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By Nicole Friedman
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE - The Providence Public Library has agreed to extend its $1-per-year leases of seven public library branches to the city for another six months.
The city and PPL hope to complete negotiations over the buildings’ ownership by Oct. 1.
The future of the city’s neighborhood libraries was unclear until this extension as the current leases were set to end on July 1.
Providence Community Library, which runs the seven libraries under dispute, sent layoff notices to its entire staff in anticipation of branches closing.
While PPL owns the city’s public library Central Branch and seven local branches, it only runs the Central Branch. The seven other branches are leased to the city and overseen by PCL, a nonprofit organization that manages the seven PPL-owned branches and two others.
PPL controlled all of the city’s library branches between 1878 and 2009, when funding difficulties prompted the organization to announce it planned to close five branches.
In response, local residents founded PCL and persuaded the city to transfer oversight of the nine branch libraries to the newly formed organization. Annual city funding for the libraries, which used to go to PPL and totaled $3.6 million this year, now goes to PCL. PPL still receives funding from the General Assembly.
PCL runs the nine branches with a total budget of less than $5 million, compared to PPL’s $8.5 million budget when it controlled all of the city’s libraries.
PPL is asking for yearly rent of around $700,000 or a one-time $11 million payment, according to WPRI.com, but a PPL spokesperson told the news outlet that many options remain on the table.
PCL, on the other hand, argues that taxpayers should pay nothing for the seven buildings, which were built to be public libraries.
The city sued PPL in October for failing to make necessary repairs on the buildings.