Library Reform Group

February 28, 2009

Conflicting Press Releases

Filed under: News — Patricia @ 1:38 pm


As the March 1 deadline approaches, as outlined in the Library Agreement, for the City to decide whether or not to accept PPL’s proposal of a Sustainable Library System composed of Central and only Four Branches, PPL issued a press release announcing that the City had opted out of the Agreement.


In response, Mayor Cicilline issued a press release blaming PPL for not abiding by the Agreement, since PPL’s “Sustainable Plan” was not sustainable and would “lead to insolvency within the next two years.”


Providence Community Library then issued ITS own press release, offering to resolve the impasse by operating an “imaginative and cost effective, 21st-century branch system that will meet the needs of library patrons in all our neighborhoods”—and keep all nine branches open.


It appears to us that PPL and the Mayor are drifting further and further apart.  It is time for the City to end its failed relationship with PPL and begin a new library era with PCL.


The Mayor ends his news release by writing  “As always, I welcome any thoughts and feedback you may have.”  Please call, email or write the Mayor to advise him to transfer the City’s library funding to PCL. 


Below are the three press releases, in chronological order:


Date: February 26, 2009

Mayor Opts Out of City/Library Agreement

Library Reviewing Options to Continue Services Moving Forward

PROVIDENCE, RI — In a disappointing development, the Providence Public Library (PPL) and the City administration have failed to achieve an agreement that outlines the process for ongoing funding and administering of City library services.  The agreement was negotiated by the Library and City administration last summer, and approved by the City Council in November, but never signed by the City.  Mayor Cicilline has now informed the Library that he wants a different process. 

Although the Library has been funding the cost of maintaining existing services this year as envisioned by the Council-approved agreement, and paying for a deficit projected to exceed $1 million out of the Library’s endowment, the Mayor’s failure to sign has resulted in the City withholding Master Lease money that was to flow to the Library to help pay the current fiscal year’s expenses.

In the absence of an agreement, many questions remain regarding the future relationship between the City and the Library.  The Providence Public Library now is reviewing its options and plans for administering Library service for the next Fiscal Year that begins in July.

“The focus for everyone involved needs to be on finding the best way to provide library service in the City,” said PPL Chairman William Simmons.  “We remain open to ongoing discussions on how to achieve that goal and have communicated to the Mayor our willingness to work with him and the City Council.”

The newly formed Providence Community Library has garnered some support from members of the public and City Council.  The Library has offered to work with the City to explore whether this may be a viable alternative for branch library service.





Dear friends:

For more than 120 years the City of Providence and the Providence Public Library (PPL) have offered quality library services through a valuable public/private partnership. In recent years, however, this partnership has been strained due to differences between the PPL leadership and the City about branch library services. It has always been my objective as Mayor to preserve this unique partnership and continue to provide quality library services to every neighborhood, even if it means thinking in a new way about what branch libraries look like in the 21st century. 

As a result, the City entered into an agreement with the PPL leadership six months ago requiring them to submit a sustainable plan for library services. Instead, the plan they brought forth, by their own admission, would lead to insolvency within the next two years. Instead of working with us on a viable solution, the PPL leadership has today opted to deliberately misrepresent the City’s position on this matter in the media.

The PPL is a private non-profit, but that does not mean it has the right to transform itself into a boutique institution built around its valuable rare books. That is not the mission of the PPL, and it has been disheartening to watch Library leadership decide to give up on the residents of Providence due to high costs without a real effort to envision a more cost effective, 21st-century branch system. I will not allow branch library services to be eliminated, and I would prefer to preserve a partnership that has worked for 120 years until recently.

However, if we are to succeed in preserving quality library services and neighborhood branches for our residents, we must approach the long-term sustainability of our libraries with the public’s best interest in mind.

As always, I welcome any thoughts and feedback you may have.


David N. Cicilline




It is time to end the City’s partnership with PPL once and for all and to begin a new era for Providence’s libraries.  While the Mayor asserts that he would prefer “to preserve a partnership that has worked for 120 years until recently,” in actuality there have been a number of occasions over the past century when this partnership has been stretched close to the breaking point.   (See Unsettled Accounts:  A Brief History of the Financial Relationship between PPL and Its Public Donors)  During the last six years there has been unabated tension between the city and  PPL as PPL has threatened nearly every spring to close branches and reduce services—and the Library has in fact closed the Washington Park branch for several years and is only now reopening it.


The Providence Community Library stands ready to take over all nine branches on July 1.  With the professional assistance of Louise Blalock, former director of the Hartford Public Library, we are formulating a five-year operating budget that will address budget, personnel and maintenance issues related to running a nine-branch system in Providence. 


The Mayor says that, if we are to succeed in preserving quality library services and neighborhood branches for our residents, we must approach the long-term sustainability of our libraries with the public’s best interest in mind.  We are an organization with widespread community support that plans to involve the public in policy decisions.  We definitely have the public’s best interest in mind because we ARE the public.  As a community-based organization, we will revitalize the library’s operations as well as increase its fund-raising potential. 


Our operating budget will demonstrate that we can provide the City of Providence with an imaginative and cost effective, 21st-century branch system that will meet the needs of library patrons in all our neighborhoods.








  1. I’m following this and other library controversies on my blog and can’t find the mayor’s press release anywhere on the web. Do you have a link for this or did his office take it down?

    Comment by exempli gratia — March 2, 2009 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  2. Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Don’t pay for your electricity any longer…
    Instead, the power company will pay YOU!

    Comment by Mike — March 2, 2009 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

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