Library and City Reach Agreement

City will lease neighborhood branches for 20 years under mediated settlement

Providence Public Library (PPL) has reached an agreement with Mayor Angel Taveras and the Providence Community Library (PCL) for conveyance of all seven of the Library-owned branch buildings. The agreement will preserve city branches and protect every neighborhood library in the City.

Under the agreement mediated by retired Superior Court Judge Mark Pfeiffer, PPL -- which operates the downtown library and owns seven of the city’s nine neighborhood library buildings -- will transfer the seven buildings to the City as a 20-year lease-purchase, at the end of which the City will own the buildings outright.

The City will make an initial payment of $250,000 to PPL from owed funds held in escrow from 2009. Additionally, the City will make 18 annual payments to PPL in the amount of $264,000, beginning in 2014. The total cost of acquiring the seven neighborhood libraries will be $5 million. The assessed value of the seven buildings is approximately $11 million.

“After months of working closely with the PPL and the PCL, we’ve forged an agreement that will enable us to keep all of Providence’s neighborhood libraries open, once and for all,” said Mayor Taveras. “Today’s announcement is a big victory for the thousands of children and adults who use and rely on their neighborhood libraries every day. I thank Judge Pfeiffer for his assistance in mediating this agreement, and I commend the PPL and PCL for working with my administration to find a solution to the challenges that have threatened the future of Providence’s neighborhood library branches for far too long.”

"This marks an important milestone for library users throughout the City," said William S. Simmons, Chairman of Providence Public Library Board of Trustees. "It provides an amazing and unparalleled framework for access to books, computers, and materials whether it be at the Providence Public Library with its deep collections, or at community libraries that serve City neighborhoods."

The agreement also sets the stage for fundraising and foundation investment to pay for renovations to several neighborhood branches.

PCL, a not-for-profit organization that has run the city’s nine neighborhood libraries for the past two years, will continue operating the neighborhood branches. Providence Public Library will continue to own and operate the main library on Empire Street that serves as a statewide resource.

“I want to commend the Mayor and the City Council for working so diligently to support the neighborhood libraries and to resolve this issue for the benefit of all Providence residents,” said Marcus Mitchell, Providence Community Library Board President.

Unlike most cities across the nation, libraries in Providence have not been owned or operated by the city. The PPL operated every library in Providence until 2009, when the system became unsustainable under the existing structure. In response, a group of volunteers established PCL to manage all nine neighborhood libraries, and the City shifted their management and the $3.6 million annual city appropriation that helps pay for them to PCL. 

To help with this transition, PPL donated more than $1 million in branch materials, books, tools and agreed to lease to the City the branch buildings for $1 a year. That two-year lease agreement expired in July. The City worked to extend the lease arrangement while a final agreement could be mediated by Judge Pfeiffer.

The Providence City Council was closely involved in efforts to preserve the City’s library branches, and praised the agreement.

"I am overjoyed to hear that the PCL and PPL have reached an agreement that provides for the continued delivery of library services throughout our neighborhoods," said City Council President Michael Solomon. "These buildings are the cornerstones of learning in our City and this agreement ensures that children throughout Providence will have access to the tools needed to be successful in school and tomorrow's workforce. I'd like to thank all parties involved for their time and commitment to this cause.”

Providence Public Library remains a critical statewide and City resource providing myriad lifelong learning opportunities and more than $3 million in privately-funded library service to all Rhode Islanders each year. "We have always recognized the need to preserve the vitally important community neighborhood libraries, while also ensuring a strong statewide Providence Public Library," said Simmons. "Providence, and indeed state residents are big winners as both library systems continue to grow and strengthen."

The seven libraries included in agreement are the Rochambeau, Mount Pleasant, Knight Memorial, Olneyville, Smith Hill, South Providence, and Wanskuck branches. The Washington Park Library building, which is owned by the City, and Fox Point Library building, which is owned by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence, were not included in the agreement.