Branch libraries belong to city residents, not PPL

Guest Column: Mark McKenney
It’s time. Time for the Providence Public Library to do the right thing: give the people of Providence their libraries. The efforts of the PPL – a private library – to gain leverage, to get more public money, to squeeze the city – should end now. The neighborhood libraries, built with donations from Providence residents and funds from Providence taxpayers, should be given back to the city, to the people of Providence. More

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OPINION

Branch libraries belong to city residents, not PPL

Guest Column: Mark McKenney
Posted 11/29/10

It’s time. Time for the Providence Public Library to do the right thing: give the people of Providence their libraries. The efforts of the PPL – a private library – to gain leverage, to get more public money, to squeeze the city – should end now. The neighborhood libraries, built with donations from Providence residents and funds from Providence taxpayers, should be given back to the city, to the people of Providence.

This isn’t a question of contracts or legal fine points. Those are being considered elsewhere. This is a question of what’s right. Unless and until the city has ownership of the buildings, they remain in jeopardy. Repairs are needed to keep the libraries in working order. (The new library, the Providence Community Library, has sought grant money, in order to do necessary repairs to the former PPL branches. As the buildings have not yet transferred to the city, those grants have been denied.)

I view this situation from a rather unique position. I serve as the governor’s representative on the board of the year-old Providence Community Library, the PCL. But before the PCL started up on July 1, I was the governor’s designee on the PPL Board of Trustees. While I sat on that board, PPL decided it no longer wanted to be in the “branch business.” Now, it’s being suggested that the PPL trustees really didn’t formally vote to give up the branches. But the truth is that the PPL board, and especially its leadership, repeatedly trumpeted that desire. And not quietly, but in public meetings.

I know this because, interestingly, I fought against the move. At the time, I preferred that the PPL remain as it was, as a full-branch system. But my voice, together with that of the mayor’s representative, was drowned out. Instead, the board offered on multiple occasions to simply give the branches to the city.

Giving the buildings to the city would have been entirely appropriate. After all, once the PPL decided it didn’t want to be in the branch business, it hardly needed those buildings.

Unfortunately, the PPL went back on its promise. In my view, the board never expected the city to take it up on the offer. It expected the city to come back and give the PPL more money, asking that it run the branch system.

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