PROVIDENCE — Five library branches would close by July but the downtown flagship and four other branches would remain open under a plan approved by the Providence Public Library Board of Trustees yesterday.
The plan now goes before the City Council for approval and, under an agreement reached last month, the city must make one of four decisions by June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year: accept the library’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.
The system, which is run by a private, nonprofit organization, assisted by payments from the city and the state, is anticipating a $1.4-million deficit this fiscal year and projecting a $2-million shortfall in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Mayor David N. Cicilline’s administration supports the plan, but with the caveat that the five branches slated for closing –– Fox Point, Smith Hill, Olneyville, Wanskuck and Washington Park –– return to the city’s possession to be run as neighborhood learning centers for after-school activities, public computer access and meeting space, according to Kas DeCarvalho, the city’s representative on the library board.
It’s still far from clear how things will turn out, and I’d trust absolutely no plan to be final until it actually manifests — today’s actions are but a snippet of a five-plus year conversation/dialogue/screaming match between the City and the PPL. (I had much quicker and tighter mental recall of the details when I was working at the city level, and would defer to the Library Reform Group and Matthew and other activists for advice about where to go from here — Check out Karen’s comment on the RIFuture thread in particular.) But it’s a big move, and it certainly appears that this is the year that things finally, fundamentally change, for better or worse.