Last night's grand finale featured cameos by Peter Mancini, Lisa Churchville, and others. The articulate and well-informed audience as if by mutual consent raised one essential question: Why is PPL so committed to the main library and so ready to abandon the branches?
They eventually got a good answer. (Answers like this make you wonder why PPL passes up opportunities to make allies out of the public as opposed to enemies--and maybe enemies is an overstatement, but the first few meetings certainly didn't engender much goodwill--why is there so little communication between the private nonprofit and the people it serves?) The answer was that the city wants its money to go to the branches as opposed to the main library, so the current structure--with PPL funding the main library and public funds going to the outlying branches--is as much a product of city priorities as PPL priorities.
The problem remains that the branches are no one's priority, but now it looks like the branches will remain open. It's "services" (read: reference librarians) that are going to be cut.
I had to leave early--in the middle of a lively debate about the Springfield model versus the New York City model (for combining public and private funds to support public libraries)--but I did learn alittle about the Board's interpretation of its mission statement, and no, it includes no specific commitment to the branches. But there is one line I like: "We constantly reassess our services and methods and try to see ourselves through the public’s eyes. " So how do they see themselves now?