The Providence Community Library serves nine different neighborhoods across Providence. It formed in 2009 when the Providence Public Library lacked the resources to keep all of its facilities in operation; a dedicated group of people worked hard to seek support to keep these branches open under a different name and leadership, and it paid off. Nearly seven years later, the nine branches of the PCL serve hundreds of thousands of people, making a difference every day. But they are facing a $100,000 shortfall in the next three months and are seeking $250,000 from the City of Providence to operate.
Here’s where Moonie comes in.
Moonie, you see, is a big fan of libraries. He loves all those rows of books and magazines and DVDs and computers, and he loves even more how kids and adults of all ages can access those resources to learn and laugh and grow. So Moonie led the way today where he planned on being front and center at PCL’s rally at City Hall to ask Mayor Elorza for funding for our important libraries.
Inside City Hall, Moonie oohed and ahhed at the thousands of postcards PCL volunteers had worked hard to string together into strands. They hung on every railing of the beautiful building.
Moonie tried reading a few on a nearby post. He’d filled one out himself at our local PCL branch, his teeny pink tongue sticking out in concentration as he printed out how important the library was to him, not just a place to take out books and media but as a place that fostered culture through speakers’ presentations and music and dancing and classes and workshops. It was too hard to find his postcard among all the many thousands, so he instead enjoyed reading other patrons’ postcards.
In addition, each branch of the PCL delivered an Easter basket of even more handwritten postcards to Mayor Elorza’s attention.
Moonie was overjoyed to see Dhana Whiteing among the rally attendees. Dhana is one of the PCL’s wonderful librarians. She is also a talented photographer, and Moonie was tickled, uh, pink to catch her snapping and sharing photos.
Moonie was also thrilled to see one of his Big Nazo creature pals stalking the City Hall hallways (while being stalked by excited and curious children) in support of the PCL.
Energetic speaker and rally leader Cedric De Leon recognized all nine branches of the PCL, whose representatives held various signs and banners around City Hall and cheered loudly for each other. There was no shushing in this crowd!
Then, shortly into the speeches, Mayor Elorza came up to the microphone to address the crowd.
He acknowledged that it would be irresponsible to promise funding at this point, and yet he said he has heard the voice of the PCL, not only today, literally, booming through cheers and speeches outside of his office, but all year long through the good and hard work of the libraries and their staff and supporters – and he vowed to do what he could for the PCL’s budget.
Moonie cheered for the mayor and then found a few more postcards he liked.
The speeches continued, including some impassioned examples of how the library had helped several of its patrons, from helping a woman now attaining a nurse practitioner degree originally learn English to keeping kids safe and enriched after school. We also heard from Providence City Councilman Samuel Zurier, who pushed for the PCL to receive $250,000 in the budget. Unfortunately, that funding did not receive the support of his leadership, but Councilman Zurier has not given up. We also learned from Mr. De Leon that Providence Community Library has operated on a tenth of the budget of the City of Worcester despite having an equal city population. We also fall far behind other similarly-sized cities like Springfield on library funding despite the clear need in Providence for community hubs providing educational materials and programming.
Finally, Moonie and I had to leave, and we relinquished our spot near the steps. Dozens of people surrounded us on all sides of the railings, all down the main stairs of City Hall, and on the lower and upper stories, looking up or looking down at the action, as we headed for the elevators.
Moonie suddenly stopped and hooted in joy; his favorite puppy dog from Big Nazo had arrived and was hugging the colorful creature Moonie had been admiring during the rally. And I could see what Moonie was thinking, as his shiny amber eyes betray his thoughts sometimes: that hug between two wonderful creatures, a human with a dog head and a rainbow-colored and tentacled alien, personified the way the PCL reaches across lines and colors and classes and finds a funky way to unite people.
Let’s all hope that Mayor Elorza and the City Council can help out the PCL, as they depend on the City of Providence for 85% of their budget and have a dire need for facility updates, new educational resources, and more to continuing serving our populations. As one speaker said, not everyone knows what it’s like to be poor; although the PCL serves ALL residents, if the PCL isn’t adequately funded, many Providence individuals and families will have nowhere else to turn for the book and computer access, classes, and workshops they depend on from their local PCL branches. In the meantime, you can donate to the PCL here.