Local Government and Politics, News

Lynn Library Trustees shelve proposal to rename building

The Library Trustees voted down a proposal to rename the Lynn Public Library. (Spenser Hasak)

LYNN – Going against the wishes of the top three elected officials in the city, who want the Lynn Public Library named for former Mayor Patrick J. McManus, the Lynn Public Library Trustees voted against considering naming the library for anyone.

As it turns out, however, the trustees’ vote may not be the final chapter in this saga.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee, City Council President Darren Cyr and Council Vice President Buzzy Barton are on the record as being in favor of honoring the late mayor by adding his name to the North Common Street building. 

According to library trustees vice chair Rolf Flor, the board, at its Nov. 26 meeting, ultimately voted, 4-2, against considering adding anyone’s name to the building. As it turns out, that vote is invalid, according to the city’s law department.

Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna said that according to Massachusetts law, six votes are required to approve or reject any proposal put before the library board. City bylaws state the board should have 11 trustees but only eight seats were filled at the time of the vote. One trustee was absent on Nov. 26 and Chairman William Conway said he only votes to break ties.

Edward Lynch, Judith Weber, Andrea Williams, and now-former trustee Richard Wood, voted against considering adding anyone’s name to the library, while Flor and Joseph Smart voted that they would consider naming it for someone.

“This is something Pat really wanted. It’s a perfect idea,” said Barton.

“Pat realized the library is a key city resource and he made a commitment to it,” said McGee.

The matter first came up last summer when there was a proposal to name the library for McManus, who holds the distinction of being the longest consecutive-serving mayor in the city’s history. McManus, who graduated from Bowdoin and Boston College Law School, was also a certified public accountant who held the corner office from 1992 to 2001.

Ted Grant, publisher of The Item, and Attorney Stephen Smith, who headed the city’s Department of Public Works and Lynn Water & Sewer Commission under McManus, both made the case for naming the historic stone building for McManus at a library trustees meeting.

At a subsequent meeting, McGee, Cyr and Barton all spoke in favor of the proposal. Cyr noted how McManus increased library staffing to ensure branch libraries remained open in the 1990s.

“We thought it would be a good fit for all the things Pat did for the city,” said Cyr, who added that naming the library for McManus could help jumpstart an effort to raise funds necessary for library renovations.

Flor said he did not know McManus personally, as he moved to Lynn after the former mayor left office, but he was swayed by arguments made by those who spoke in favor of the proposal.

Naming the library after a popular mayor who “made important contributions to the city,” Flor said, could bring more recognition and monetary support for the library.

Conway, an 18-year trustee who has served as board chairman for five years, said he would have voted against considering a name change had he not abstained. Conway is a retired deputy fire chief who served on the Fire Department during McManus’ tenure as mayor.

Weber declined to comment on her vote. Trustees Williams, Smart, Lynch, and Valles Barefield did not return calls from The Item.

Head Librarian Theresa Hurley said that since the minutes from that meeting have not been approved, and therefore not entered into the public record, she could not comment on the matter.

There is precedent in the city for naming libraries. Now-closed branch libraries included the former Shute branch on Parrott Street named after library benefactor  Elizabeth Shute; the Haywood branch outside Wyoma Square named for librarian Dorothy C. Haywood; and the former Houghton branch off of Western Avenue named for John C. Houghton, city librarian from 1877-1904.

Cyr and Barton think the trustees will revisit the naming issue. 

Item reporters Gayla Cawley, Thor Jourgensen and Steve Krause contributed to this report.

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