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  • 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.
  • Tuesday, May 18, 2021 12:32 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    The Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA) Annual Meeting, held on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, was its final meeting. After much study and thought, COLA’s Board of Directors, in close and careful consultation with RILA’s Board, asked for COLA to be fully absorbed into RILA rather than exist as a separate board with a chairperson. In this way, the efforts of library supporters will be part of RILA’s general actions. It was specifically noted that, with the efforts of the Legislative Action Committee, the work of COLA is continuing. All members of RILA continue to receive those updates, and now we can encourage anyone in the state who supports libraries to join RILA for a nominal fee.

    The groundwork laid by people including Rosellen Reynolds, Tom Viall, Joan Ress Reeves, and many others will not be forgotten. The vote at the annual meeting was unanimous to dissolve the organization.

    At this year’s final annual meeting, the following awards were presented: The William Bergeron Public Library Scholarship was presented to Christina Swiszcz. Christina has worked at the Newport County Campus Library of the Community College of Rhode Island for several years. Her primary role is managing the circulation desk, including hiring and managing the student employees. For Christina, making connections with students, helping them find materials and other campus resources, is incredibly rewarding. Besides being an outstanding student, Christina plans on continuing to serve the public as an academic librarian after graduating with her masters in library and information studies (MLIS).

    The Linda Aldrich School Library Scholarship was presented to Elena Hughes. Elena has been dedicated to school libraries since she began at the University or Rhode Island's Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS). She has been to Tanzania to build a rural school library, and next year she will be participating in the RILA mentoring program. One of Elena's goals is to collaborate with other school media specialists to develop and share best practices in school librarianship and how they are inherently primed for advocacy. Elena is interested in developing library curriculum that embeds social emotional learning, cultivating collections and resources that reflect the diverse needs and experiences of the community.  

    The Sweetheart of the Year Award was presented to Karen Mellor, Chief of Library Services, Office of RI Library and Information Services. As Rhode Island’s Chief of Library Services since 2013, Karen has long been a trusted advisor, ally, and collaborator of COLA as well as the library community. Since the pandemic, she has worked heroically to coordinate CARES Act grants for library expenses and support librarians in adapting to the year’s challenges with everything from policy development to the creation of virtual services.

    The William E. Reeves Award for outstanding programming by a Library Friends Group was presented to the East Smithfield Public Library Friends Group for sponsoring the presentation about the Esmond Bunny blankets. Their event brought together library users and community members to hear from local historian Sandra Achille. Ms. Achille discussed the local history of the Esmond Mills, located in East Smithfield, RI, from 1906 to 1948. This event received news coverage in the Valley Breeze and was well attended for a cold January 2020 evening.

    Those who attended also listened to a wonderful talk given by Frederick Reamer, a Pawtucket resident. Dr. Reamer (shown in photo) is a professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College. His research and teaching have addressed a wide range of issues, including mental health, health care, criminal justice, public welfare, and professional ethics. Dr. Reamer received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1978) and has served as a social worker in correctional and mental health settings. Dr. Reamer is also the host of This I Believe New England on The Public’s Radio, where he shares stories of New Englanders. The story he shared with us about the impact of a single book on his life was powerful. We thank him sincerely for the beautiful ending to a bittersweet meeting.

    We thank everyone who came together and supported the decision to dissolve COLA in its current iteration. Thanks go to the remaining active board members who helped plan this meeting: Gale Eaton, John Bucci, Lisa Ashe, Karen Markin, and Emilie Benoit.

    -- Submitted by 2020-2021 COLA Chair Robin Nyzio, MLIS; branch librarian at the William Hall Library

  • Wednesday, April 14, 2021 12:50 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    The Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) and the Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) sponsored a "town hall" virtual discussion with Senator Jack Reed on Monday, April 5th, to celebrate National Library Week. Discussion centered on how libraries have adapted during the coronavirus pandemic, how we safely reopened our libraries, and some of the impactful programming we provided to the public during the last year.

    Senator Reed spoke to attendees about the introduction of the Library Stabilization Fund Act, which was incorporated into the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and will provide $200 million to the nation’s libraries through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Senator Reed has also introduced the Build America’s Libraries Act; if passed, this legislation will provide federal funding for library construction for the first time in over two decades. Panelists at the event included Cheryl Space (director, Providence Community Library); Ryan Brennan (director, Rogers Free Library); Brigitte Hopkins and Bill Lancellotta (executive director and assistant director, Westerly Library); Amber Bliss (head of information services, West Warwick Public Library) and Ed Garcia (director, Cranston Public Library). OLIS Chief Library Officer Karen Mellor and RILA President Julie Holden moderated the event.  


    The theme for National Library Week (April 4-10, 2021), “Welcome to Your Library,” promoted the idea that libraries extend far beyond the four walls of a building – and that everyone is welcome to use their services. During the pandemic, libraries have been going above and beyond to adapt to our changing world by expanding their resources and continuing to meet the needs of their users. We are grateful to Senator Reed and his staff for taking the time to celebrate libraries during this special week and for continuously supporting funding for library services.

  • Tuesday, April 13, 2021 3:51 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.


    April 2021 Spotlight: RILA Conference Committee

    This month, we talked to Nicolette Baffoni and Joseph Morra, Co-Chairs of the RILA Conference Committee. Nicolette is the Library Development Manager at the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services (OLIS). Joseph is the Branch Manager of Olneyville Library, Providence Community Library.

    What is the mission or purpose of the RILA Conference Committee?

    The RILA Conference Committee is responsible for planning and implementing all conferences sponsored by the Association. The Annual Conference is to include programs on current library concerns. Any conference is to provide an opportunity for exchange of ideas on a formal and informal basis.

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

    Joseph: The annual conference was my first entry point in becoming involved. However, the seed was planted by my URI GSLIS professors, who highly encouraged students to join a professional organization.  

    Nicolette: I really value the connection and collaboration that come from getting involved with an organization like RILA.  At my job at OLIS, I was planning learning opportunities and events for library staff as part of my job and so when I was looking for a way to get more involved in RILA, the Conference Committee was a great entry point for me! 

    What this Committee's proudest achievement?

    Our proudest achievement has been the pivot in 2020 from an in-person conference to a virtual one. In the early days of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty and no one thought we’d be social distancing and working from home until the end of May, let alone for over a year. We put off the decision until the very last minute and ended up figuring out all the logistics of our very first virtual conference in about 4 weeks because we were adamant that we did not want to cancel. In the end, we were able to offer a mostly smooth-running virtual conference that was free to RILA members and brought together more than 200 people from the RI library community.

    What ongoing challenges does the Conference Committee face?

    There is always a challenge of balancing the budget. Ultimately, the annual conference acts as a fundraiser for RILA, and we want to end the event in the black. It takes hard work and creativity to attract vendors, keep costs down, and set reasonable registration fees while still trying to put on an excellent, professional conference. The 2020 and 2021 conferences presented an entirely new challenge in this regard: costs are lower for a virtual conference, but how do we attract vendors and attendees, and curate an experience that is worth taking a day to attend? 

    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?

    If money were not an issue, we would love to invite some bigger name speakers to present keynotes. Each year, we continue to find absolutely excellent keynote speakers on a shoestring budget, but it would be great to open up our search to include some presenters who are national presenters, but come with a higher price tag. It would also be fun to be able to splurge on whatever the finest meal options are for lunch! Carving station, anyone? 

    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?

    The Conference Committee benefits so much from working with the RILA Communications Committee, who help us promote our events. That includes promoting the request for proposals, registration, and just generally hyping the annual conference. The Conference Committee also benefits from having an engaged RILA President and Vice President (both current and past) who are willing to offer their input and expertise throughout the planning process. Finally, we’d be remiss if we did not mention Bryant University; when the conference is in person, the use of Bryant’s facilities for the past several years has allowed us to put on a comfortable, professional conference while also keeping costs down. 

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

    Yes! When you become a RILA member, you have the opportunity to be a part of a number of different committees (e.g., Conference, Intellectual Freedom) or become part of the mentorship program, either as a mentor or mentee. The Conference Committee, in particular, is always excited to welcome new members and requires a commitment of about 1 day per month, plus additional assignments and day-of-conference support. As a Conference Committee member, you help to plan the conference theme, speakers, and sessions and brainstorm creative ways to make the conference a great experience for attendees, presenters, and exhibitors. If you want to get involved in planning for the 2022 conference, please email Nicolette Baffoni (nicolette.baffoni@olis.ri.gov). 

    Interested in attending the 2021 RILA Conference? Registration opens on April 19th. Please visit rilibraries.org/rila2021 for more information.



  • Friday, March 19, 2021 3:55 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)
    West Warwick, RI—The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced today that West Warwick Public Library is among 30 finalists for the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. West Warwick Public Library is the only institution in Rhode Island to be selected as a finalist for this award, and the first library in the state to be so recognized by IMLS since Providence Public Library in 2001.

    "The revival and reinstitution of the National Medals by IMLS is another signal of recovery and renewal in the nation’s very challenging—but very hopeful—times,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “We are celebrating not only the ongoing excellence of the best of our museums and libraries, but their extraordinary efforts through the pandemic, the recession, the racial justice protests, and national divisions to serve, heal, and bring together our communities. Congratulations to all 30 finalists."


    The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that demonstrate significant impact in their communities. For more than 25 years, the award has honored institutions that demonstrate excellence in service to their communities.

    “Like many towns across the country, West Warwick - once a center of manufacturing in the state - has had to face up to the economic and social challenges of the more recent past.” said Library Director Colin McCullough. “Yet our diverse population remains vibrant and optimistic for the future, an attitude buoyed up by the West Warwick Public Library. Our patrons’ needs might be informational, educational or – given the last twelve months – simply fun and entertainment, but each request is met with the same care and consideration by a dedicated staff. This recognition on the part of IMLS is a well-deserved tribute to their creativity, commitment to inclusivity, and sense of community.”

    To celebrate this honor, IMLS is encouraging West Warwick Public Library’s community members to share stories, memories, pictures, and videos on social media as part of the Share Your Story campaign, using the #IMLSmedals hashtag, and engage with IMLS on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, please visit the IMLS website.


    National Medal winners will be announced in late spring. Representatives from winning institutions will be honored for their extraordinary contributions during a virtual National Medal Ceremony this summer.

    To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit the IMLS website.

    About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
    The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    # # #
  • Wednesday, March 10, 2021 1:20 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    In February 2021, 21 librarians from state, public, and academic libraries across Rhode Island participated in a 5-week professional development training on how to facilitate learning circles. This opportunity was offered through the Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) in partnership with Peer to Peer University (P2PU). It was made possible by a donation from EBSCO Industries, Inc., in coordination with the RI Office of Library & Information Services, and supported by staff from the Providence Public Library. 

    RILA had two goals for offering this training: to introduce this model of peer-driven learning to Rhode Island libraries and to train facilitators who could then bring a special learning circle, titled How to Talk About Race, to library staff throughout Rhode Island.

    What is a learning circle?

    Learning circles are free, peer-led study groups where people can take an online class together, virtually or in person. P2PU offers hundreds of free, online courses covering a variety of topics and interests. Participants in the training learned how they could also adapt any freely available courses, from sources like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda), and others, to the learning circle format. 

    “Learning circles create valuable opportunities that not only increase engagement and retention in online courses, but (more importantly) also create accessible spaces for library patrons to increase their confidence in topics that are important to them in a supportive environment,” says Grif Peterson, Executive Director of P2PU.

    “Learning Circles meet the mission of public libraries head-on!” says Joyce May, Acting Director​ of East Providence Public Library. “Both value community and shared experiences. Both create exciting opportunities for lifelong learning and, most importantly, both value the integrity of each and every patron and participant.”

    Because learning circles use a peer-driven learning model, the person in the facilitator role does not need to be an expert in the material being presented. They are simply there to keep time, move the agenda along, and to learn along with the rest of the group.

    I really appreciated the emphasis on the meeting facilitator not needing to have all the answers” says State Librarian Megan Hamlin-Black. “I think, so often, whoever is steering the meeting feels like they need to be the expert, but that mentality or framework leaves out room for personal growth.”

    Learning about learning circles…in a learning circle.

    Participants met via Zoom for 5 weeks, for 90 minutes each week, to learn about learning circles and experience what they are like by participating in one themselves. The participants met in two groups, led by Beatrice Pulliam and Sherry Lehane of the Providence Public Library and Grif Peterson and Qumisha Goss of P2PU.

    Each week, participants were engaged using a blend of video, text, and large- and small-group discussions to explore how learning circles are designed; how to select, organize, and facilitate a course; and how to hold productive conversations around sensitive topics.

    Julie Holden, Assistant Director of Cranston Public Library, said the learning experience was “delightfully different. I very much enjoyed learning in this group setting instead of being lectured to. There was time for verbal participation and time for non-verbal participation using a shared document, plus individual work time; the whole experience was the closest to a classroom experience that I've ever had on Zoom. I never felt Zoom fatigued.”

    “The format of the Learning Circle, with check-ins, breakout groups, and time for reflection, helped all of us to feel more comfortable with one another, which led to some great discussion!” says Gretchen Sotomayor, Special Programs and Instruction Librarian at Salve Regina University’s McKillop Library. “Another benefit to the Learning Circle structure is that it does not require advance preparation. Instead, participants review materials together, and then discuss the issue. [How to Talk About Race, the subject of RILA’s upcoming learning circles] is not an easy topic to facilitate, and the session on ‘difficult discussions’ provided guidance on how to navigate ‘moving toward conflict’ and being okay with silence in a group.”

    Because learning circles use a peer-learning model, participants are encouraged to take responsibility for their own grasp of the material and look to themselves and their fellow learners for insight. Everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher.

    “I appreciated the evolution of the training experience,” says Meredith Bonds-Harmon,
    Head of Reference at East Providence Public Library. “We all seemed to move from awkward and confused to more confident, connected, and assured, or at least I did! As an adult, learning a new skill is not an everyday event. So it did stretch me, and I really appreciated how our facilitators did not try to soothe discomfort but instead move along with us, at our pace.”

    Experience a learning circle yourself, and explore how to tackle a tough subject with your peers and patrons. 

    Our newly trained learning circle facilitators will put what they’ve learned into practice by leading learning circles of their own on the topic of How to Talk About Race

    The How to Talk About Race learning circle was developed as an in-person workshop by Amrita S. Patel and Denise LaForce, former colleagues at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina. They brought the workshop to P2PU because they trusted the learning circle model to responsibly convey their expertise to new communities around the country. Amrita further adapted the course based on feedback from RILA. 

    “To hear new communities are adapting the content is exciting and exactly what Denise and I hoped for when we adapted ‘How to Talk About Race’ to a Learning Circle”, says Amrita. “Conversations about race can be deeply polarizing, but it can be empowering when you have the resources to navigate them respectfully, confidently, and comfortably.”

    “I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of introducing this learning circle topic to the Rhode Island library community,” says Colleen Wolf, Reference Librarian and Technology Instructor at Warwick Public Library. “I am excited about learning alongside my colleagues while we engage in important and perhaps difficult conversations.”

    All Rhode Island library staff are invited to participate in one of these free, 5-week learning circles beginning the week of March 29th. There are a variety of days and times available to accommodate your schedule.

    Click here to learn more and to register: https://www.p2pu.org/rila/


  • Wednesday, February 10, 2021 12:39 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    The legislative session at the State House is in full swing. In January, the RILA Executive Board approved the 2021 Legislative Priorities as presented by the RILA Legislative Action Committee. 

    State Aid to Libraries

    In recognition of the importance of public libraries in our society, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation providing for state aid for public library services. Rhode Island law (RIGL §29-6-2) establishes state aid for the support of local public library services to be equal to at least 25% of the amount appropriated and expended by the city or town from local tax revenues or funds from the public library's private endowment two years prior. RILA typically advocates to the General Assembly to fully fund state aid to Rhode Island’s public libraries at 25%. Due to financial constraints brought about by the pandemic, RILA supports level funding of state aid to libraries for FY2022.

    Net Neutrality

    The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC’s) December 2017 “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” grants internet service providers (ISPs) unmitigated freedom to violate net neutrality principles, while severely infringing upon Americans’ right to fair internet access and endangering the innovation economy. The internet is essential for people to have a voice in the political process and to access the viewpoints of others. Publicly supported institutions, such as libraries, universities, and K-12 schools, provide their community members with equal access to the internet. Limiting access means users’ rights to participate in democracy is diminished and the foundation of our nation’s democracy is undermined. RILA has supported legislation supporting net neutrality in 2018, 2019, and 2020. RILA supports H5054, which calls for any ISP doing business with the state of Rhode Island to adhere to net neutrality principles.

    Funding for AskRI

    The State of Rhode Island provides Rhode Islanders, young and old, with online access to research databases, business resources, language learning tools, and encyclopedias through AskRI.org, created and funded by the Statewide Reference Resource Center grant (RIGL §29-6-9). In 2017, state budget constraints required that the grant be reduced by $300,000, nearly one-third of the total allocated. Consequently, statewide access to online homework help (via the Tutor.com service) for students was eliminated. Several public libraries purchased subscriptions to Tutor.com after state funding was lost, further straining municipal budgets. The only genealogy research database available statewide was also lost due to these budget constraints. Restoration of these funds could be used to make critical digital content available to library users during the pandemic.

    Importance of School Librarians

    School librarians contribute to improved student achievement. More than 60 studies across the country have shown a correlation between professionally staffed school libraries and higher student achievement. Certified school librarians select technology and resources that are aligned to the curriculum, help students select reading materials, and collaborate with teachers to create authentic learning experiences that challenge students to think, share, create, and grow. RILA has made significant progress working with School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to approve the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for School Librarians statewide and supports continuing that work with a target of Fall 2021 for adoption. RILA also supports changes to the Rhode Island Basic Education Plan or legislation that would require certified school librarians in every school receiving education funding from the state of Rhode Island.

    Ebooks & Licenses

    Publishers have the ability to cut libraries out of the ebook marketplace simply by refusing to sell to them. This severely limits libraries’ ability to offer ebooks to patrons who rely on the library for literature and information. RILA supports the re-introduction of the 2020 bill (S2773) that requires any publisher who licenses electronic books and digital audiobooks to the general public (consumer) in Rhode Island to also offer such licenses to libraries in the state on comparable terms.

    New

    The committee is also tracking H5148which calls for the creation of a Rhode Island Broadband Development Plan and a Rhode Island Broadband Council. Rhode Island is one of only two states that do not have a Broadband Coordinator or other entity coordinating broadband efforts and the only New England state without one. This bill was introduced last year without librarian representation on the Council and did not pass. This year, we worked with the sponsor to have a librarian as a member of the proposed Council. RILA supports this bill and will advocate for its passage. 

    We are also tracking bills focused on public records, open meetings, harassment in the workplace, and minimum wage increases. These bills, although not specifically about libraries, could impact library operations.

    For more information about RILA’s legislative work please visit: https://cqrcengage.com/alari/?0

    Ed Garcia

    Chair, Legislative Action Committee

  • Saturday, February 06, 2021 12:16 PM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    Providence Public Library (PPL) and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) have announced that the first batch of Rhode Island’s historic newspapers digitized through a National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) grant are now freely available for researchers via the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site. 

    In 2019, the two organizations were awarded a $250,000 NDNP grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress to digitize historic newspapers and make them available via Chronicling America for the first time. The NDNP supports the creation of a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1690 and 1963, from all states and U.S. territories. PPL and RIHS have committed to digitizing more than 50,000 pages of historic newspaper content by August 2021. 

    The project funds were awarded following a letter of support by Senator Jack Reed, who noted the RIHS’s remarkable historical collection of microfilm reels of 314 Rhode Island newspaper titles that ceased publication prior to 1923 but remained unavailable for research. The grant funding will enable PPL, in partnership with the RIHS, to complete a full inventory of master microfilm reels, digitize at least 100,000 pages, and market and promote these digital resources to the broader community.

    While additional titles will become available as the project is ongoing, this first batch includes almost 9,000 pages from: 

    • Herald of the Times (1830-1856)

    • Literary Cadet and Rhode-Island Statesman; Literary Cadet and Saturday Evening Bulletin (1826-1829)

    • The Literary Echo; The Literary Echo & Pawcatuck Advertiser; Westerly Echo & Pawcatuck Advertiser (1851-1858)

    • Newport Gazette (1777-1779)

    • The Northern Star; The Northern Star and Warren and Bristol Gazette;  The Northern Star and Constitutionalist; Northern Star, Farmer & Mechanics Advocate; Rhode Island Constitutionalist (1826-1855)

    • The Pioneer Woman’s Advocate (1852-1853)

    The addition of the Newport Gazette brings the earliest published newspaper to be included in Chronicling America to date. The paper was published by British forces occupying Newport using the printing press of Solomon Southwick. Southwick was the printer of the pro-Revolutionary Newport Mercury and had buried his press in an effort to keep it out of enemy hands. Despite his efforts, British forces found and dug up the press and used it to print their own paper. 

    In addition, the first batch includes other titles of interest, such as The Pioneer Woman’s Advocate, published by Miss Anna Spence in Providence and which advocated for suffrage and women’s rights during the 1850s; The Literary Echo & Pawcatuck Advertiser published in the southern coastal community of Westerly and covering parts of southeasten Connecticut; and The Northern Star and Warren and Bristol Gazette out of the port town of Warren in the early 19th Century as it transformed from an economy built on the Atlantic Slave Trade. Prior to this award, many of these newspapers were only available on microfilm at the RIHS and required researchers to use them in person. Now available online, they are open electronically to researchers across the world and in context with other papers from across the country. 

    “The newspapers we’re digitizing are among the most valuable resources available for researchers, scholars, and anyone curious about history,” said Jordan Goffin, Head Curator of Collections at PPL. “We’re very excited that we can finally bring them to the public free of charge, as well as for another opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues at the Rhode Island Historical Society.”

    “Our delight in this project cannot be overstated. It is the culmination of an effort to make these newspapers accessible since the 1950s, when the RIHS began microfilming them. This is one of the purest ways in which we fulfill our mission to share Rhode Island's past.” said Richard J. Ring, Deputy Executive Director for Collections and Interpretation at RIHS. “We are off to a promising start in this partnership with Providence Public Library and truly appreciative of the support of the Library of Congress.”

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