Library Reform Group

July 1, 2009


Filed under: News — Patricia @ 1:12 pm
Our new library website is now live:
By the end of the day, if not before, active phone numbers for all the community libraries will be listed on the LOCATIONS AND HOURS page (the current phone numbers, starting with 455, are no longer active).
Our driver is out looking to buy a delivery vehicle today, so there will be no book deliveries among the PCL libraries.  Books and materials ordered from outside of Providence will be delivered, as usual, by the state delivery driver.
There are undoubtedly going to be a number of glitches for the first few days, so we ask PCL staff and patrons to be patient as we work through these issues.  Meanwhile, we are just glad that all nine libraries are opening today, the day that PPL slated for closing five of our neighborhood libraries.
Please attend our Celebrations today!  See our new website for details.

June 27, 2009

PCL News

Filed under: News — Patricia @ 7:22 pm

PCL News

Search for PCL Executive Director

The three finalists for the position of Executive Director of the new Providence Community Library (PCL), will appear at public meetings where library patrons can learn about their backgrounds and hear them present their views on the present and future role of the public library in the urban community.

The first public meeting, with Donna Riegal, director of the North Palm Beach Library in Florida, took place on Thursday June 25th at 6:30 at the Wanskuck Library (223 Veasie St.)

The 2nd meeting, with Ophelia Gregiev Roop, director of the San Bernadino (CA) Library, will be held on Tuesday June 30th at 7:00 at the Mount Pleasant Library (314 Academy Avenue.) .

There has been a change in the scheduling of the final candidate for the position of PCL Executive Director. Ann Robinson, until recently the Associate Head Librarian of the Worcester Public Library, will be speaking at the 3rd Meeting on Thursday, July 2nd at 7:00 at Rochambeau Library (708 Hope St.)

Please feel free to come to as many meetings as you wish. This is a chance to meet the person who may be directing our library!

July 1 Celebration

To commemorate the transfer of library operations from Providence Public Library to Providence Community Library on July 1, local libraries will be marking this historic event, with celebrations at each of the nine libraries. To start, a day of amnesty has been declared on library fines, meaning that overdue books owned by the nine libraries can be returned without charge. Ribbons will be cut to open each building that day, and books will ceremonially be relayed from neighborhood to neighborhood over the course of the afternoon. The relay kicks off at the Knight Memorial branch at 2:30 pm, traveling counter-clockwise around the city and arriving back on Elmwood Avenue at 7:00 pm. Commemorative T-shirts will also be for sale at every library.

Additionally, each branch planned its own celebration for the day. The activities will include karaoke at Olneyville Library, origami lessons at Rochambeau and a cookout at Smith Hill. “This is an exciting day for the city of Providence,” says Matthew Lawrence, one of the organizers of the celebrations. “It’s also a great opportunity for people to rediscover their neighborhood libraries, and a chance for each neighborhood to show off for an afternoon.”

The relay times are:

2:30 Knight Memorial
3:00 Washington Park
3:30 South Providence
4:00 Fox Point
4:30 Rochambeau
5:00 Wanskuck
5:30 Smith Hill
6:00 Mount Pleasant (as they close…)
6:30 Olneyville
back to Knight for 7:00.

Picture 2Picture 1

June 20, 2009

Library Update–June 20

Filed under: News — Patricia @ 10:09 pm

Dear library supporters,

Only a week and a half go until we open the PPL branches as PCL neighborhood libraries! We have accomplished much so far–with much left to do. We are fairly certain the libraries will open on July 1st, as planned, unless there are serious delays in the negotiations between PPL and the City to determine the status of the branch library buildings themselves.

But first for the good news.

The telephone network needs to be separated from PPL, and we have selected an excellent company to do this work. They assure us that they can set up our own telephone network with a minimum of disruption to staff and patrons, and they will be beginning their work next week.

The Celebration Committee has planned a gala event for July 1, with commemorative T-shirts for sale, events at all the libraries, and a ceremonial passing of new books from one library to another. Invitations will be going out soon. Attend the celebration at your local library and buy a PCL T-shirt!

The first round of the staffing process is drawing to a close, with nearly all of the positions in the neighborhood libraries filled. Although there were some unavoidable staffing changes, largely due to PPL’s having laid off a larger number of employees than PCL could accommodate, we are pleased to report that the staffing changes were fewer than we had anticipated. In fact, 100% of the same staff will remain at Mount Pleasant, Olneyville, Smith Hill, Washington Park, and Wanskuck.

The second round of the staffing process largely involves administrative positions. We have hired an excellent development director, Steven Kumins. Steve, who brings to the job his successful experience as the Development Director of Water Fire (2000-2004) and the Executive Director of the Pawtucket Armory Association (2004-2008). We are interviewing and on the cusp of hiring our Business Manager and the Human Resource director.

The Executive Director Search Committee has conducted a nationwide search and selected three finalists–from Massachusetts, Florida and California–to travel to Providence for interviews and to give public presentations. As soon as we have dates and locations for the presentations, we will let you know and we hope you will attend all of them.

Thanks for your help in finding us office space for our Technical Services department. Several people sent us suggestions and tips, and we have arranged to rent an office on Manton Avenue from Olneyville Housing Corporation. Thanks especially to Frank Shea and Ray O’Grady, of OHC, for their assistance and generosity.

The Friends Groups are continuing to strengthen and grow. South Providence and Washington Park Friends have taken a little while to get organized, but they are making good progress now. South Providence is having a Friends organizing meeting this Monday, and Washington Park Friends met last week. Wanskuck Friends held a successful book sale last Saturday. Mount Pleasant Friends has had great news. They were given a $2000 state grant for library programs last year; their state representative, Joanne Giannini was so pleased with their careful and effective spending of the money that she has recommended that they receive $3000 for this year! The Friends Council, composed of representatives from Friends Groups from across the City, has continued to meet and discuss common concerns. Their next meeting is scheduled for July 8.

All the Friends groups are selecting representatives for the PCL board, in time to attend the first board meeting at 5:30 on July 22 at Knight Memorial. Speaking of Board members, we are happy that the Governor has designated Mark McKenney as his representative on the PCL board; Mark has been a long-time advocate for library patrons–and for library staff–and we have always respected his comments and his votes on the PPL board.

Despite these many signs of progress, we must tell you that there are two major problems yet to be resolved.

The status of the library buildings themselves:

The City and PPL are continuing to negotiate over the fate of the branch buildings. According to the terms of the Library Agreement ratified last fall by the PPL Board of Trustees and the Providence City Council, the branch buildings would have been conveyed to the City in the case of the break up of the library system. This spring PPL declared that the Library Agreement was no longer in effect, even though it had been legally agreed upon by both parties. Lawyers for PPL and the City are working on a new agreement whereby the City would temporarily lease the buildings from PPL for a nominal amount, and PCL would in turn sublease the buildings from the City. Later on, PPL may agree to “convey” the buildings to City, so that the City would own them and then lease them to PCL. Whatever happens, we hope that PPL and the City can sign an agreement by July 1, as we cannot legally start operating our library system in the neighborhood library buildings until there is an agreement. Time is running short for resolving this issue.

Equipment needs:

We are still missing considerable equipment and furniture we will need to operate our libraries. We are again asking PPL to allow the technical and support employees who are coming to PPL to be permitted to bring “their” computers as well as other equipment and furniture related to their continued performance of services for branch patrons. This equipment, such as the book delivery truck, has been used for branch functions and as such we believe it should be given to PCL rather than left idle at Central.

A department that is crucial to keeping our libraries operating smoothly is the Maintenance Department. Our maintenance staff needs a considerable amount of equipment to help PCL get started, the most important of which is a flat-bed truck. PPL has only one such truck, and it is obviously impossible to divide it in half. If anyone can let us know of a truck we could purchase for PCL–at a fairly low price–we would be very grateful.

Our maintenance department is also going to need tools. Could anyone donate any of the following general tools? screw drivers, linesman pliers, plumbing pliers, pipe wrenches, a pipe cutter, sledge hammers, carpenter hammers, a nut driver set, a socket set, a wrench set, a pry bar, levels, a hand snake, wire strippers, a tube bender, t-squares, wire snips, trowels, a putty knife, a razor knife, c-clamps, a flexible conduit cutter, flashlights, drop lights, extension cords, propane torch, heavy-duty staple gun, electricial testers, plungers, and hacksaws. They also need a hand truck and 4-wheel dollies.

AND they need the following power tools: a screw gun, skill saw, table saw, jigsaw, hammer drill, power drill, power snake, wet/dry vac, power grinder, belt sander, palm sander, 6-gal air compressor and a chainsaw.

If you can provide us with any maintenance equipment, please let us know.

As you can see, there are a myriad of details involved in this transfer but with your continuing help we will pull it off!



P.S. In case you haven’t written these dates yet on your calendar:

Monday, June 22, is the annual Spelling Bee, sponsored by NotAboutTheBuildings. It starts at 9 p.m. and will take place at AS220. It’s free to watch and only $5 to spell. (Come early if you plan to compete.)

The Books Through Bars read-a-thon starts tomorrow. For both of these events, see the for details.

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.






December 30, 2007

PPL Projects $1 Million Deficit for Next Year

Filed under: News — Patricia @ 1:13 pm

At the PPL Finance Committee meeting on December 19, Associate Director Dan Austin presented the first draft of the FY 08 budget.

The good news is that it includes the branch children’s specialists in the projected staff salary figures. (When a trustee asked about this point blank, Dan Austin said something about there being strong support for keeping the positions. We’re not sure just how solid this commitment is, however.)

The bad news is that PPL is projecting a deficit of nearly one million dollars. (And this doesn’t include the likelihood that the state will cut its Grant-in-Aid funding, which PPL didn’t realize was a possibility when it compiled this early draft of the budget. The main reason for the expanded deficit prediction is, of course, the increase in pension payments which PPL must make starting next year due to changes in the federal law.

Dan Austin suggested that the trustees should consider one of three alternatives for dealing with this drastically increased deficit:

(1) PPL should reorganize itself as the Central Library plus three large branches–closing the other six branches.

(2) PPL should ask the City to run (and finance) the branches while PPL runs the Central Library.

(3) PPL should spend enough of its endowment to cover the deficit.

No one suggested that PPL should engage in more aggressive fund-raising and increase its revenues.

At the monthly PPL Board meeting on December 20, only SEVEN trustees showed up–out of the nearly thirty board members! A pretty poor showing, especially as the board was presented with the proposed 2008 budget for the first time. There were almost as many staff persons on hand as there were PPL trustees.

Associate Director Dan Austin again presented the FY 08 budget to the trustees on hand, and he suggested again that the trustees had three options for balancing the budget. Additional fund-raising was not discussed (again).

The FY 08 budget includes the seven Children’s Specialists in its salary projections, but the word is that these positions are still slated for elimination this March and it is unlikely that the Children’s Specialists would be rehired at the beginning of the new fiscal year this summer, given deficit projections.

Children’s Specialist Positions in Jeopardy

Filed under: News — Patricia @ 1:08 pm

PPL is currently planning to lay off seven branch children’s specialists in March. What will be the impact of these projected layoffs? Staffing at all the branches will be drastically cut. Consequently, programs and services will be severely reduced or eliminated altogether. Therefore, there will be no reason for Providence children to come to their library since the programs designed to help them will have been eliminated. Providence will have one less place for children to engage in safe, educational and meaningful neighborhood programs.

For a more comprehensive overview of the impact of these layoffs on the branches, read this factsheet.

What can YOU do to help avert this disaster? You need to call or write to the Mayor and to your City Councilor, asking them to work with Providence Public Library to start a fund-raising campaign NOW that will save these positions for the rest of this fiscal year—and for the years to come.

If you choose to write to your elected officials, print the letters on our website to Mayor David Cicilline and Your City Councilor, add your address, sign your name, and mail the letters TODAY. (Note: if you aren’t sure who your city councilor is, visit this interactive map.)

The Smith Hill Community Development Corporation has circulated a letter on behalf of the Children’s Specialists to the PPL Board members. Click here to read it.

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