Library Reform Group

April 26, 2008

Washington Park Renovation Nearing Completion

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 3:14 pm

Washington Park

Alan Sepe, the City’s Director of Public Properties, reports that work on the Washington Park library building is proceeding according to schedule.

The ceiling has been replaced, as has the wiring for the ceiling lights.  The interior is being repainted and new flooring is being laid. The fire alarm system is being upgraded, new front doors will be installed, and the heating, ventilation, and electrical systems are being checked out.  The City is refilling the oil tank, which was empty.

The exterior of the building is being cleaned and the bricks are being repointed as needed. 

The building will be leased to PPL for the customary $1 a year, with the Library responsible for maintenance.

Alan Sepe expects the building to be finished and ready to be reopened by late May.  Word is that PPL will soon sign the agreement promising to provide library services in the building for at least one to two years after the branch opens its doors again.

It will be a real shame if the Library refuses to sign the agreement after the City has gone to the trouble and expense of renovating the building.  What’s delaying the signing?


April 13, 2008

PPL Drifting towards. . .What?

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 8:07 pm

PPL and the City of Providence were to renew their Memorandum of Agreement for another year by March 31.  This date has come and gone and, so far as we know, the agreement has not yet been signed. 


PPL is insisting that it will have a $1 million deficit next year if it doesn’t cut its services.  [If there really IS the danger of such a huge deficit, which we are not so sure is the case, the Library Reform Group believes that PPL needs to do MUCH more to raise funds, not just threaten to cut services.]


At the March PPL trustees meeting, three options for moving to a sustainable library system were presented:


  • Operate the Central Library and three branches, an option recommended by the Strategic Plan, and one that is deemed sustainable by the PPL Trustees. With this option the Library strongly suggests that the City begin a process, with input from public and interested groups, to identify the facilities of the former branches that it desires to acquire for neighborhood uses such as: places for children after school, community safe havens and access to internet accessible computers. The Library will convey those facilities and materials within to the City at no cost.  
  • The second proposal is to move to a structure in which the PPL Board operates a sustainable Central Library, and the city of Providence operates a sustainable branch system.  This plan calls for a 2 year transition period during which PPL would transfer the branch buildings and staff to the City.  The City would agree to continue to fund the library at the levels agreed to in the current MOA and the Library would commit to providing the gap funding to cover the current level of service for the transition period. 

    For the immediate future, nothing would change at the branch system. No branches would close and there would be no lay-offs.  This strategy modifies, but does not eliminate the historic public/private partnership. After two years, the City and Library may still enter into another contractual arrangement for PPL to continue providing managerial services for branch libraries, or to provide some form of support library services at the branch buildings. 

  • A third option calls for a transition to a sustainable system, but does not specify what that system would be.  It suggests that we use the current strategic plan as a starting point, assemble an independent group, hire a consultant, and conduct another study to develop a concrete plan and recommendations.  This resulting plan would be implemented within an expressly specified time, perhaps within one to two years. During this transition time there would be no material change in services but at the conclusion there would likely be a reduction in services.  The source of the additional funding necessary to maintain services and locations during the transition period was not included in the proposal. 

At the moment, PPL seems to be favoring the first plan, the City seems to be backing the third plan, and the patrons are unlikely to support ANY of these plans.

At the most recent meeting of the Library Partnership Advisory Committee on April 7, Mark McKenney, who is also the Governor’s representative on the PPL Board of Trustees, gave a report on behalf of the LPAC’s Long-Term Planning subcommittee, in which he strongly urged PPL and the City to consider finding ways to reduce costs without reducing services by exploring co-location opportunities around the city.  If PPL gave up some of its stand-alone library buildings and moved into separate wings of newly built schools or into rehabbed factory buildings or the like, PPL building maintenance costs could be significantly diminished.

It is time for the City and PPL to start thinking more creatively about finding ways to preserve library services throughout the city while still saving money!!

The PPL Finance Committee is meeting at 8 a.m. this Wednesday, April 16, to discuss the Library’s options, and the full PPL Board of Trustees is meeting on Thursday, April 17, at noon.  If you want your voice to be hear on these issues, attend Thursday’s meeting.








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