PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Faced with a $100,000 shortfall, supporters of the Providence Community Library (PCL) are asking the Elorza administration to increase the city’s annual contribution to the nonprofit’s nine libraries.
The group was scheduled to hold a rally in City Hall Thursday to call on the mayor to set aside an additional $250,000 in his next budget, which he is expected to unveil next month. Providence currently contributes about $3.5 million to the PCL’s $4.9-million budget. The rest of the organization’s revenue comes from the state as well as private donations or contracts.
“They’re trying to remain above water,” Antonio Aguilar, a spokesman for the PCL, told WPRI.com. “They don’t want to close anything.”
The PCL was established in 2009 after financial problems at the Providence Public Library (PPL), an independent nonprofit, threatened to close several of its branch libraries throughout the city. A group of local supporters struck a deal with city leaders to take control over the nine smaller libraries, while PPL kept the Empire Street central branch.
All told, the libraries had 70 employees and served about 54,000 patrons through the city, according the PCL’s most recent annual report. The libraries reported 740,000 total visits and offered 6,141 programs during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
But city funding has been an obstacle in recent years, in part, Aguilar said, because of the city’s ongoing financial problems. The $3.5 million PCL receives from the city is at the same level it was in 2010.
A fact sheet provided by the library claims the city spends $19.91 per resident on library services, far less than most of New England’s largest cities. Hartford spends $65.95 per resident and Bridgeport spends $47.35. Providence’s spending ranks far behind the vast majority of Rhode Island’s cities and towns as well.
A spokesperson for the Elorza administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The PCL does have the City Council on its side – at least in theory.
The 15-member council unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution last week asking Elorza to increase funding to the PCL by $250,000 for the budget year that begins July 1.
“These modest budgetary requests can easily be funded if the city makes them a priority this year,” Councilman Sam Zurier, who sponsored the resolution, wrote in a letter to constituents this week.