Library Reform Group

December 31, 2008

Providence Community Library Holds Press Conference

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 5:04 pm

At 5:30 p.m. on Monday, January 5, representatives of the newly formed Providence Community Library will hold a press conference on the second-floor steps in Providence City Hall to announce that this non-profit organization is prepared to take over the PPL library branches.  The Providence Community Library pledges to raise funds for and operate a branch library system that will continue to provide services for patrons at ALL NINE Providence neighborhood branches.    

The Providence Public Library Board of Trustees has voted to approve a plan that would keep Central open but reduce the number of branches from the current nine down to FOUR, starting by July 2009.   We find this unacceptable, and we call upon the City to refuse to provide the present level of library funding to support this new PPL plan. 


We ask the City to transfer its library funding to the Providence Community Library, which will ensure continued access to a full branch library system that provides services and programs that meet the needs of library patrons across the City.


It’s time for a new community-based branch library system! 












December 19, 2008

Library Reform Group forms non-profit to take over all nine PPL branches

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 8:12 pm

At its December 18 meeting, the PPL board voted to continue library operations only at Central and four branches after June 30, 2009.  The Governor’s representative on the board, Mark McKenney, voted against the plan, while the Mayor’s representative (Kas DeCarvalho) abstained.  All ten non-public board members who were present at yesterday’s meeting voted in favor of the proposal.


The Library Reform Group emphatically rejects PPL’s plan.  We have formed a new non-profit organization called Providence Community Library.  We have drafted a budget, worked out staffing projections, and planned for a community-based governing body.  We have shown our proposal to urban library directors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who have concluded that our plan is feasible.  We call upon the City to transfer its funding from PPL to the Providence Community Library in order to protect library services for city residents in ALL our neighborhoods.


During the Public Response period, Elaine Heeber of the Library Reform Group quoted a 2006 ProJo editorial that recommended PPL should “seriously consider giving the City of Providence any or all of its branches, while keeping its flagship facitlity on Empire Street. Then the library. . .would be able to better serve the public, and protect and even expand the major collections.”   Marcus Mitchell, one of the organizers of the Providence Community Library, followed up on Elaine’s comment by reading a statement announcing the formation of the Providence Community Library and urging the City to turn the branches over to the PCL. (See below.)


The Providence Community Library’s purpose is to “promote, support, organize and/or manage a public library system in and for the city of Providence for the benefit of the community.”


Our board will include representatives of the 9 library branches as well as publicly appointed members. 

  •  some members will be elected by the branch library Friends groups
  • some will be appointed by the Mayor and City Council
  • some will be elected by the Board itself.

We are now developing a budget for running a full library system.  This budget shows that PCL will be able to operate a nine-branch library system to meet city patrons’ library needs without raising the City’s contribution. 


 This assumption is based upon three premises:


·      that the City shifts its funds presently going to PPL to the Providence Community Library,


·      that the State does the same


·      that the new organization engages in robust fundraising. 

In fact, not being burdened with the PPL’s troubled history, which has alienated both donors and library users, we expect to expand fundraising and therefore increase branch library services beyond the current level within the next two or three years.


We will need your support in the weeks ahead as we work to convince the City that it is time to transfer the stewardship of our branches to a new community-based organization that will run them efficiently and responsibly–and will put the welfare of library patrons first.


Marcus Mitchell’s statement:

The dilemma facing us today is the culmination of several years of processing.  Unfortunately, the Providence Public Library Board appears to have assumed a position that will dramatically reduce library services to the communities of Providence.

A severe reduction of library services to neighborhoods throughout Providence will greatly affect the quality of life and social fabric of our city.  Our children, our seniors, job seekers, our students and the administration of scores of programs will be adversely affected.  Especially during these economic troubling times, a reduction of library services in our neighborhoods is unacceptable and not seen by the citizens as a “sustainable system.”

In anticipation of an “unacceptable reduction of services” model proposal, several community leaders, concerned citizens and community-based organizations have formed a coalition: The Providence Community Library.  This entity has examined the issues of our library management and budgetary challenges: and is prepared to assume the management & administration of all 9 branches of the public library system.  We will be presenting a full budget and proposal to the Mayor & City Council, and actively pursuing the City’s full support of the Providence Community Library.  We disagree with PPL’s “sustainable model”, their budget projections and several management decisions.

Providence Community Library will be holding public forums and press conferences in the very near future to unveil our plans to maintain the current level of services to the neighborhoods of the city of Providence.

(Note:  to contact the Providence Community Library directly, write to )


December 6, 2008

Library Branches Celebrate the Holidays

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 11:34 pm

Both Smith Hill and Mount Pleasant Branch Libraries held holiday bazaars on December 6.  Here are some pictures from their events.

Smith Hill Holiday Bazaar

 smith_hill_2    smith_hill_3  

smith_hill_4    smith_hill_sharon

Mount Pleasant Holiday Bazaar


mt_pleasant_1       mt_pleasant_2




And What About Washington Park??

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 11:59 am

   front_doors1       dec_shuttered_bldg1
                       And, because it is closed, it has been victimized by vandalism.

It seems that the City and PPL both are willing to reopen the branch, but the City is requiring that PPL sign a lease before it moves back in, and the lease appears to be stuck in the office of the City’s lawyer.   

The Washington Park community has lost all patience with both PPL and the City.  The young people at Open Table of Christ Church, in Washington Park, organized a Read-In on December 6 to publicize this issue, hoping to pressure City and Library leaders into finally reopening the branch library.  The people in Washington Park have been without a full branch library for nearly three years and without ANY branch library at all since the end of the summer, and they feel that it is well PAST time to reopen the Washington Park Library.

First of all, they went down to the Central Library, and to the sound of drums beating, they signed out dozens of books to bring back to Washington Park to place on outside shelves. 


dec_drums2   dec_taking_books2


Then they read some of the books to one another–and hoped that City and Library leaders were listening and would FINALLY honor their commitment to the people of Washington Park to reopen their library. 


dec_reading_to_kids2       dec_reading_in_chair2





PPL Considers Its Future

Filed under: 1 — Patricia @ 11:52 am

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.

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