Growing up as a gay kid in Dublin was not easy for the new president of the Boston Public Library, David Leonard.

“At some point, I felt that I needed to get out of Dublin and see what the world was like in other places. When you are looking for something different than the Dublin experience and some of the catholic background, the logical place to go is to Boston College in Boston,” Leonard told Boston Public Radio on Thursday.”

Leonard moved from Dublin to Boston in 1992 to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at Boston College. While at BC, Leonard found the safe place he had been seeking, a place where he felt accepted. He became an active member of the campus community and helped organize gay and lesbian groups at different colleges throughout New England.

Leonard’s experiences at Boston College have had a direct impact on the environment he is working to create at the Boston Public Library as its new President. “It informs who I am today, about ensuring that, as we take on our civic responsibilities, we do it in a way that is inclusive, that is about equity, and that respects diversity.”

Having only recently been appointed to be president after serving as interim president for nearly a year  after former president, Amy Ryan, resigned, Leonard is already looking at the ways he can enhance the 24 branches of the Boston Public Library. They all have different needs and should be embraced in different ways, Leonard says. A focus will be put on appropriately implementing spaces for community meetings, robust children’s areas and spaces for teen’s to create public art. “We think of our role as cross-sectoral, not just a government entity, but as playing a key role in the education space, the arts and culture space, and yes of course in terms of civic and social engagement,” said Leonard.

Don’t worry though, Leonard believes that, reading, literacy skills, and most importantly books, are still the core mission of the library. In fact, circulation in the East Boston branch is on the rise. “If that’s the trend that we are seeing, libraries are healthy,” said Leonard.

Even if books are flying off the shelf, Leonard knows that all aspects of the library must be working in order to make it the community centerpiece he believes it can be. “It is a safe space to hang out, it is a place you can go to work on your laptop, or to take a book off the shelf and read. Unless you can get that combination right, you are not going to be a good urban public library for the 21st century.”