Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thank You, Patricia Raub and the P.C.L. Movement

A few days late, but here's more about the Providence Community Library and the press conference on Monday, January 5...

Dear library advocates,

The press conference on Monday went very well. People from over two dozen community organizations were on hand to listen and speak, and NINE City Councilors participated. Here is a slide show on the press conference:

The ProJo covered the conference in Tuesday's paper (see below), and the story was picked up by the Los Angles Times book blog, Jacket Copy: (Thanks to Matthew Lawrence for bringing this to our attention.)

Here is the text of the article in the Providence Journal:

Group says it can cut costs at Providence library branches and maintain quality
01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, January 6, 2009
By Philip MarceloJournal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE -- A new nonprofit organization that is proposing to take over the city's nine neighborhood library branches says that it can save more than $2 million and still offer the same services and the same number of union jobs as under the current leadership.

Providence Community Library treasurer Ellen Schwartz said at a news conference in City Hall yesterday that the organization is proposing a $4.8-million operating budget for fiscal 2010.

"Our budget cuts administrative costs and waste out of the library budget," said Schwartz. "It also calls for dramatic, aggressive fundraising."

The nine branches currently represent $7.5 million of a total $9.7-million operating budget, according to Robert Taylor, vice president of the board of trustees of the Providence Public Library, the private nonprofit organization that runs the city libraries.

The PPL, last month, proposed closing the Fox Point, Smith Hill, Olneyville, Wanskuck and Washington Park branches, but keeping open the downtown central library and the Mount Pleasant, South Providence, Rochambeau and Knight Memorial branches.

The Providence Community Library, which does not seek to take over the central library on Empire Street, will submit its alternative budget and organizational plan to Mayor David N. Cicilline on Friday.

Cicilline, who has already said he opposes closing any library branch, says the city will look at "all possible options" for the future management of the branches, and that his administration was still scheduled to meet with PPL board members at the end of the month about their proposal.
"For 100 years, the city and the PPL have had a very strong partnership," he said yesterday. "Before even considering dissolving that partnership, we would have to be really certain that we examine how we may be able to strengthen and preserve it."

He declined to say whether he considered the PCL a viable alternative: "It's premature. There is a lot more work that needs to go into this."

Under an agreement reached in November, the city has the option of accepting the PPL's plan; seek to take over the branch libraries itself; assign their stewardship to another entity; or choose to maintain the current library system intact for one year and cover any deficits incurred.

Any decision would be effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but the city needs to notify the PPL by March 1 if it intends to fund the library system as is for another year, according to the agreement.

Ultimately, said Cicilline, that decision rests with the City Council, which appears to be largely in favor of a branch system under the new nonprofit PCL.

"There are nine [councilors] here" in attendance and in support of the plan, Councilman Nicholas Narducci observed at yesterday's news conference. "We already have the majority we need to do what we have to do."

Council President Peter S. Mancini, who was not in attendance yesterday, said he was "very encouraged" by the PCL's proposal.
"Historically, I've felt that the PPL did not want to deal with the branch libraries, that they have not done much fundraising for the past four or five years, and are not willing to spend their endowment on the branches," he said.

The PCL proposes a board of trustees of up to 25 members, with representatives from all nine branches, the United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island (the union for library employees), neighborhood groups and delegates from the mayor's office and the City Council.

The board members would be limited to six consecutive years of service. Marcus Mitchell, a local entrepreneur who runs a business strategy consulting firm and is a member of the Friends of the Rochambeau Branch Library, a nonprofit entity, will serve as the first board chairman.

Next year's budget calls for $3.5 million from the city, which currently allocates $3.4 million to the PPL, $750,000 from the state, and $500,000 to be raised in donations and grants, according to Schwartz, the organization's treasurer.

The proposed budget would keep the same 50 union workers employed at the branches at their contractual salaries, as well as eight nonunion, administrative staff. Meanwhile, the PPL is proceeding with the next steps in enacting its proposal, which involves greater detail on how the PPL might turn over the five branch libraries to the city for use as community learning centers, according to Taylor, of the board of trustees.

PPL spokeswoman Tonia Mason declined yesterday to comment on the specifics of the PCL's alternate proposal, which she said had not been made available to the PPL.

"We don't know that the new organization has the infrastructure capable of administering the branch system, including business, human resources, building management and professional librarians," Mason said in an e-mail. "As with any new organization, we would be concerned that it has the financial ability to steward the library for future generations."

I have not looked at the slide show, but if you see any woman in a bright red coat clapping emphatically, well that's me. I was impressed with the presence of Bill Simons, President of the Board of Trustees of the infamous PPL. He stood quietly and listened to many speakers berate the Board... Miguel Luna thanked him publicly for his support. He has not been President of the Board (or I think even on the Board) for that long, perhaps if he'd been on hand sooner, this Tension would not have Escalated to the point of Schism...

1 comment:

Nancy Green said...

Nomi, thanks for posting about the libraries.