down and talked and also had to sell the idea to other members of the Archdiocese. That took time and there were complexities. It was a three-year process to assemble the land transaction. We finally succeeded in getting that ironed out.”
He added that Father Balliri’s commitment and inspiration led to a great new apartment building and a sustainable Parish.
“The reason for this project, though it’s turned into a great apartment community, was to strengthen the future of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross,” said Roth. “I think we’ve achieved that as well.”
After that great partnership was memorialized with the land transaction, Roth began designing the project with extreme care – taking a year to iron out the space plans and to dig into the details of every square inch of the Girard, right down to analyzing how the closets would work.
The thoughts behind the design were inspired by Alexander Girard – a designer from the mid-20th Century who is the namesake of the building. Girard used very contemporary design, but also leaned on bright color pallettes and the use of folk art.
Beyond that, a major influence on the spirit of the Girard came from the living room of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum.
“It’s a room designed to be comfortable with big couches and comfortable chairs and rugs from Afghanistan,” said Roth. “It has a wonderful Library and you want to spend some time there. We thought if we could create anything like that, it would be a success. We took that space and…tried to emulate that spirit. Yes, we copied some of the pieces, but it was the spirit we were after.”
The amenities for the project include one very unique thing in that there is a guest suite that any resident can reserve for a visitor. There is also 3,600 sq. ft. of retail that Roth said would likely be a restaurant, with the tenant to be announced this month.
“We see the building as something a more mature professional or empty nesters or a professional who might be coming to Boston for a post-doctoral program might be attracted to,” said Roth. “Our units are a little larger…They all have real dining areas and not a place where you struggle to find where the table goes. The kitchens are designed actually for people who like to cook. They aren’t just cabinets slapped on a wall. Some units have gas cooking ranges available, which is almost never found in apartment units. We have a great location that can support it and a great part of the neighborhood to seek out art, restaurants and parks. It has all the things people love about the South End.”
Being a resident of the South End himself, living just down the street in ArtBlock, Roth thanked the community for putting up with the construction and the seven years it took from conception to completion. He also thanked the community for the kind words of encouragement, saying it has been well received.
“Every time I’m stopped by a friend or neighbor on the street – I only live two blocks away – they are thrilled by the way it’s turned out,” he said. “It’s great to have all our hard work acknowledged by these friends and neighbors I see every day…Certainly, I will acknowledge neighbors have been immensely inconvenienced because the building fills up most of the site…We had to close down half of the street for a little longer than expected…It’s all coming to an end though…We hope neighbors will like what we’ve done and enjoy a new landmark in the South End.”
Rebecca Flores pretending to be a rock for Steve, the chinchilla, to land on with his large feet during the Animal Adventure program at the Chelsea Public Library last Wednesday, March 16. Young people were able to meet a python, a skunk and a skink – all in one place.