Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Providence Public Library: Who are you going to believe?

Peering (1) into the Library

Link to March 10 Providence Journal article, "Providence's Central Library surviving, growing".

Surviving, yes.  But growing?  (A Wisconsin Badgers hockey taunt comes to mind:  "That's debatable!")

The Providence Public Library, a private, 135-year-old nonprofit organization, ran the central library and nine branches until July 1, 2009. On that day, the city transferred its $3.5-million library allocation to a new private nonprofit organization, the Providence Community Library, rather than allow the public library to close five branches to deal with a budget shortfall.

Executive Director Dale Thompson talks about a "great sense of excitement"* and "many positives"* for a library that has reduced its operating hours, cut staff, and seen its endowment shrink by perhaps as much as 20%.  (The library is open just 39 hours per week.)

Oh, plus they want to sell the building they currently occupy.
Whither then?

Among the positives?

The library still has the largest public collection in the state — about 1 million items. It still has some of the state’s most unique collections, including rare and original materials on the Civil War, slavery, the whaling industry and the state’s history. “Central is still the place where you go if you can’t find an item anywhere else,” says Mason.

OK, we already know the collection is less accessible.  And what about those "rare and original works"?  Are they being properly cared for?

Thompson also notes that circulation is up from last year, and attendance at library programs has also improved.

All of a sudden, Retiring Guy is from Missouri.  He's in a "show-me" mood.

Two comments are appended to the article.

[#1] It is hard to imagine a worse run public library. The loss of the branches, the battle with the city, the poorly conceived and expensive renovation, and now the possible sale of the historic building all show an institution in distress.

[#2] Dale Thompson is one of the classiest librarians in the country. Providence is lucky to have such as fine person at the helm of the top public library in Rhode Island.  [Hmm, Retiring Guy wonders what Ted Rao* would have to say about this comment.]

Who are you going to believe?

Related article.
A library revolution in Providence.  (Los Angeles Times, 1/7/2009)

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