Library Reform Group

February 7, 2009

Smith Hill Friends Host Library Forum

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 3:54 pm


On Wednesday, February 4th, Smith Hill Library Friends sponsored a Forum on the Future of the Branches.  There was a large turnout of community members.   Representing PPL were board trustees Rob Taylor and Bill Simmons and also PPL Director Dale Thompson.  Patricia Raub, Linda Kushner, Ellen Schwartz and Marcus Mitchell spoke for Providence Community Library.  Councilman Terrence H. Hassett also participated and endorsed the PCL plan. 

Patricia Raub asserted that the newly formed Providence Community Library would have a governance structure that is community-based and that PCL would keep open all nine branches (including the currently-shuttered Washington Park).  The PPL stated that the PCL’s fundraising estimates were unrealistic, which the PCL denied. 

Bill Simmons stated the PPL was committed to serving the residents of Providence by delivering excellent library services.  He asserted that the decision to close the five branches was due to the annual budgetary deficits and that the board has not made this decision lightly.  He suggested that the five smaller branches could be turned over to the neighborhoods to serve as “community centers.”  He described cultivating a network of creative partnership with local institutes of higher learning and corporations who could fill the budgetary gaps.  Rob Taylor insisted that the PPL would remain partners with the community centers, sharing resources such as grant writing, old books, etc.  Councilman Hassett stated that the “community center” plan was not economically feasible.  The ability to engage in creative partnership with the type of institutions suggested by Mr. Simmons was also called into question by people in the audience. 

Dale Thompson distributed a handout that included a pie chart listing current library usage.  She insisted that the branches slated for closing were the lowest performing according to usage in the system, and implied they were an unjustified drain on the entire budget.  Her pie chart was questioned by many in the audience as being a completely incomplete and unscientific examination of the library system.  The two primary criticisms of her claim were 1) the central library’s high numbers are skewed due to out-of-state usage and do not accurately represent the usage of city patrons, and 2) the library policies that govern branches have contributed to the study’s results of low usage in the 5 branches in question.  One specific point was that the five branches have had their staff and hours consistently cut by PPL’s own policies, which would produce the type of usage results the chart depicts. 

Many community members expressed strong commitment to the branch system and described the negative impact closings would have on the city’s poor neighborhoods. 


Report prepared by Christian Caldarone, Project Manager.
Smith Hill Community Development Corporation




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