Providence Public Library (RI) Braces for 20-60% Layoff

Daniel Barbarisi, “Providence (RI) Public Library issues pink slips to 60 as a precaution,”
The Providence Journal, April 27, 2007

The Providence Public Library plans to send out layoff notices to roughly 60 employees next week, in what library leaders are calling a precautionary move in case the city and the library cannot reach a deal on funding for the next fiscal year. To comply with contract law, the library must send the notices out by Tuesday if it plans to lay off employees July 1.

Some on both sides think that they are finally getting close to an agreement, but library leadership said that they still have to continue every eventuality—including sending the notices.

“I think it’s unrealistic to think we can work through these very complicated issues within the next few days,” said trustee Bill Simmons. “I think that the library is completely foolish to foreclose on any of its options at this point.”

“All of this is very encouraging,” said Board Chairwoman Lisa Churchville, while noting that she thought the negotiations should have been at this point months ago.

The PPL has provided library services for the city for more than 100 years without a contract.

But after financial problems that led to layoffs and reduced hours, the two parties have been rethinking the relationship. The branches are operating under a one-year agreement with the city that allows the library to operate at a deficit in its $8.6-million budget as long as it maintains services and works with the group of mayoral appointees and library trustees to identify options for the future. The operating agreement ends June 30, and the library cannot draw up its own budget until it knows what the city will contribute.

Yesterday, library staff presented the board of trustees with three contingency plans depending on what the city decides to do.

If the city provided enough money to maintain the current level of service, there would be little change.

If the city maintained its current $3-million annual payment, it would mean laying off 20 library staffers, according to Library Associate Director Dan Austin.

And if the city removed its funding altogether—a scenario that seems extremely unlikely—the library would have to lay off 60 of its clerks, librarians and specialists.