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Author Topic: Providence, RI Public Library needs support and ideas  (Read 17132 times)
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Roger
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« on: January 23, 2006, 12:16:53 PM »

On January 13, 2006, the Washington Park Branch of the Providence Public Library was closed due to serious problems with its roof.  The decision was made by the board of trustees, and announced on the Tuesday before that.  It is a "neighborhood branch" that has served people of all ages for some time.  There is no plan to raise funds for the building's repairs.  I suspect that it will not be re-opening.

The Providence Public Library has recently completed major renovations on the Rochambeau and South Providence branches.  Last July,  when the fiscal year began,due, allegedly, to financial concerns, the system changed its hours of operation in each of its 10 branches.  My beloved Fox Point and South Providence branches are now only open on Monday and Wednesday mornings, respectively.  Other weekdays they open at 1 p.m.

I understand few Foetry.com members live in Rhode Island, but I hope this will be of interest to forum readers.  There are ethical questions re: why there are so few representatives from the city on the board of trustees,  how much the library compensates its Highest administrators, why the library has recently hired a well known public relations consultant...et cetera.

Libraries are sacred to me!   I cannot imagine a society without them.  We almost lost the library in John Steinbeck's home town.

The Olneyville and Fox Point branches are, I'm told, being considered for elimination.  Wanskuck and Smith Hill are not out of the woods either.

What ideas can people share for maintaining and nurturing the Providence Public Library?    Please  respond!  Thank you all in advance.
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N. Joy Vey
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2006, 01:54:39 PM »

Will some one please respond!   jimmy? alan? matt? monday? mirsk? ANY ONE!?

sarcasm is preferable to silence sometimes
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Kimon Nicolaides
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2006, 02:20:03 PM »

It's the silence of despair. But, shaking that off, and trying to ignore my own long history of relationships with libraries (I worked in libraries in order to pay for my college education. The libraries, however, were my education), and the fact that libraries (as well as art programs, and other cultural things) are always, always the first areas cut (quickly followed by health and education)...
Short term: private libraries. In my small town the now public library was started as a private, community library by a group of literate friends (and even before I was around). It was swallowed into the state library system eventually (perhaps not to its advantage--yes, hours have been cut, days open slashed, but at least there are books available).
Short term and long term: fundraising. If the community is concerned, there will be ways to raise money (which can fund a private, nonprofit library--or go into a library fund).
In some areas there are groups called Friends of the Library or whatever, that raise money, and--if they are good radical friends, also agitate, run for city council, etc.
You could put out flyers, do a newsletter, call meetings...any of the usual political/community organizing tactics could apply to any community need.
If you are really concerned (and you sound concerned) you need to find allies in your area to work with you.
But if it is only you, you, by yourself, can go to all applicable meetings, write letters to the editor, and make a big fuss. It may not work--but it could. In my experiences in other areas of organizing, one person with stubborn passion can go very far.  Officials/bureaucrats are sometimes caught off balance--and even changed--by meeting with people, or a person, who is determined, patient, and not giving up...
But I do wish there were a magic wand to fix things for your libraries.

Maybe Alan, a bonafide member of this honored profession, has an idea or two.
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alan
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2006, 02:20:13 PM »

Hi N.Joy uh -- Richard,

I really did intend to answer that post the day it appeared, and then I let it slip my mind.  Please forgive.  Also know that Foetry.com's slowest day is typically Friday, so if mine is the only response, don't take it personally. :cry: We all love ya!!!! Cheesy

Our system here in Portland regularly goes through these kinds of pains; I think it's a national crisis.  I recommend marches by city hall or city council meeting appearances.  

Here are a few abstracts I dug up, some old:

Quote
The suburban city of Germantown, TN, home of the busiest branch in the Memphis-Shelby County Public Library and Information Center (MSCPLIC), left the system after a vote July 12, as city officials decided that forming an independent board and outsourcing the library to Library Systems & Services (LSSI) would save money. The decision, which came after the Shelby County Commission cut its contribution to the county system, sparked tensions, as Germantown residents lost borrowing privileges in the county system, leading city officials and residents to consider a lawsuit. The county had in the past contributed one-quarter of the cost of the city-county system but has begun phasing out its contribution. To remain a system branch, Germantown would have had to pay Memphis $1.5 million. The Germantown branch closed for an estimated two weeks as MSCPLIC employees were assigned elsewhere and LSSI recruited a new work force. Staff at Germantown also began scanning barcodes into a new automation system, as county library officials had refused access to a full system backup, citing confidentiality of patron records-another dispute.


Quote
Reports on Senate Bill 840, which was introduced by Maryland Senator Ralph D. Hughes (D-Baltimore City) and aims to restructure the Enoch Pratt Free Library board of trustees. Influence of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a community-activist group which contested the legality of the library's closing of five branches; Mention of another law, Senate Bill 403, which was introduced by Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City).

Quote

The Springfield Library and Museums Association (SLMA), MA, has snatched at least a partial victory from the jaws of fiscal defeat. Faced with the possibility of five branch closings as a result of a $550,000 budget cut, Springfield Mayor Robert Markel and City Council President Michael Albano hashed out a $555,000 supplemental appropriation, approved July 7, that guarantees the operation of the branches for one more year. Especially harsh cuts were feared because they would have affected the association's eligibility for grants that had been used to cover specific exhibitions, programs, and services. The creation of the Neighborhood Services Task Force will study more cost-conscious methods of service delivery, in order to be prepared for future budget cuts. Mary Wheeler, chair of SLMA's Board of Trustees, cited the need for "long-term solutions," in her July 19 announcement of the task force membership, which will include two SLMA trustees and a former Springfield mayor. The museum portion of SLMA did not fare as well. The directorships of the museums have been consolidated into a single post, and reductions in exhibits and programs for kids have been instituted.



Quote
The District of Columbia's city council restored $900,000 to the District of Columbia Public Library's FY 1995 budget Dec. 21, allowing the library to avoid the threatened closing of six branches (AL, Dec. 1994, p. 977).

However, the library still faces a reduced budget of $19.8 million (down from $21 million in FY 1994), which forced it to eliminate Sunday service at its main Martin Luther King Memorial Library beginning Jan. 1, and to reduce operating hours at 17 of the system's 28 branches to 40 hours a week as of Apr. 1. Additionally, all library staff will be furloughed for 10 days during FY 1995, and library staff will be reduced by 34 positions by Sept. 30.
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it. -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
Williams
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2006, 02:40:11 PM »

In The Providence Journal of Tuesday, January 31, 2006 there is a front page article by Cathleen F. Crowley with the above title.

The following are the first two paragraphs:

Quote

PROVIDENCE --  Providence Public Library leaders stood in silence last week as a city councilor declared he didn't trust them  They stoically listened to library patrons chastise them for accepting raises while cutting librarians and reducing branch hours.

                         But when one of their own employees joined the chorus, the library's administration lashed out.


On page A7  the article explains how Michael Vallone served a 3 day suspension for posting this message on an internal Web site.

         
Quote
"An Open Letter to PPL Administration:  You cannot win this battle in the court of public opinion.  This is the one issue that people the world over understand that power corrupts.  No individual or group is immune to it.  If any government remains in power long enough, it will eventually lose its way.  Almost all revolutions turn out badly.  The revolutionaries become that which they initially despised.  It is simply human nature.  Almost no government resigns gracefully.  The organism fights to survive at any cost.  Meanwhile, you sink deeper and deeper into the morass of your own making.  Your high priced consultants will ultimately fail you.  My advice to you is to remain face down at the trough.  Eat faster.  Why stop at a 13.7 percent salary increase?  Why not 25 percent?  And of course, don't take any questions.  PPL administrators:  The light is shining on you and it looks ugly."

[/b
]

There's more...but enough for now.
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N. Joy Vey
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2006, 02:43:37 PM »

I tried to type in "  N. Joy Vey" , but was informed that that username was already taken!!

Why the font grew large at the bottom I do not know.
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he sooner I have made my first 5000 mistakes, the sooner I will be able to correct them.

Kimon Nicolaides
Ed Dupree
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2006, 03:50:38 PM »

Williams--

What happened to Vallone is outrageous, and points up the cardinal rule of the U.S. workplace: you check your First Amendment rights at the door. Do you know if Providence library workers have a union? If they do, it ought to have prevented Vallone's suspension.

Thanks,
Ed
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alan
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2006, 05:16:38 PM »

It's chilling to know that library admins. are behind the silencing and punishing of others who dare to have opinions that contradict their own.  I wish I had time to take on the cause -- I bet it will spread on library-related sites quickly.  I'm so grateful to have a union job.

This is akin to Janet Holmes' actions at Boise State.
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N. Joy Vey
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yes
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2006, 10:54:31 AM »

The workers recently voted to form a union.  The library had hired an expensive "consultant" to lobby against the cause.

The article I quoted also reports that last year another clerk was suspended.  She had been researching which of the board members actually possess library cards.  The union is definitely going to bat for her to.

I admit that I have missed most of the community meetings.  Many folks have done an excellent job of publicizing the "privatization" of this public library.

Thanks, for your responses.
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he sooner I have made my first 5000 mistakes, the sooner I will be able to correct them.

Kimon Nicolaides
Ed Dupree
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2006, 12:19:46 PM »

I think a strong union is what the doctor ordered, in libraries no less than in, say, coal mines. When I first started working in libraries, I thought there'd be a kinder, gentler, humanistic style of management--these are bosses who love books and read them, right?. But I got wised up fast. Joy, your anecdote of  the union-busting "consultant" says it all. Here at Harvard where I work, library managers are much more corporate than academic in their attitudes. Management-theory fads like Total Quality Management take hold, are prosecuted with a vengeance for a while, and then are superseded by the next set of "Core Values" or "Mission Statement" or whatever the the business-school gurus are cooking up. Sorry, but we have to discipline you now for talking Union. Sorry, but we're laying you off. Have a nice day.

Every unelected manager is a holder of tyrannical power. Down with them!


Ed the Raging Red
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alan
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2006, 12:28:29 PM »

Ed, I love it when you talk UNION.  For those of you who don't know, Ed and I have both worked in the wonderful "right to work" state of North Carolina.  I was totally abused in the libraries I worked for there, salary-wise and also in stranger ways: being placed on a coffee-making schedule for my boss (though I didn't drink it then), being forced to meet with the community college president when we decided not to interview a (white male) candidate he wanted us to interview, timed while cataloging books to meet standards, etc.  I've got to stop thinking about it or I'll start fuming.



Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
I think a strong union is what the doctor ordered, in libraries no less than in, say, coal mines. When I first started working in libraries, I thought there'd be a kinder, gentler, humanistic style of management--these are bosses who love books and read them, right?. But I got wised up fast. Joy, your anecdote of  the union-busting "consultant" says it all. Here at Harvard where I work, library managers are much more corporate than academic in their attitudes. Management-theory fads like Total Quality Management take hold, are prosecuted with a vengeance for a while, and then are superseded by the next set of "Core Values" or "Mission Statement" or whatever the the business-school gurus are cooking up. Sorry, but we have to discipline you now for talking Union. Sorry, but we're laying you off. Have a nice day.

Every unelected manager is a holder of tyrannical power. Down with them!


Ed the Raging Red
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Alan Cordle
Ed Dupree
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2006, 10:31:15 AM »

Funny you should mention being timed at your tasks, Alan.  Right now a Harvard library assistant in the Slavic department is being disciplined for not meeting a newly-imposed work quota, and for suddenly making "too many mistakes." She's been written up once; twice more and she's out. This after 35 years of service! Somehow these issues only come up now, as she approaches retirement age (and elegibility for full pension). She's a nervous wreck of course, which doesn't exactly help her speed & accuracy. With her permission, some of my fellow Union reps and I are mounting a letter-writing campaign among the members, and planning a rally and press release, along with an age discrimination suit. But our fearless Union leaders aren't helping at all, because they're completely in bed with management, a la the "jointness" model that was imported years ago from the Japanese auto industry by the UAW.  Don't want any unpleasantness to ruffle the "Harvard Community."  Grrr....

If we had a strong militant Union we could shut down the Harvard plantation tighter than a drum over this kind of shit, and it would stop. As it is, we live under a kind of Jim Crow--stay on the bossman's good side, or there's no telling what might happen to you.


In Solidarity,
Ed
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N. Joy Vey
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2006, 11:26:04 AM »

ED,

I have supported Brown library workers by walking picket lines on the campus.  This was in 1990 or 1989, I believe.  It was cold.  One of my neighbors at the time was a clerk.  

There were a fair number of undergrads, some grads, some  :wink: MFA students who joined the pickets in solidarity.

Are current Harvard students informed of the issues?  Are they supportive?  I have two wonderful activist cousins who are H. alumni;  one is the son of a long-time SEIU organizer.  I am sure they would at least sigh petitions.  One lives iin DC and is a journalist.

Please do keep us informed.


An injury to one is an injury to all.
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he sooner I have made my first 5000 mistakes, the sooner I will be able to correct them.

Kimon Nicolaides
poetastin
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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2006, 05:13:10 PM »

Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
...along with an age discrimination suit.


You guys are prepared! But not so fast...she hasn't even been canned.

Forgive me if this seems elementary, but please make sure your co-worker keeps a personal diary or 'work journal' to record, by date, every incident of management abuse, write-ups, steps taken to resolve these issues, names/titles of people she's spoken with, etc. It'd come in very handy if she ever needed legal counsel.
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Anonymous
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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2006, 07:21:39 PM »

Joy--

Thanks! would you be willing to PM me your cousins' e-mail addresses? I can send them a summary of this woman's case, with names & addresses of two HR jerks plus her boss. We're trying to flood them with e-mails. Alums are very good to have in a campaign like this, especially if they spread the word to other alums. --We also have support from some lefty groups on campus. Student-labor solidarity has calmed down here since the Living Wage sit-in a few years ago, but that'll turn around eventually, I hope. I sure will keep you posted.

'tastin--

Thanks for the tips. Yeah, she's keeping a log of everything that's said & done, though that hasn't been a very rich vein so far, because her boss is a smiley-face guy and the threats of firing are all very politely and officially delivered; plus the Union officials on the "Problem-Solving Team" (known in better unions as a grievance committee) have already signed off on mgmt.'s plans for her.  They've urged her to take the crappy early-retirement package that mgmt. is offering. She's refused, and the next step will be to move her case up from the local grievance level to the university-wide. After that would come binding arbitration, if our quisling Union officials allowed it, which they probably wouldn't. Our best hope is probably to generate bad publicity. Harvard hates that, and gets plenty of it here in Boston. Local media have been helpful to us in the past. ---You're right about the age discrimination suit, that's a last resort in case she's canned. But meantime it's a plausible threat we can use.  


Thanks so much to both of you for your concern.

Ed
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