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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]

 

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

 

Effort under way to keep Portland library branch open
 
West End residents say restoring $30,000 would save the Reiche Branch and allow for more planning.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer [Portland Press Herald]
 
May 15, 2008
 
West End residents and others are drumming up support for a budget proposal that would stave off the anticipated closing of the Portland Public Library’s Reiche Branch.

City Councilor David Marshall, who represents the West End, plans to ask the council on Monday to restore $30,000 to the library, giving it $3.1 million for 2008-09, the same amount as this year.

Library officials say the $30,000 will give them a year to analyze their facilities and services and work with the community to develop a long-range plan to address rising costs, limited financial resources and changing library needs.

“We need to secure that $30,000 to buy some breathing room for everyone, especially the kids,” Stephen Podgajny, executive director, said at Wednesday’s board of trustees’ meeting at the main library.

Board members urged an audience of about 50 to call or e-mail councilors before they vote on the Reiche Branch issue during final deliberation of a $185 million city budget starting at 7 p.m. Monday.

“The ball, in the short term, is in their court,” said Nathan Smith, a board vice president and former city councilor.

Library officials shocked West End residents earlier this month when they said they would close the Reiche Branch in response to a $30,000 reduction in city funding. The council initially considered cutting $50,000 from the current funding level.

Then on Monday, library officials gave the council a 15-page memo stating that the current organization and staffing of the main library on Congress Street and its five neighborhood branches “is not sustainable.”

Library officials said they targeted the Reiche Branch because it has the lowest circulation of the city’s six library outlets. They also said Portland has more library outlets per capita (10,776 residents per outlet) than any other city in New England.

At Wednesday’s trustees’ meeting, West End residents described the Reiche Branch as a critical resource in a neighborhood that includes recent immigrants who don’t speak English and longtime residents who live in mansions along the Western Promenade.

“It’s a real melting pot,” said Jo Coyne, a retired school librarian who is a leader of the West End Neighborhood Association. “(The library is) sorely, sorely needed.”

Coyne noted that while Portland taxpayers fund about 82 percent of the library’s budget, the council appoints only one representative to the 19-member board of trustees, which decides how to spend the money.

The board includes several members from towns outside Portland because the state gives the library about $180,000 each year to serve all residents of Cumberland, York and Oxford counties, Podgajny said.

Looking to Monday, Marshall said it’s uncertain whether a majority of the nine-member council will support his $30,000 proposal. Councilors John Anton, Kevin Donoghue and Cheryl Leeman have indicated they’ll back his effort, he said. Councilors James Cohen and Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said they probably will support the measure.

Mayor Edward Suslovic said he supports keeping the Reiche Branch open while library officials develop a long-range plan, but he may push to restore less than $30,000. Councilor Daniel Skolnik said he’s undecided. Councilor Jill Duson didn’t return calls for comment.

“It has the potential to be a close vote,” Marshall said at the trustees’ meeting. “(Restoring $30,000) might not save the Reiche library forever, but it will give us a chance to have a community dialogue.”

Marshall said the $30,000 would come from a contingency fund, so it wouldn’t increase the budget.

With $30,000, the library would be able to retain two part-time librarians who operate the branch at Reiche Community School 20 hours per week, Podgajny said.

The library would still have to lay off the equivalent of five full-time employees, all of them at the main library. It would be closed on Mondays as a result.

Some residents questioned whether Monday is the best day to close the main library.

Others questioned plans to temporarily move children’s services from the main library to the Munjoy Hill Branch during an $8.5 million renovation of the main library, which starts next spring.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

…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.

 

 

It’s board’s job to give Reiche library another year [PPH Editorial]

It would provide time to create a comprehensive plan for the full system.

May 14, 2008

Daniel Webster, arguing almost 190 years ago for the independence of Dartmouth College from state control, said it was “a small college, and yet there are those who love it.”

The same is apparently true of Portland’s smallest branch library, the one at Reiche School.

A proposal by the Portland Public Library’s board to close the facility, which has the lowest lending rate of any of the city’s five neighborhood branches, has led to a local outcry.

Still, given limited city resources and other cuts that have been implemented to keep overall local spending down, closing a library branch is not an unreasonable decision.

Now, however, the board is considering keeping the Reiche branch open for one more year if the City Council restores a $30,000 cut.

But that amount represents just 1 percent of the $3.1 million the library is asking the city to provide for its operations in the coming year, which is the same amount as last year.

So $30,000 seems like a small enough amount that the board could raise it from its own resources.

The board itself has pointed out in its projected spending plan, to be taken up by the council on Monday, that the library’s current organization and staffing isn’t sustainable over the longer term.

The library plans to lay off the equivalent of five full-time employees at the main branch on Congress Street, which would result in that building being closed on Mondays.

The board is planning a two-year, $8.5 million renovation of that structure. It’s understandable that other funding would be tight, but the board has promised to develop a long-range proposal to balance income and resources.

Finding $30,000 itself to buy a year to create a sustainable plan seems like an achievable goal.

 

 

 

Hello All –

Attached are the materials that the Library Director and Trustees provided to the Council for our workshop last night. In the materials and at the workshop, the Director indicated that the Trustees are willing to keep the Reiche Branch open for the coming year if the Council can restore $30,000 to the Library budget. I very much appreciate the Trustee’s offer.

I believe that the Library needs to keep Reiche open for the coming year because the Library Director and Trustees need at least that amount of time to work with the public, city staff and the School Dept. to develop a long-term facilities plan or what the Director calls a “sustainable system architecture.” The Library is not alone in this challenge – the Council is seeing it through the activities it funds, particularly in light of the cuts we have had to make this year (and which I expect to remain in place for the coming years).

My reading of the attached is that the Trustees have acted in good faith to develop a rational response to the immediate funding challenges they face. The next step (and a step that can only happen in good faith if the Council can restore the $30,000 to the Library budget) is to reach out to the full city community (certainly not just users of the Reiche branch) to present the plan, hear what’s missing or what might be overemphasized, adjust the plan and have it inform both annual fund planning and next year’s budget request to the city. I am under no illusions that such a planning exercise will necessarily result in the Reiche branch staying open beyond the coming year – however, a planning exercise that begins with a closed Reiche branch precludes a decision to include a Reiche branch in the Library’s long-term “system architecture.”

While I live half a block from Reiche and my older daughter will start kindergarten there next year, I am by no means wed to the conclusion that the Reiche branch must stay open for good. I am wed to the belief that the Library must work with all neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income elementary school children (which includes the communities served by Reiche, EECS, Riverton and Presumpscott schools) to ensure access to high quality library services. I don’t know exactly what “high quality library services” means and I suspect different people have different opinions of what that means, but we can’t know what it means and what an alternative delivery system might look like until we have the conversation.

Next Monday 5/19 at the 7pm Council meeting, Councilor Marshall will offer an amendment to add $30,000 back into the Library budget to restore the Reiche Branch. The increase will be offset by a reduction in $30,000 from the contingency fund. The Finance Committee put $140,000 into the contingency fund with plans for about $100,000 to $120,000 of the total.

Please support the Trustees in their willingness to keep the Reiche branch open while we engage in a public discussion regarding a “sustainable system architecture.” Additionally, please ask the City Council to support Councilor Marshall’s amendment to keep the Reiche Branch Library open for the coming year and give the Library Director and Trustees a year to develop a long-term facilities plan with public input.

Thanks so much, John
Library Materials for Council Workshop [PDF]

 

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.