Library Reform Group

February 23, 2008

PPL Trustees Ready to Dismember the System in the Name of “Fiscal Responsibility”

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 9:21 pm

At the February PPL Board of Trustees meeting, Board Chair Lisa Churchville reviewed the core principles of the PPL Corporation: 

·       Charter states its mission is to run “a library” [meaning one?] in Providence, with cursory mention of “branches as advisable.”

·       PPL trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to conserve PPL assets: buildings, books, collections, foundation.

·       The trustees can only go forward according to the plans already identified, as contained in the Steinberg report, the Strategic Planning report, etc.

·       The City of Providence should have oversight over the Providence tax payers’ money [which is used solely for the branches].  

Finance Committee Chair Jim Nagle gave the Financial committee report: 

He presented the FY 09 Budget options: The choices range from retaining the status quo to closing all nine branches while keeping Central or keeping the branches while closing Central—and everything in between. ANOTHER committee was approved to review all of the option.

 The longest discussion (over an hour and a half) came regarding a resolution proposed by long-time trustee Howard Walker. With some minor changes and the addition of a statement regarding “extraordinary” expenses associated with one-time payments for lay-off, mothballing branches, etc., to be paid from the Foundation, the Walker motion passed.   

It appears that PPL will use the Foundation’s funds to dismember the Library, but not to save it.


Notes from the Library Partnership Advisory Committee Meeting on Feb. 15

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 9:02 pm

According to Alan Sepe and Garry Bliss, the roof work at Washington Park is nearly complete.  The City and the Library are now negotiating an agreement whereby, in return for a PPL promise to commit to providing library services at the building for 2-3 years, the City will begin renovations of the interior.  It seems counterintuitive, however, to expect PPL to make this commitment when the fate of all nine branches is uncertain. 

Patricia Raub presented the Voice of the Stakeholders report, with suggestions  from patrons as well as from the Library Reform Group on ways PPL could raise money. 

Ellen Schwartz and Vicki Veh presented the Finance Committee report, which led to a discussion of the alternatives available to deal with the $1 million projected deficit.  Although Ellen (the only CPA in the room) felt that PPL was under-reporting its revenues and over-estimating the amount that would be saved by closing branches, it was Vicki’s position that there were only two real alternatives:  to cut operating costs by cutting facilities or to spend some of PPL funds for specific purposes, with the end result of making the library financially sustainable. 

Along the same lines, Garry Bliss recommended that PPL commit to providing the same level of services as it is currently providing for a defined and finite transition period (3-5 years) and that during this time a consultant knowledgeable in facilities, finance, municipalities and library systems be hired to come up with a sustainable and affordable system by the end of this period.  PPL would have to finance services in the meantime with its own funds. 

The Library Reform Group and the Friends Groups believe that it is as necessary to explore more effective ways of fund-raising during this period as it is to consider ways to cut costs, probably by reducing branch services.  (See Mount Pleasant Friends’ President Maureen Romans’ document on “How to Save the Library without Destroying It.”)

 All of these proposals are open for discussion in the LPAC meetings in March, as no decisions were made at the Feb. 15 LPAC meeting as to specific recommendations LPAC wanted to present to the trustees. Because the City and PPL are supposed to sign the second year’s agreement by the end of March, under the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement, those present at Friday’s meeting decided to meet twice in March:  on Friday, March 7, at noon, and also on Friday, March 21, at noon.  The meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 13, has been cancelled. 

Westerly and Hartford Library Directors Show How It’s Done

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 12:43 am

At the Library Reform Group’s public forum on February 11, Louise Blalock, Chief Librarian of the Hartford Public Library, and Kathryn Taylor, Executive Director of the Westerly Public Library, demonstrated to a rapt audience of PPL trustees, library staff and patrons that it takes initiative, persistence, and imagination to raise money from public and private donors.

For a fuller account of the forum, click here.

February 17, 2008

Library Patrons and Staff Recommend PPL Fund-Raising Strategies

Filed under: Fundraising — Patricia @ 3:05 pm

Members of all of the PPL Friends groups, as well as the Library Staff Union and contributors to this blog, have made a number of very useful suggestions for improving PPL’s fund-raising track record. The suggestions made by the Library staff, the Friends groups, and other patrons have been presented to the Library Partnership Advisory Committee in a formal report.

Here are some of the report’s highlights:

  • Stop passing the buck to the public. The responsibility for fundraising is in the hands of the Library Administration. It seems as if the spiral is downward: “We have no money and we have no future plans because we have no money. . .” This seems like more of the same. The library doesn’t know what it can afford to fund so it can’t raise money because it’s cut down on services, which means that fewer people want to donate money.
  • Help establish a friends group at each of the branch libraries to help with some of the small costs associated with the running of the particular library and to help others when needed.
  • Organize events that will involve large numbers of people and provide the Library with good publicity. The Providence Preservation Society holds both an annual reception, with tickets at $75/$100, and a house tour, at $25, so that there were events that could attract a wide income range. 
  • Put the change boxes back by the checkout counter. When patrons pay a fine, they are likely to drop change and even bills into the box. This will add up.
  • Any PPL administrator earning more than $75,000 takes a 10% pay cut—and apply the savings to library services.
  • Establish an annual spring or fall festival with all of the libraries involved.
  • Organize a series along the lines of AS220s’s “Speak-Out” forums. There are lots of authors who might participate, and the forums could be held at the various branches as well as at Central.
  • Have a televised auction.

To read all of the suggestions made, consult the full report.

February 3, 2008

What Do YOU Think PPL Should Do to Raise Money?

Filed under: Fundraising — Patricia @ 1:35 pm

PPL’s current financial woes are as much a result of falling revenue as of rising expenditures.According to the Library’s Annual Reports, “unrestricted program grants” fell from $647,724 in 2006 to $595,369 in 2007 and “restricted grants” fell a whopping $376,204 between 2006 and 2007. In addition, the annual appeal declined by nearly $60,000 between 2006 and 2007.

The two budget busters for the coming fiscal year are the large increases in pension payments ($500,000 for the next 5 years) mandated by the federal government and the continued employment of the children’s specialists whose elimination would gut children’s services at the branches.

Both the loss of corporate and individual support and the increased expenses are occurring at the same time that the city and state governments are undergoing financial meltdowns. Therefore, PPL is going to have to use its own resources and do a dramatically better job of fund-raising to get through the next few years.

What advice do YOU have for PPL? How can this organization turn itself around and start raising more money? Should the library hire more development staff? Should the PPL administration and trustees operate differently than they have done recently? Are there fund-raising events and strategies that you think might yield more revenue for the Library? Suggestions from patrons that are posted on this blog will be compiled and presented to members of the Library Partnership Advisory Committee, which reports directly to the PPL Board of Trustees and the top administrators.

Library Reform Group Sponsors Fund-Raising Forum on Feb. 11

Filed under: Events,Take Action — Patricia @ 1:06 pm

On Monday, February 11, two noted library directors will participate in a public forum at Knight Memorial Library entitled “How Libraries Raise Money.” They will discuss the development strategies they have used and reflect upon what has worked and what hasn’t and why. Their experiences and insights will provide an invaluable perspective as Providence city officials, PPL trustees and library supporters consider PPL’s future options.

Director Kathryn Taylor has led Westerly Public Library for the past ten years, after nearly twenty years as Littleton NH public library director where she earned that library an “Excellence in Rural Libraries Award.” Since becoming WPL director, Ms. Taylor has increased the library’s visibility in the community, thereby increasing public support for fund-raising as well.

Westerly Public Library

The Westerly Public Library has one of the highest circulation figures in the state of Rhode Island and it is currently in the midst of a multi-million dollar capital campaignto raise money for space reallocation in the library and renovations to the adjoining Wilcox Park. With strong support from surrounding communities, committed public officials and an impressive number of library advocates, the fund-raising campaign is making so much progress that it has been highlighted by Act for Libraries.

Having spent many years as a librarian in affluent suburbs, Louise Blalock took on the challenges of heading a large urban library system in a city confronting economic distress when she became chief librarian of the Hartford Public Library in 1994. Her achievements at HPL have resulted in her selection as Librarian of the Year by the Library Journal in 2001.

Hartford Mayor Michael Peters has asserted that she “created a new, modern, urban model focused on the diverse needs of the many cultures that represent our city and has forged strong partnerships with the schools and neighborhoods.” Paul Shipman of the HPL board has been equally impressed with her achievements, noting that “while difficult economic times in the 1990s could have resulted in belt-tightening at the library, [she] galvanized government and public support [and] not only preserved all nine branches but succeeded in starting a multimillion-dollar campaign to upgrade several branches and nearly double the size of the Central Library.” Both Kathryn Taylor and Louise Blalock have undertaken a variety of successful fundraising campaigns, using diverse approaches and tactics and enlisting the aid of public officials, library patrons, donors, board members, and corporate sponsors. They have also learned to be realistic, to be aware that some efforts are likely to be more effective than others, to understand that sometimes libraries can’t raise enough money to support all the programs, services and building upgrades they might wish for–but also to know that one mustn’t aim too low, either. The Library Reform Group encourages you to attend this public forum, at Knight Memorial Library, 275 Elmwood Avenue, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Visit the Library Reform Group website for directions to Knight Memorial.

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