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Archive for the ‘VOICE of the PEOPLE’ Category

We did it! Reiche library will stay open…but we have our work cut out for us for the next year if its presence is to be permanent.
 
After two weeks of speaking out in support of Reiche branch library, we can celebrate the restoration of $30,000 in funding that will allow the library to remain open for at least one more year. PPL Director Stephen Podgajny and the PPL Trustees have promised extensive long-range planning with public input during the coming year.
 
District 2 Councilor Dave Marshall asked the Council on May 19 to restore $30,000 from the contingency fund. Residents who contacted City Councilors to ask for their support were pleased that the vote was 6 – 1 in favor of Marshall’s resolution. Jill Duson was the lone councilor to vote against the measure, saying that she couldn’t suport last-minute changes to the budget because the finance committee had worked hard to balance competing community interests.
 
We asked the City Councilors for their help. Now let’s be sure to thank them. Please let Dave Marshall know that we’re grateful for his leadership, especially in sponsoring the resolution. Please thank John Anton for supporting the process so strongly and let Councilors Cohen, Donoghue, Leeman, Mavodones, Skolnik and Suslovic know how much we appreciate their affirmative votes. Contact information may be found at http://www.portlandmaine.gov/citycou.htm . Another person to thank as you see him in the neighborhood is State Representative Jon Hinck, who was with us every step of the way.
 
We will keep you posted on PPL’s long-range planning process, which will eventually determine the fate of Reiche and other branch libraries. Please be ready to raise your voice (again!) when the time is right. A good way to stay close to the process would be to join the newly formed Friends of Reiche. Just email us at wendneighborhood@yahoo.com  to let us know that you’re interested.

[West End Neighborhood Association]

 

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Dear Mayor Suslovic and Councilors:                                      May 14, 2008

The Riverton Community Association is opposed to the closure of any of Portland’s branch libraries or making any of these branches less than full service (such removing adult books from Munjoy).  We are not asking for more monies for the library system but that the City find a way to secure – as surely as it is securing the main library – the continued existence of the five branches and that such an  agreement is not one that staves off the current citizen uproar but prevents the issue of physically closing the branches from arising again.

Almost 30 years ago – and a very few years after the Riverton School and Branch Library were newly built  – our books were, without our knowledge, boxed up and we were swept up in the attempt to close all the branches with an intent to build a single large branch.  There has been an attempt to close our branch (not to mention others) for so many different reasons that we have lost track.  Because of these various attempts we are familiar with the limitations of the Portland Public Library’s charter but feel that there are ways to honor the charter while securing the branches.

Our branches provide the most assessable and cost effective way to provide library services to children and seniors.   Going back to the mid 70’s circulation differences can mostly be attributed to hours open – which from time to time have not been equitable among the branches – a vision and management issue and not a monetary one.

We would like to work with the City in any way possible to assure this outcome.

Sincerely yours,

Marydee Stinson
Secretary

[Riverton Community Association]

 

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Date: Thu, 15 May 2008
From:  “Neighborhood Associa” <wendneighborhood@yahoo.com>

Subject: URGENT !!!!!!! REICHE LIBRARY CLOSURE

To:  wendneighborhood@yahoo.com
   
District 2 Councilor Dave Marshall will recommend at next week’s City Council meeting that $30,000 be restored to the budget from the contingency fund in order to keep Reiche branch library open for another year. At-Large Councilor John Anton is in support and has called for development of a long range plan by the library’s Board of Trustees before any branches are closed. Planning would be done with public input.
 
Please email the City Councilors today! Ask them to support Councilor Marshall’s proposal and to keep Reiche branch library open by restoring $30,000 to the budget on May 19.

To email all Councilors at once, click on the “Email City Council” box at http://www.portlandmaine.gov/citycou.htm

 

WEST END NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
Trade time and talents through Maine Time Banks

 

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…brief notes by Ed Democracy…

About 10 people attended last night’s meeting with PPL Director Steve Podgajny at the Munjoy Branch Library.   District 1 Councilor Donoghue was also in attendance.

In general, the residents offered many great ideas along with their deep concerns that the changes being proposed for the Munjoy Branch Library could well become irreversible.  Director Podgajny, for his part, offered much information and detailed perspective and seemed genuinely interested and impressed with the quantity and quality of thought regarding the Munjoy Branch Library, the other branches, and the library system, in general, past, present, and future.

Director Podgajny acknowledged the lack of process and community dialogue, which he attributed to the rapid pace of events precipitated by the City’s late budget cuts. 

It was confirmed that there is a good faith understanding that, if the City, next Monday, May 19, restores the $30,000 to achieve flat funding for the City’s contribution to the library system, that the Reiche Branch Library would, indeed, be spared for at least another year.  It is couched in terms of buying at least another year to allow for good process and true community dialogue to look at the Reiche Branch Library’s future within the context of a thorough, transparent and inclusive community process of reevaluating & reengineering the entire library system. 

There was also discussion about creating a Friends of the Library Chapter which could help to sustain  the ongoing functional relationship between the public and the library system’s trustees and administrators.

So, Friends of the Libraries, here is our opening to create a new relationship and to write a new chapter in the history of the Portland Public Library system.

 

 

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Branch Library Resolution

Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization (MHNO)
Adopted May 12, 2008

Recognizing that access to a diversified, full service Neighborhood Branch Library, serving the needs of both children and adults, is a vital part of sustainable Community Infrastructure, the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization goes on record as supporting continued diversity, serving everyone -elders, youth, parents and other adults, as well as children – who are all a part of our community, at the Munjoy Hill Branch of the Portland Public Library (which first opened in the Adams School in 1958), and stands in solidarity with the West End Neighborhood Association, whose Reiche Branch is under threat of closure.

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Editorials [Portland Press Herald OP-ED]
 
Maine Voices: Reiche library meets neighborhood needs

All the reasons given for shutting it down have alternatives that would keep it open.

By JO COYNE, Special to the Press Herald
 
May 12, 2008

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Coyne (e-mail: jocoyne@gwi.net) is a resident of Portland.
I am extremely concerned about the recently announced plan to close the branch library at Reiche Elementary School.

I struggle to understand how such a decision could be made without advance neighborhood discussion.

Portland Public Library Director Stephen Podgajny and other officials are well aware that the Reiche Community Center, including the library, has suffered years of neglect.

They know that the neighborhood has been working hard to renovate the facility and rejuvenate its programs. Residents did some fine visioning in a community design workshop in the fall of 2006 and have enjoyed some small measures of progress since that time.

During the past year the city has made major improvements to the pool and locker rooms. Just recently, the expenditure of $225,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds was approved for additional improvements.

And now the library should be closed? I am glad that there will finally be an opportunity to communicate directly when Podgajny attends the upcoming meeting of the West End Neighborhood Association on Wednesday.

In the meantime, I would like to respond to what I hear.

“Reiche library should be closed because it’s the closest branch to the main library.”

That may be technically true, but because the Munjoy branch is no longer in a central location, much of that neighborhood’s population resides closer to the main library than to the branch. Reiche lies a busy 0.8 miles from the main library, and the way between them is a difficult route for children and the elderly, particularly in winter.

“Reiche’s adult book circulation is lower than other branches.”

Circulation figures never tell the whole story. Reiche’s services might benefit from having fewer books and more computers. An infusion of ESOL-appropriate and foreign language materials would help, too. Look at our population!

“Cutting across the board would result in a lackluster public library.”

The Burbank branch is open 40 hours per week and each of the other branches 20 hours. I fail to see how leveling the playing field and/or making equitable cuts at all the branches would dim the library more than would eliminating neighborhood library services in a part of the city that needs more, not fewer, literacy services.

“Portland West could house Reiche’s computers and circulate its children’s books.”

Portland West provides fine services for many residents of the West End but it is not a library. Its staff members are not trained in book selection, reader advisory services or reading promotion.

Exactly how would spending more time at Portland West, a social services agency, help children become lifelong learners who have developed the habit of using libraries?

I would ask the library’s administrators and trustees to be mindful of Reiche’s history.

Blocks of homes and businesses were taken by eminent domain in the late ’60s and early ’70s for Reiche School and Community Center.

Part of the justification included the many needs of the many lower socioeconomic residents of the area. I don’t see that times have changed much.

Skin colors have changed, languages have been added and some gentrification has taken place, but the West End still is home to many people in need of strong community support.

I am sorry for the current economic crisis and I understand that cuts must be made. I do ask, however, that they be made equitably.

I hope that once the people have had a chance to speak, the Portland Public Library’s leaders will reverse this decision.

 

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Portland Public Library’s latest plan:               [ LIBRARY BUDGET – PDF]

Close Reiche                        [LATEST Save Our Library! FLYER – PDF]
Burbank remains open 40 hours per week
Riverton and Peaks remain open 20 hours per week
Munjoy’s hours increase to 40 hours per week
 
Check out the new Save the Branches blog, created by Ed Democracy: www.savethebranches.wordpress.com This is an important site for library users in all parts of Portland. Many wonder, if Reiche can be dismissed so easily, which other branch will be the next victim. Thanks, Ed, for helping us to keep up to speed and to share information!
 
Ongoing coverage of efforts to save our branch libraries is also available at these news websites:
 
Attachments: (1) Library budget (2) Meeting and contact info (Please note: The City Council’s budget workshop (May 12, 5 p.m., City Hall) is open to the public. No comments will be taken but attendance will be noted. Please attend if possible!
 
5.08.08 From Councilor John Anton to several residents that had contacted him:
Thank you all for contacting me to express your concern about the proposed closing of Reiche library. I share your concern and I wanted to take a moment to offer my thoughts on where we are and what we are heading.
 
WHERE WE ARE:    [ LIBRARY BUDGET – PDF]
Attached to this email is a copy of the budget that the Library Trustees provided to the City Council at the beginning of the Finance Committee’s budget review process. On pg. 6 of the 11 page pdf file, you will note that the Library’s proposed budget of $3,988,509 includes funding for all 3 school-based branches (Reiche, EECS and Riverton. The library’s FY 09 budget submittal has 18% of its revenues coming from outside sources and 82% from the city.
 
The library’s budget submittal proposed increasing the city’s contribution to the library by approx. $160,000 (compare the 1st and 3rd columns on page 1 of the pdf). The city manager responded by reducing the library’s requested amount of city funding by approx. $210,000 (compare the 3rd and 4th columns on page 1 of the pdf). The result was a net $50,000 decrease in the city’s contribution to the library from FY 08 to FY 09 (compare the 1st and 4th columns on page 1 of the pdf). The Finance Committee of the City Council has recommended increasing the city’s contribution to the library by $20,000, which would result in a net decrease of $30,000 in the city’s contribution to the library from FY 08 to FY 09 and a $190,000 “hole” in the budget proposed by the Library to the City.
 
The Manager’s proposal has been on the table since April 1 and until last week, the Finance Committee had not heard that the Trustees were planning to close the Reiche branch to fill the “hole.” As a Finance Committee member, this is frustrating because I believe that we worked hard to fine tune the budget to diminish “quality of life” impacts (e.g., restoring funding for Kiwanis Pool) while living within our very real fiscal constraints. Without knowledge of potential impacts of budget proposals, we could not make informed decisions.
 
MY OBSERVATIONS:
I have no understanding of the context in which the decision to close Reiche was made. I want to know:
 
a)      What are the Library’s long-term plans for all its branches or is this simply a reaction to a one year budget shortfall?
b)      How were these long-term plans developed? Whose input was solicited? How was it solicited?
 
Who “owns” our three school-based community centers (Reiche, EECS and Riverton)? Programs are run through these locations by (at least) three distinct but interdependent entities – the Library, the School Department and the City. My limited experience has been that the integration of those three entities is by no means seamless. The managerial and political result is that, while the community centers have huge benefit, their activities occupy only tiny fractions of the budgets of the Library, the Schools and the City and, as such, have no champions in the budget exercise. West End residents have made great strides in recent years in demanding more attention to the Reiche Community Center. They (we) must now demand that the Library Trustees engage with the School Dept and the City Administration in planning about how all three school-based community centers will be valued and managed.
 
What is the Library’s strategy for diversifying its revenues? The library’s revenues are derived roughly 80% from the city and 20% from other sources. This year’s budget proposal proposed increasing revenues from the city by $210,000 while increasing revenues from other sources by only $2,500. Given the city’s long-term revenue challenges, it is unrealistic for the library to rely solely on the City to manage its expense increases.
 
WHAT NEXT?
The City Council only appropriates money for the Library; we do not govern its operations. The Library is instead governed by its Board of Trustees, which authorizes the final budget and policy decisions. Those who are concerned with changes in the Library system should attend the next meeting of the Library’s Trustees, which will be held on Wednesday May 14 at 4 pm at the Main Library.
 
My request to the Trustees is as follows:
 
1)         Slow down. Find a different interim solution for covering the budget shortfall while engaging in a community dialogue about the future of the library system.
2)         Work with the School Dept. and City to integrate service delivery at all 3 school-based community centers.
3)         Diversify your income stream. Fund raise, change your fee structure.
4)         Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. The Library is in the home stretch of a capital campaign which will then segue into greater efforts to raise money for the Annual Fund. Failure to engage with the community about the Library’s plans for the future will undermine those efforts. Peace, John
 
5.08.08 From State Rep. Jon Hinck to John Anton and residents that had contacted John
Thank you for forwarding this analysis.  It helps to fill in some of the gaps in the decision making process thus far.   You have also set forth questions that I think many of us would like to see answered.  What I do not know at this stage is who the person who will provide definitive answers to the questions.  I feel that people concerned about the fate of the Reiche branch library have a legitimate wariness over these kinds of decisions that are spread over or appear to fall in between more than one city body.  The process to date seems to have gone something like this: first, the city has arrived at a sum to allocate to the budget of the library system; then, faced with a reduced allocation, the library trustee have decide on what is the best or easiest way to divide money within the system.  It seems this two step process got us here and led to the sudden and surprise announcement of last week.  At this stage that the city should step back and look at this situation another way.  Acknowledging the city’s severe budget constraints, some still needs to assess whether closing an important community asset in the neighborhood that you and I know well is proper, just and smart when compared to all other ways to reduce expenses or increase revenues.  The Reiche branch library does not cost this city much money but, as you know, it does serve a vital function.  Please let us all know of any answers you receive and I will be pleased to work with you to find another way to approach this.  Jon Hinck 
 
 

 

 [LATEST Save Our Library! FLYER – PDF]

 

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