Library Reform Group

February 28, 2009

Wanskuck Residents Make Impassioned Plea for Keeping Their Library Open

Filed under: Events — Patricia @ 1:21 pm

Over two dozen library patrons crowded into the Wanskuck Library to hear about PPL’s plans to close the small branches, including Wanskuck, and PCL’s proposal to keep them open. 

Patricia Raub represented PCL, but no one from Providence Public Library was on hand to present the Library’s position.  Council President Peter Mancini and Councilman Nick Narducci vowed to keep all of the branches open, and both of them pledged their support to Providence Community Library.

The audience asked dozens of questions and made many statements attesting to the importance of their branch library–for neighborhood children, for teachers, for older people, and for those without Internet access at home.  Speakers noted that the library is located close to two schools, giving students from these schools convenient access to library services.  Where would neighborhood patrons go if Wanskuck Library closed, many wanted to know, as other libraries are too far away to walk to, and there is no direct bus connections to Mount Pleasant Library?

A number of people signed up to join the Wanskuck Friends of the Library group–and one patron volunteered to replace the library’s bulletin board with a bigger and sturdier one.


February 20, 2009

Fox Point Holds Library Forum

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 12:06 pm

On Tuesday, February 17, the Fox Point Neighborhood Association sponsored a library forum moderated by local resident Chris Bickford.  Marcus Mitchell and Bill Simmons represented PCL and PPL, respectively, and Councilman Seth Yurdin also participated on the panel.  Councilman Yurdin announced that the Fox Point Branch will most likely remain in the building owned by the Boys & Girls Club, but negotiations are underway to restructure the rent agreement and install an elevator between the main floor (with restrooms) and the library, which is in the basement of the building.

The audience was not receptive to PPL trustee Bill Simmons’ suggestion that Fox Point and the other smaller branches slated for PPL closure be demoted to “community centers,” supported by unnamed sponsors.

February 14, 2009

Knight Memorial Forum Draws Good Crowd

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 12:26 pm

Save Our Branches sponsored a public forum at Knight Memorial Library on Wednesday, February 11.  Over thirty people attended. 

Deborah Schimberg, a co-founder of Save Our Branches, moderated the panel discussion.  PPL trustee Rob Taylor presented the library’s plan for a sustainable future, while Linda Kushner introduced the audience to PCL’s proposal for keeping all nine branches open and defended the economic viability of the new organization.

The audience seemed more receptive to PCL’s plan to keep all nine branches open than to PPL’s projection that five branches would be downgraded to “community centers” under the current library’s “sustainable plan.”

Mount Pleasant Friends Sponsor Public Forum

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 12:19 pm

On Tuesday, February 10, the Mount Pleasant Friends of the Library sponsored an informational forum on the Future of the Branches, moderated by Ray Arsenault.  The panelists included Councilman Michael Solomon, PPL trustee Bill Simmons, and PCL representatives Ellen Schwartz and Patricia Raub.  As at the previous forums, each side presented its plan for restructuring the branches in coming years, with perhaps a bit more acrimonious tone between the PPL and PCL presenters than in earlier forums. 

Councilman Solomon pledged, on behalf of the City Council, to keep all nine branches open as libraries, a course of action fervently supported by members of the audience, some of whom felt that the best solution would be for PPL and PCL to join forces.  Neither PPL nor PCL representatives seemed enthusiastic about this suggestion.

Bill Simmons noted that PPL has reached out to the City Council for help in enlisting the aid of area colleges and universities in keeping the smaller branches open as community centers, to which Councilman Solomon responded, “That’s news to me!”

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



South Providence Holds Public Forum

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 3:20 pm



Despite the snowy weather some people still came to the forum to learn more about the various plans for the future of the branches.    Sister Ann Keefe moderated.  Councilman Luis Aponte, PPL Trustees Rob Taylor and William Simmons, and PCL President Marcus Mitchell were the panalists.     Following the formal presentations, Rochelle Lee gave a brief overview of  community development and how the library has an impact on the development.  The question and answer period became a little contentious, as the frustration of neighborhood residents over the lack of clarity in PPL’s plan boiled over a bit.

Based upon report by Sister Ann Keefe, St. Michael’s Church

January 17, 2009

Rochambeau Friends Hold Public Forum on Future of the Branches

Filed under: 1,Events — Patricia @ 7:30 pm

On Thursday, January 15, Rochambeau Friends of the Library sponsored a Roundtable discussion on the Future of the Branches.  Representing PPL was board trustee Rob Taylor.  Linda Kushner and Marcus Mitchell spoke for Providence Community Library.  Councilman Kevin Jackson also participated and made a strong statement that he spoke for 10 councilpeople when he vowed that no library branches would be allowed to close.

Linda Kushner 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).

Rob Taylor noted that PPL plans to close five branches by July 1 in order to make the transfer to a “sustainable” library system.  Taylor suggested that the five smaller branches could be turned over to the neighborhoods to serve as “community centers,” an offer that Councilman Jackson roundly rejected, saying that the plan was not feasible since there would be no funding for these “community centers.”  Of the PCL proposal, Taylor said that the Library couldn’t evaluate the plan until PPL had “seen the figures.” 

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! 











February 3, 2008

Library Reform Group Sponsors Fund-Raising Forum on Feb. 11

Filed under: Events,Take Action — Patricia @ 1:06 pm

On Monday, February 11, two noted library directors will participate in a public forum at Knight Memorial Library entitled “How Libraries Raise Money.” They will discuss the development strategies they have used and reflect upon what has worked and what hasn’t and why. Their experiences and insights will provide an invaluable perspective as Providence city officials, PPL trustees and library supporters consider PPL’s future options.

Director Kathryn Taylor has led Westerly Public Library for the past ten years, after nearly twenty years as Littleton NH public library director where she earned that library an “Excellence in Rural Libraries Award.” Since becoming WPL director, Ms. Taylor has increased the library’s visibility in the community, thereby increasing public support for fund-raising as well.

Westerly Public Library

The Westerly Public Library has one of the highest circulation figures in the state of Rhode Island and it is currently in the midst of a multi-million dollar capital campaignto raise money for space reallocation in the library and renovations to the adjoining Wilcox Park. With strong support from surrounding communities, committed public officials and an impressive number of library advocates, the fund-raising campaign is making so much progress that it has been highlighted by Act for Libraries.

Having spent many years as a librarian in affluent suburbs, Louise Blalock took on the challenges of heading a large urban library system in a city confronting economic distress when she became chief librarian of the Hartford Public Library in 1994. Her achievements at HPL have resulted in her selection as Librarian of the Year by the Library Journal in 2001.

Hartford Mayor Michael Peters has asserted that she “created a new, modern, urban model focused on the diverse needs of the many cultures that represent our city and has forged strong partnerships with the schools and neighborhoods.” Paul Shipman of the HPL board has been equally impressed with her achievements, noting that “while difficult economic times in the 1990s could have resulted in belt-tightening at the library, [she] galvanized government and public support [and] not only preserved all nine branches but succeeded in starting a multimillion-dollar campaign to upgrade several branches and nearly double the size of the Central Library.” Both Kathryn Taylor and Louise Blalock have undertaken a variety of successful fundraising campaigns, using diverse approaches and tactics and enlisting the aid of public officials, library patrons, donors, board members, and corporate sponsors. They have also learned to be realistic, to be aware that some efforts are likely to be more effective than others, to understand that sometimes libraries can’t raise enough money to support all the programs, services and building upgrades they might wish for–but also to know that one mustn’t aim too low, either. The Library Reform Group encourages you to attend this public forum, at Knight Memorial Library, 275 Elmwood Avenue, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Visit the Library Reform Group website for directions to Knight Memorial.

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