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Byron Rushing appointed to BPL Board of Trustees

Reynolds Douglass Graves

Mayor Thomas Menino announced last month the appointment of state Rep. Byron Rushing to the Board of Trustees of the Boston Public Library.

Rushing’s appointment comes at a time when the BPL is facing difficult economic times, circumstances that Menino says he believes Rushing could help improve for the benefit of the city’s residents.

“At a time when libraries are changing and our city and state face difficult economic challenges, Byron Rushing is the kind of dedicated leader that will work hard to make a difference,” Menino said in a recent statement.

Rushing’s personal feelings about joining the BPL Board of Trustees echoed that of Menino’s. “I was very pleased that the mayor appointed me to the board,” Rushing said. “I interpreted it as the mayor wanting my point of view and that we are on the same page when it comes to the future of the Library.”

Since 1982, Rushing has represented the Ninth Suffolk District, which includes the South End, Back Bay, Fenway, some Roxbury neighborhoods and parts of Cambridge. In addition to leading the charge on human and civil rights, the development of democracy, economic and housing development and health care, Rushing previously served as the president of the Museum of African American History from 1972 to 1985.

He said that his skills and previous experience as an institutional leader will help him work with his colleagues on the [BPL’s] Board of Trustee’s, where he sees the potential for personal growth. “I am orienting myself with the whole [BPL] system, and still have plenty of learning to do” Rushing said.

BPL’s history started on March 18, 1848 when the Great and General Court of Massachusetts enacted legislation authorizing the City of Boston “to establish and maintain a public library.” Sixteen days later on April 3rd, Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy signed an act establishing the library, and making the Boston Public Library the first publicly funded municipal library in America.

Today, with its 26 branches, the Boston Public Library is  one of the busiest public library systems in the nation.

Rushing appreciates what the Boston Public Library has offered Boston, and constituents in his district, and is looking forward to aiding the BPL through their budget crisis, a responsibility some place on the State Legislature. “We need to seek funding from all potential sources, starting with the state, city and private philanthropy,” Rushing said.

In fiscal year 2009, the state allocated $8.9 million. That number dropped to $4.4 million in FY2010 and is expected to drop even further in FY2011 to an estimated $2.4 million.

The Board has been without a member of the Massachusetts Legislature since Rep. Angelo Scaccia who represents the Fourteenth Suffolk district  — including parts of Milton and Boston — finished his service in 2009.

Among the many proud BPL cardholders, Rushing said that the overall plan for the potential closing of various branches hasn’t been as transparent as it should be, and he will work with his colleagues to see that “the future of the library and our communities remain strong.”

“I am honored to welcome Representative Rushing to our board,” Jeffrey B. Rudman, chairman of the BPL Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Civic leaders, business leaders, scholars, and authors have long been a part of the Boston Public Library board. Representative Rushing’s appointment is in keeping with that tradition.”

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