The Library Agreement was finally ratified by the City Council and PPL board a month or so ago, although the Library had been abiding by the terms of the Agreement since July 1 and continuing to run Central and eight of the nine branches at last year’s level of services at a deficit. PPL asserts that it is ready to resume services in the ninth branch–Washington Park–but so far the building remains closed.
As per the Library Agreement, PPL has formed a “Sustainability Committee” to formulate a long-term plan for the Library that will be financially sustainable but also provide substantial services to library patrons. Unfortunately, it has been fairly obvious from the very beginning that the committee was unlikely to be successful at meeting both of these goals.
The Sustainability Committee held the next-to-last of its meetings on December 3. It will meet one more time–on Wednesday, December 10, at Central at 8 a.m.–to decide on one or two alternatives to present to the full PPL board on December 18. At that meeting, the board will presumably select the plan they prefer. According to the Library Agreement, PPL MUST “complete its planning, and designate facilities that are to be operated as the Sustainable Library System by December 31.
Once PPL has selected a plan, the City has until March 1 to decide whether to “defer the transition to the Sustainable Library System” for the coming fiscal year and keep the current level of services and same number of branches. If the City makes this choice, then it must pay the deficit incurred.
If the City chooses not to pay out additional money beyond what it has already agreed to allocate to the Library for next year, then it either has to accept the PPL plan (with reduced services) OR notify the Library by June 30, 2009, that “it intends to assume ownership of all of PPL’s Branch facilties owned by PPL, including the right to transfer ownership to another entity, for the purpose of operating public libraries in the City, and intends to use city and other funds to support the operation.”
We suspect that library patrons and, hopefully, City officials, will find the “scenarios” now being considered to be inadequate. The “frontrunner” plan calls for retaining Central and four branches (Rochambeau, Mount Pleasant, Knight and South Providence) and closing the other five. The other two plans call for closing Central, shutting down all of the reference services now provided at Central, and blocking access to all materials and collections in the Central Library. Only the nine branches would remain open.
Barring unforeseen developments, we would urge the City to reject whichever plan PPL chooses and transfer ownership of the nine branches to another entity that could maintain something closer to the existing level of branch services and staff. We will keep you informed as we get more information about all of this.