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  • Wednesday, September 01, 2021 1:01 PM | Anonymous

    Congratulations to Ed Garcia, director of the Cranston Public Library, for being awarded the 2021 Emerson Greenaway Award by the New England Library Association!

    Each year NELA awards the Emerson Greenaway Award to an individual who has provided distinguished service in librarianship.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NELA made the decision not to present this award in 2020. As a result, two outstanding individuals are presented with this honor in 2021: Jennifer Alvino and Ed Garcia.

    Jennifer Alvino: Director of the Windham Public Library in Windham, Maine

    By the time Jen graduated with an MS in Library and Information Services in 2008 from Simmons College, she had already dedicated many years to working in public libraries.  She began her career in 1994 as a Page at the Portland Public Library.  Since then, she has held a variety of positions, from office assistant, substitute, and Lending Services and Systems Coordinator in Portland, to Technology Coordinator, Head of Lending Services, and Interim Assistant Director at the Walker Memorial Library, before becoming the Director of the Windham Public Library in 2013. 

    Jen’s influence as a librarian extends well beyond her service area.  She has made significant contributions to the Maine Library Association as a longtime active member, recently serving as the Association President from 2019-2021.  MLA named her Outstanding Librarian of the year in 2014.  Jen has also been active in the American Library Association for many years, was the ALA Maine Chapter Councilor from 2014-2017, and has been active on many committees. 

    In addition to her many achievements, Jen is described by her colleagues as collaborative, thoughtful, dedicated, humble in her leadership, and generous with her time.  As a former New England Library Leadership Symposium attendee and former ALA Leadership Institute graduate, Jen freely gives her time to mentor students and colleagues whenever they need guidance.  She is a fierce advocate, having been instrumental in guiding a team that championed students’ right to read in response to adverse legislation proposed in Maine in 2019.  Jen’s successful work in defeating this legislation was important and instructive for other states’ efforts to defeat similar legislation.  Library workers across the country, but in particular those within the New England region, benefit greatly from the selfless work Jen has done over the course of her career.

    Edward Garcia: Director of the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI

    Ed has made an enormous impact on libraries in Rhode Island and across the country since graduating from the University of Rhode Island’s GLIS program.  He started as the Assistant Director of the Adams Memorial Library in 2008, but has since spent the majority of his career in Cranston, serving as the Information Access Librarian, Technology Coordinator, and has been the Director since 2012.  Ed was the first library in the state to go fine-free for teens and children, providing framework for other libraries in the state to follow suit, thus removing barriers to library access among RI youth.  Under Ed’s leadership, the Cranston Public Library was the winner of the Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize.

    Ed has been an active member of the Rhode Island Library Association for many years and served as the President of the Ocean State Libraries from 2014-2017.  Ed has also served as a member of the American Library Association’s executive board since 2018, where he is lauded for his ability to guide discussions towards productive outcomes, and for his ability to bring people with strong and opposing viewpoints together.

    Ed is known among his staff, colleagues, and friends for his strong leadership, collaborative spirit, and his willingness to help develop young talent.  Ed freely shares his knowledge and willingly mentors those within his circle, and is known to be fair-minded, forward-thinking, generous, humble and likable.  He is a dedicated librarian with a strong collaborative vision.  Ed is always the first to acknowledge and praise the contributions of others, preferring not to stand in the spotlight alone.  He is a true leader who has had a positive impact on libraries both within the New England region and around the country.

    Please join the Rhode Island Library Association and New England Library Association in thanking both Jen Alvino and Ed Garcia for their outstanding contributions to libraries over the course of their careers.  They will be presented with the distinguished Emerson Greenaway Award at the NELA conference on October 18th, 2021.

  • Monday, August 30, 2021 12:41 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    After nearly 38 years working as a reference librarian at the North Providence Union Free Library, Joseph Uscio counts the past year and half as his most memorable time spent working in the public library. Despite being closed for 2 months, NPR got back into action with curbside pickup, like so many libraries, keeping the staff very busy. Joe related that, despite the lack of library delivery, he and his coworkers served patrons by pulling their holds, weeding the collection, and offering a free library of those weeded books. “People really like it,” he enthused. 

    When asked what he plans to do in retirement, he quipped that he will spend more time with his 10-year-old son, “before I fall apart.” He will continue cultivating his love of Japanese culture which began in 1990. He became friends with local residents originally from Japan after asking if they could help him learn more about a folding screen he owned. Those folks have since returned to Japan, meaning he has no one with whom to practice his Japanese language learning. On the other hand, Joe is an accomplished player of the shinobue, a type of Japanese flute. He was recently asked to play at the Black Ships Festival in Newport, but he declined. He enjoys martial arts since it is a lifetime pursuit. He has a particular interest in Japanese swordsmanship. Martial arts is something he shares with his son who has been involved with karate and kung fu since he was 5.

    Joe is well-known in North Providence and is often stopped at the grocery store by folks asking him if their books have come in. He said he feels a bit like a celebrity in town, so the feature story in the Valley Breeze seemed par for the course. Working in the same place for so many years means that he actually worked at the smaller library that existed on George Street, because NPR relocated to its current location on Mineral Spring Avenue.

    Joe loves helping people, and the relationships he has forged with patrons and especially staff, whom he considers as an extended family. With his interests in music, science, art, and literature, Joe feels that to be an effective librarian, a person’s entire background comes into play. 


  • Saturday, August 07, 2021 2:24 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    A jam-packed Drag Storytime, featuring local drag performers Ninny Nothin and Randi Xtra Xtra, took place at 11:00am and 1:00pm at West Warwick Public Library (WWPL) on June 26, 2021, to celebrate Pride and showcase the diversity of the community. Both events were full, with 70 parents, teens, and children attending each session. 

    Rashaa Al-Sasah, Head of Youth Services, and Emma Brelsford, Youth Services Librarian, organized and hosted the events. The two librarians worked with the drag artists to select age-appropriate materials to read during the program.

    According to Al-Sasah, “The event went off without a hitch despite the pushback and protests of people who were opposed to the event taking place, with a majority of this [opposition] coming from outside of the West Warwick community.”  

    A great deal of planning was necessary for the day to run smoothly. “We planned in advance how we would have attendees enter the library and parking lot,” Al-Sasah said. “We had check-in points both at our parking lot and door as the library was not open for library services that day and [was open] only for this special event. This created and ensured a safe environment for all our patrons in attendance.”

    Drag artists Ninny Nothin (left) and Randi Xtra Xtra (right)

    Titles selected for storytime reading included Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry, Be Who You Are by Todd Parr, Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, and Peanut Goes for the Gold by Jonathan Van Ness. Each book is well known for themes of inclusion and acceptance. Songs were also used to engage the audience.





    Books that were read during WWPL's Drag Storytime

    Participants from within and outside the WWPL community were involved with staging the event and contributing to a safe and welcoming atmosphere. Volunteers from the LGBTQIA+ community support and empowerment groups Parasol Patrol and Free Mom Hugs were on hand to redirect attention away from protestors. A bubble machine provided further diversion. Attendees entering the library lobby were greeted by staff, and volunteers at tables represented community and health groups PFLAG of Greater Providence, Youth Pride, Inc. and Thundermist Health Center. Al-Sasah intentionally organized the lobby so that “parents and children could pick up information and swag and talk to representatives of the organizations,” learn about available resources, and make community connections on their way into the event.

    Volunteers from Parasol Patrol
    make themselves available outside the library 

    The audience greeted the drag performers with great enthusiasm and applause. In between the reading of each book, Al-Sasah and Brelsford joined the drag performers to lead a singalong to songs including “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The More We Get Together.” After Drag Storytime was over, attendees were invited to make a fairy wand craft and pose with the drag artists for photos.

    Drag performers and WWPL staff lead the audience in a singalong

    “It was a wonderful day with parents and children who were both LGBTQIA+ and allies who enjoyed listening to stories about friendship and being yourself,” said Al-Sasah.

    WWPL staff reported that the drag performers “were very happy with the event, particularly [with] the care and measures” taken to ensure the safety and comfort of performers and attendees alike. Safety was of primary concern to Al-Sasah, particularly since “one of the performers was the center of a lot of online harassment” and “we wanted to make sure they knew they were safe.”

    “We had a lot of positive reactions overall but there was some negative attention, in particular on social media,” Al-Sasah continued. “Two local Catholic priests were opposed to the event, [as were other] religious groups from outside of our community who sought to have the event canceled.” 

    Nevertheless, Al-Sasah is very happy with how the program went and felt that it “was certainly one of the highlights of my library career thus far to see all the happy kids and families thank us and the artists for telling them and their children to just ‘be who you are!’” The draw of the event has even resulted in newly devoted patrons to the library.

    Volunteers from Parasol Patrol escort patrons to and from the building

    Drag Storytime was an especially important event because “WWPL is committed to incorporating equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice into all our efforts and practices,” said Al-Sasah. “Working in West Warwick for several years, I found that we had a lot of LGBTQIA+ youth and families in our community [and] we didn't have any programs that were for our younger children. I thought this would be the perfect type of program for these kids and families to know they belonged and were welcome at the library.”

    Al-Sasah continued, “We were thrown a lot of unexpected curveballs with the backlash but to us, this meant we were doing this for all the right reasons and [this] only further solidified our purpose in celebrating the diversity of our patrons.” 

    Will there be another Drag Storytime in West Warwick any time soon? “We certainly would love to host it again,” said Al-Sasah, “but have not made any plans just yet. But I would love to see more RI libraries host one, too!”

  • Saturday, August 07, 2021 2:05 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    Welcome to the RILA Bulletin Spotlight Series, where we feature the important work of a different RILA or RI library section, committee, roundtable, initiative, or organization in each issue.

    Questions or suggestions for this column? Please send an email to communications@rilibraries.org.

    August 2021 Spotlight: School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI)

    This month, with the new school year right around the corner, we talked to Joan Eldredge-Mouradjian, President of School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI). Joan is the School Library Media Specialist at Narragansett Pier School in Narragansett, RI.

    What is the mission or purpose of SLRI?

    Our mission is three-fold: to promote the improvement of instruction through opportunities that broaden the professional knowledge, understanding, and experience of our members; to provide leadership in defining, interpreting, and promoting effective library media programs to the community; and to serve as facilitator between the State Department of Education, Office of Library and Information Services, professional organizations, and the general public. 

    What made you personally interested in being involved with this organization?

    I was really inspired to become an active member of SLRI by my friend Sarah Hunicke, who is a past president of the organization. Sarah is passionate about libraries. I was always a member of SLRI, but I think I took for granted all the work and advocacy the organization accomplishes on behalf of school librarians. Over the past years, some districts have cut librarian positions at all levels, reduced funding, and really minimized the importance of a school library staffed by a Library Media Specialist. I thought it was time to give back to my beloved profession and the organization that has supported libraries.  

    What is SLRI’s proudest achievement?

    After nearly two years of work with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and the RILA Legislative Action Committee, SLRI made a presentation to the RI Council on Elementary and Secondary Education requesting that RIDE endorse the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National School Library Standards. At the end of the meeting, the Council voted unanimously to accept the Standards. This endorsement reinforces the importance of librarians and school libraries in Rhode Island and recognizes the value of a standards-based library curriculum, which is a critical component of student academic success.

    RIDE has since officially endorsed the AASL National School Library Standards, which are used to guide school library curriculum in RI. The endorsement solidified RIDE’s belief that strong school libraries and certified school librarians play a key role in student learning and achievement. These Standards emphasize important aspects of student learning and development that allow students to develop the abilities to think, to create, to share, and to grow. 

    What ongoing challenges does SLRI face?

    The biggest challenge for SLRI is to ensure that school librarians are recognized for their role in the success of all students. The roles and responsibilities of school librarians have evolved in recent decades to meet the needs of today’s learning initiatives. It is more important than ever, in this age of information and disinformation, that students are given the research skills necessary for college and career readiness and the skills to be informed and active citizens. Now, with the plethora of information available to students, librarians are needed more than ever.

    If money and time were not an issue, what is SLRI’s number one wish list item to support its mission or purpose?

    If money were no object, SLRI would ensure that every school in Rhode Island was staffed with a certified Library Media Specialist, and that the LMS would have a budget that allowed for the purchase of proper resources for every student. 

    What partnerships with other groups or individuals (inside or outside of RILA) have been most beneficial for SLRI to meet its goals or objectives?

    Being part of RILA has made SLRI a stronger organization. For example, SLRI and the RILA Legislative Action Committee worked together to promote the adoption of the AASL Standards by RIDE. The Rhode Island Library and Information Network for Kids (RILINK) supports libraries, students, and teachers with training and shared resources. RILINK has been invaluable to the SLRI community. [Editor’s note: RILINK is the membership-based statewide consortium of school libraries.]

    Is SLRI looking for new members, and how can those interested get involved?

    One of the goals for SLRI is to encourage all school librarians in Rhode Island to join the organization. Involved members will help SLRI to continue advocating for librarians in RI. Please join SLRI or renew membership by clicking here to access the RILA membership web page. Librarians wishing to become involved in SLRI can click here to visit the SLRI web page and contact any board member for information.

    What book are you reading now that you’d like to promote?

    The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I loved this book because it focuses on a little-known story of female British code breakers in World War II. This is a page-turner, with characters I cared about.





  • Saturday, August 07, 2021 10:25 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    As a RILA member you may have read recently about the dissolution of the COLA section. Some of you may never have heard of the group, so here’s the scoop:

     1982

    Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was on the radio, “E.T.” was on the big screen, EPCOT opened in Orlando, FL, a severe recession began in the U.S., and the Coalition of Library Advocates formed.

    Within weeks of the original group’s formation, President Reagan had proposed zero funding for libraries in the federal budget. COLA collected over 7,000 signatures to protest the cut. That spring, COLA members presented the petitions to their Congressional delegation in Washington, DC on Legislative Day. Library funding was preserved.

    COLA began as an outgrowth of the 1979 Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services, which was held to prepare for the first White House Conference on Library and Information Services. Until 1985, when it was incorporated, COLA was a loose “organization of organizations.”


     1984

    By 1984, it became clear that COLA needed to incorporate and to achieve federal nonprofit status. It also became clear that COLA’s membership base should be primarily laypeople with input on the Board from a representative of each of the state’s professional library associations. Funds were needed to carry out its mission, making membership dues a necessity.

    A 1984 conference, “Libraries in the Future of Education: A RI Perspective,” was chaired by Richard Olsen, then Director of the James P. Adams Library at Rhode Island College. This was the library community’s response—the first in the nation—to A Nation at Risk, published by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which deplored the poor quality of education in the United States and proposed a fix that said not one word about libraries. COLA’s conference brought keynote speakers, panels of educators, and representatives of public, school, special, and academic libraries together to discuss mutual concerns. It may have been the first time that educators and librarians met together in such a forum. The participants recommended ways of bringing together teachers, school and public librarians, students, and parents. They offered ideas on political action, advocacy, public relations, and—most importantly—the need for groups to communicate with each other.


     1986

    COLA is instrumental in helping to pass—by 68% of the vote—the 1986 Rhode Island Constitutional amendment mandating state support of public libraries. Rose Ellen Reynolds, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and later a COLA Chair, shepherded the amendment through.


     1989

    This set the scene for the 1989 legislation—advocated strongly by COLA—that requires Rhode Island to fund its public libraries by at least 25% of operating expenses. That mandate, combined with a generous state library construction program, makes the State of Rhode Island a national leader in library funding.

    A statewide library fair, held in Warwick Mall. Then-Director of DSLS, Fay Zipkowitz, pranced around the Warwick Mall in a stiflingly hot gorilla suit, exhorting shoppers to learn about library services at the exhibits prepared by all types of Rhode Island libraries and library organizations during a statewide library fair. There were television and computer demonstrations, film showings, and a “Stump the RI Historical Society” exhibit.


     1991 COLA helped to organize the 1991 Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services in preparation for the second White House Conference. Later, the group agreed on eight top-priority recommendations that became a blueprint for action for the Rhode Island library community. COLA published these priorities in a widely circulated Agenda for the Nineties.
     1994


    1994 brought the renowned and hilarious Arch Lustberg to Rhode Island to teach laypeople and professionals techniques for giving testimony and persuading others.

     2006


    A conference that brought together library Friends groups and library Trustees to share their experiences in supporting libraries was greeted with enthusiasm.

    COLA Sweethearts: Each year the group honored a local library supporter as their “Sweetheart of the Year,” because the annual meeting had been held in February. These library advocates included the late Senator Claiborne Pell and our current Senator Jack Reed, along with our local grassroots supporters, including Joan Ress Reeves. COLA also awarded scholarships to URI GSLIS students.

  • Saturday, August 07, 2021 10:00 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    Greenville Library staff took programming outside -- way out! Hitting the trail, the park, and the library lawn, Greenville staff collaborated with community groups and volunteers to connect with Smithfield patrons.

    Here are a few highlights from the Greenville Library staff from the 2021 Summer Reading program:

    The morning of Thursday, July 15th, shaped up to be a warm summer day and just right for an outdoor program. Children and their parents/caregivers joined volunteer Renee Finlay and Children’s Librarian Babs Wells for the Woodland Whispers Story and Craft program at the Smithfield Conservation Center. The families enjoyed a read aloud story while sharing lively connections about the summer activities they have been doing together. 

    Renee then led a guided hike, which featured the native plants that can be found on the trails. Children and their grown-ups also foraged for leaves, twigs, and other natural materials for the printmaking craft. While using either paintbrushes, sponges, or finger painting, beautiful nature prints were created by children and adults! Many of the patrons who attended this program asked when we can all get together again. Renee and Babs already have plans for another outdoor library program  at the conservation center in October.

    Also on July 15, Children’s Librarian Babs Wells and Assistant Director Cassie Patterson took the newly minted “Greenville Library Book Buggy” on the road to spread the word on summer programs. The buggy was purchased with funds from the OLIS Summer Mini Grant. We packed the cart full of donated books, info on summer at the Greenville Library, and a few surprises for the kids. The cart was a hit among young and old at a food truck and fireworks event held at Deerfield Park in Smithfield. Visiting with patrons we’ve missed seeing at the library and making new friends was the highlight of this outreach effort. We look forward to more adventures in the community with our book buggy.

    Later in July, the library collaborated with Cadence Academy Preschool in Smithfield to present Storytime Safari. Developed by Patty DeFrancesco, this program brought children outside under the library’s sequoia tree.  Children listened to a story read by Patty and then explored stations set up with safari-themed crafts. As they completed each craft, children presented their safari passport to be stamped by one of our volunteers. Participants were able to remain socially distanced as they navigated the stations in small groups.

  • Tuesday, July 27, 2021 3:37 PM | Anonymous


    The Office of Library and Information Services and RILA are partnering to support professional development for individuals interested in advancing their understanding of systemic racism and developing practical skills to foster antiracist library environments. OLIS and RILA will provide a limited number of scholarships for individuals to attend Library Journal’s

    Fostering an Antiracist Library Culture, a 3-week online course that will run virtually on Tuesdays from September 28 - October 12. This opportunity is open to all library staff from any type of RI library and RI public library trustees. Visit the Fostering an Antiracist Library Culture course page (www.libraryjournal.com/?event=equity-in-action-sept-2021) to learn more about the course, see an outline of the schedule and read about the presenters.

    Please complete the online application to be considered for this scholarship, which will cover the full cost of enrolling in the course. OLIS and RILA will announce scholarship winners no later than August 27. Applications are due by August 20 at 4:00 PM
  • Friday, July 02, 2021 3:57 PM | Anonymous

    Congratulations to the School Librarians of Rhode Island section! Their documentary "Overdue: The Value of School Librarians" was named as an official selection of the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Green Mountain International Film Festival.

    SLRI produced this short documentary-style advocacy film to show the value of school librarians. Anyone is free to view and share the video to use for advocacy purposes. The full 15-minute film is licensed under Creative Commons public license 4.0 and is available to view and share on Vimeo at this URL:

    https://vimeo.com/445826301/def52b7668

    In addition to the film, SLRI has prepared resources to help viewers start advocating for their school librarians. These include a film viewing welcome letter, a film discussion guide, and an advocacy letter template to send to your school board, principal, newspaper, parent groups, administration, or any group that has a stake in education.

  • Monday, June 07, 2021 4:47 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)


    The Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) presented its annual awards at the RILA Annual Conference, which was held virtually June 3-4, 2021. The theme for the conference was “Well + Connected: Libraries and Healthy Communities,” and the recipients of this year’s awards exemplify the library community’s commitment to creating and supporting strong and healthy communities.

    "This is an exceptional slate of award recipients,” said outgoing RILA President Julie Holden, “and we are honored to highlight and promote their work, especially our library supporters, former Representative Robert Jacquard and Mary Ann and Walter Slocomb."

    Congratulations to the winners of this year's RILA Awards:

    Library Champion Award: Robert Jacquard, Former State Representative, District 17, Cranston

    “During his long tenure at the State House, Jacquard was a champion for Rhode Island libraries and a tireless advocate for full funding of state grant-in-aid for public libraries,” said Ed Garcia, director of the Cranston Public Library. “For his unwavering support of libraries and his hard work and advocacy for increased library funding, Jacquard exemplifies the qualities and dedication of a library champion and is deserving of recognition with this award.”

    “I really appreciate this award from the library association,” said Robert Jacquard. “Libraries have been as important as local schools to me during my time in the general assembly. I think we’re going to see, after the pandemic, that libraries are more important to people than ever.”

    Outstanding Librarian Award: Michelle Steever, Librarian at East Greenwich High School

    “With Mrs. Michelle Steever’s arrival at East Greenwich High School, we gained more than a media specialist,” said David Amiradri, a student at the high school. “We gained a technology-savvy executive, with a clear vision of the library of the future. We gained a compassionate educator, understanding of the challenges faced by students in the twenty-first century.”

    “She has brought her leadership skills and broad perspective to the School Improvement Team as we develop best practices and student supports,” said Frank Lenox, a teacher in the science department at East Greenwich High School. “Through all of our interactions, I am reminded how central a library is to the daily practices of a school community. And even more, how essential a librarian can be to the staff and students of every school community.”

    “Her reach and impact extends well beyond the faculty, staff, and students at East Greenwich High School,” said Patricia Page, Business and Digital Technology Educator at East Greenwich High School. “Michelle has redefined what a student-centered, professional learning community looks, feels, and sounds like.”

    Outstanding Library Paraprofessional Award: Lynda LaCava, Library Assistant at North Providence Union Free Library

    “Lynda has been inside, outside, and all around North Providence performing outdoor story times, virtual visits to nearby parks, and never once let weather or the pandemic deter her from providing these essential services to the community,” said Stefanie Blankenship, director of the North Providence Union Free Library.

    Trustee of the Year Award: Dorothy Swain, Chair of the Board of Trustees at North Providence Union Free Library

    Ms. Swain “embodies the true sense of libraries, beyond physical buildings, and is always at the ready to help and serve,” said Stefanie Blankenship, director of the North Providence Union Free Library. “She has led us through one of the most difficult years without once faltering. Though she has seen this library go through many transitions, this past year was without a doubt the most jolting. Yet, her steadfast manner held us all together.”

    Meritorious Friend of the Library Award: Mary Ann and Walter Slocomb, Cranston Public Library

    “The Slocombs have been strong supporters of the Cranston Public Library for several years,” said Ed Garcia, director of the Cranston Public Library. “Mary Ann and Walter created the Mary Ann and Walter Slocomb Fund at the Cranston Public Library Association in 2016 with a $10,000 donation. To date, they have donated over $50,000.  Mary Ann and Walter have been incredible friends of the Cranston Public Library, not only donating their money but in giving of their time. They have volunteered at our Friends book sale and also attend library programs and special events. They have been a major part in the Cranston Public Library becoming a nationally recognized award-winning library.”


  • Monday, June 07, 2021 1:13 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    Welcome to the RILA Bulletin Spotlight Series, where we feature the important work of a different RILA or RI library section, committee, roundtable, initiative, or organization in each issue.

    Questions or suggestions for this column? Please send an email to communications@rilibraries.org.

    June 2021 Spotlight: RILA Legislative Action Committee

    This month, we talked to Ed Garcia, Chair of the RILA Legislative Action Committee. Ed is the Director of Cranston Public Library.

    What is the mission or purpose of the RILA Legislative Action Committee?

    The Legislative Action Committee is responsible for recommending a legislative plan for the Association. The Committee assists and advises the Executive Board and the membership in appropriate action to affect proposed legislation.

    What made you personally interested in being involved with this organization?

    I've always been very interested in the power of advocacy, [in] being able to talk to a legislator or an official and influence their decision making. Advocating for an issue—in this case, the importance of libraries—and telling the stories of how we impact the lives of our users has always been an important part of what I do as a Library Director and advocate.

    What is the proudest achievement of the Legislative Action Committee?

    The Committee has been very successful in recent years. We successfully advocated for $1.1 million in additional state aid to RI public libraries. Working with our School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) colleagues, we were able to leverage some legislative advocacy into working with the RI Department of Education to have the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) National School Library Standards officially adopted. 

    What ongoing challenges does the Legislative Action Committee face?

    We are constantly working to achieve full funding of state aid to libraries as prescribed by law. 

    If money and time were not an issue, what is the number one wish list item of this Committee to support its mission or purpose?

    It would be nice to have enough time, money, and people to produce more advocacy communications to go to not only RILA members but to the general public in support of libraries.

    What partnerships with other groups or individuals (inside or outside of RILA) have been most beneficial for this Committee to meet its goals or objectives?

    Within RILA, being able to work with sections like SLRI on important issues is key. Also being able to learn from advocates at the Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA) has been personally impactful to me. Being able to work with and learn from amazing library advocates like Joan Ress Reeves and Rose Ellen Reynolds, both of whom helped found COLA, has been a privilege. We also work closely with both the ALA Public Policy and Advocacy office and Chapter Relations office to advocate to our federal delegation in Congress. Rhode Island is the envy of other states because of our strong presence in Congress, with incredible library supporters in Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin.

    Is the Legislative Action Committee looking for new members, and how can those interested get involved?

    Please visit https://www.rilibraries.org/advocacy and sign up for advocacy updates and to stay informed on advocacy-related issues.

    What book are you reading now that you’d like to promote?

    Dark Work: the Business of Slavery in Rhode Island by Christy Clark-Pujara. This book was eye opening about the history of slavery in Rhode Island. Even after slavery was abolished in the North, Rhode Island was still in the business of producing goods that supported slavery in the South.
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