• Saturday, April 02, 2022 8:00 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    From January through March 2022, the American Library Association hosted a virtual book club around its new publication Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement, edited by Mary Davis Fournier and Sarah Ostman (ALA Editions, 2021). Library workers across the country applied, and 100 were selected, to participate in a series of three virtual book club sessions. Each session focused on a different chapter from the book and offered a live conversation with the chapter's author(s) and smaller breakout discussions. 

    Several librarians from Rhode Island participated in the monthly book discussion. The following is a summary of the sessions by three of those participants.

    Session 1: Partnering for Greater Impact

    written by Lori DeCesare, Assistant Director at Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library

    The first session of the series, held on January 12th, focused on the chapter titled “Partnering for Greater Impact,” written by Cindy Fesemyer. The session began with a conversation with Ms. Fesemyer moderated by Flo Trujillo. 

    Libraries are renowned for developing, sustaining, and leveraging community partnerships. The collaboration between the library and other community entities benefits all involved - offering expanded opportunities to provide programs, enhance services, and support the library’s mission. This collaboration is powerful - yielding collective achievements greater than those that could be achieved by an individual organization on its own, as a result of shared goal setting, pooled responsibilities, and combined efforts. 

    Fesemeyer noted that, before establishing a partnership, it is important to focus on your organization first. The Aspen Institute’s Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library, Version 2.0 offers a SOAR assessment to explore the strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results of your library. 

    An effective tool examined during the session was a Community Map, shown below, which aids in examining potential community partners. Identify the individuals and groups in your community that fall into each of these categories. Another suggestion was to take a walk and look around the community. Introduce yourself, and identify common goals and explore the possibility of a partnership over coffee. If you are both agreeable, move forward with an easy project to start (often an extension of something the library already does well). If successful, extend the partnership, ensuring that it continues to be beneficial to your library, but be willing to end the collaboration when it is time. 

     (Fournier and Ostman 39)

    During the breakout session, participants were asked to discuss their community maps. The highlight of the discussion in my breakout group was a rural Vermont library who partnered with their local conservation group to offer a very successful workshop on chainsaw safety at the library! 

    This first of three sessions in the Ask, Listen, Empower Virtual Book Club encouraged us to explore beyond our traditional partnerships and become more innovative, allowing us to expand our reach of community-specific targeted programs and services and achieve more than we could alone.

    Session 2: Ethical and Inclusive Community Engagement 

    written by Deb Estrella, Adult Services Librarian at Tiverton Public Library

    The second session held on February 16th featured Ellen Knutson and Quanetta Batts, who wrote a chapter in Ask, Listen, Empower titled “Ethical and Inclusive Community Engagement.” The session was moderated by Miguel Ruiz.

    The chapter describes a public involvement continuum developed by Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia, which ranges from simply giving information (where the library is centered and decides what the community needs and how best to meet those needs) to truly partnering and collaborating with another organization (where the community is centered and leads the planning). During the live conversation, Knutson reminded us that “the world is bigger than you” and that you can do more with others than you can alone. Batts highlighted the importance of approaching potential community partners without an agenda - to come to the table with only the intention to listen rather than to fix what you perceive as a problem. She described how she would go on a “listening tour” of the stakeholders in her area. Knutson also pointed out that these conversations should be happening all the time, not just when you have a project in mind - build the relationship before you need the relationship. 

    Throughout the chapter, the authors stress centering inclusion in libraries’ community engagement work. This requires an understanding of your own or your institution’s privilege and intersectionality and meeting community members - literally - where they are. The authors found the most success meeting potential partners in their homes and places of business, learning, or worship. The authors also reminded us to recognize our biases and make sure we are not approaching certain patrons as “problems” to be fixed, but rather people with unique perspectives and experience that can make our services stronger, more relevant, and more accessible to the population we’re trying to reach. 

    During the breakout session, each breakout group was presented with a hypothetical community need and challenged to brainstorm ideas for how to work with the community to meet that need. The activity illustrated for all of us how many minds can create greater opportunities than we could have imagined on our own.

    Session 3: Community-Centered Programming - Tools and Techniques

    written by Insley Julier, Adult Services Librarian at Rogers Free Library

    Led by the chapter’s author Audrey Barbakoff and moderator Veronica Casnova, the third session of the ALA Ask, Listen, Empower book club on March 16th was grounded in the principle that library programs and service should be planned “by and with, rather than for or at, your community” (Fournier and Ostman 47). Barbaroff noted that libraries have the tendency to look at what they already have the capability to do and focus on solving people’s problems. But that lens puts too much emphasis on needs, with librarians acting as “saviors.” She argued that we need to move from a deficit-based approach to an asset-based model, where we approach programming and services with cultural humility and leverage the strength of community assets (organizations and individuals), who already have knowledge about the community served. 

    In her chapter, Barbakoff outlines a path to develop community-centered programming. Steps include developing specific goals about what the library intends to do; environmental scanning (doing background research, so as to not waste the time of the community assets during later interviews); asset mapping (creating visual maps or diagrams representing key players, relationships, and resources within a defined geographic area); and key stakeholder interviews. These interviews are used to identify partners/community experts and to pinpoint the areas in which the library should expand programs or resources. In addition, the interviews can ascertain the challenges or barriers to access for underrepresented or marginalized groups. Barbaroff noted that efforts should be made to maximize the benefit to these groups and minimize the burden placed upon them. For instance, if a program is aimed at single mothers, can childcare be provided to allow them to attend? Her primary thesis was that libraries should not aim to save, but instead focus on working with outside groups and individuals as partners and friends, while honoring their expertise. 

    The book club was a valuable experience, allowing participants to connect to other professionals across the country to learn more about how they are promoting community engagement in their libraries large and small.

  • Friday, April 01, 2022 11:12 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    In accordance with the American Library Association (ALA) statement issued on August 18, 2021, the Rhode Island Library Association is committed to upholding our core values, which include equitable access to knowledge, social justice, and intellectual freedom. As members of a profession committed to free and equitable access to information and the pursuit of truth, we stand firm in opposing any effort to suppress knowledge, to label “controversial” views, or dictate what is orthodox in history, politics, or belief. As such, RILA strongly opposes House Bill 7539, introduced by Representative Patricia Morgan of Coventry, Warwick, and West Warwick. This legislation, as proposed, pretends to protect civil rights in education, but in reality seeks to erase history, ignore science, and silence Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, as well as the LGBT community. 

    Efforts, such as House Bill 7539, to censor any consideration or discussion of racism, slavery, Black American history, Indigenous history, and related issues and concerns in our schools, colleges, and universities pose a real and present threat to libraries’ ability to fulfill their role as trusted community institutions that provide factual and accurate information that reflects the breadth of the American experience about these topics.

    The consequences of this bill would impact student personal and academic development because it:

    • Fact 1: Forces librarians to go against the American Library Association Core Values of the Freedom to Read by purging collections of books that share the authentic experiences of human beings who happen to be people of color or LGBT people.

    • Fact 2: Ignores the research that shows students will enjoy reading more and increase their reading comprehension skills when they have choice in what they read.

    • Fact 3: Disregards the fact that the demographics of public school students is rapidly changing so that the minorities, especially hispanic students, are becoming the majority. Students should have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in what they read as well as read stories of different cultures and people as part of their personal, social, and educational development.

    • Fact 4: Forces teachers to ignore white supremacy and the well-documented history of violence and discrimination against black, indigenous, and other people of color.

    • Fact 5: Prevents teachers from creating a safe learning environment for all students where they are free to express and explore their own identities.

    • Fact 6: Disallows teachers to teach students media literacy skills such as how to identify bias, propaganda, and fact vs. opinion, essential skills in today’s world where misinformation and disinformation in news media and social media content is rampant and threatening our democracy.

    • Fact: 7: Fails to comprehend that national and state content area standards, curriculum, and textbooks used for instruction are district responsibilities and unfairly targets teachers for punishment. 

    A commitment to intellectual freedom and social justice requires that libraries not only protect the truth from suppression, but also prevent its distortion. We oppose any legislative proposal or local initiative intended to ban instruction, consideration, or discussion about the role of racism in the history of the United States or how systemic racism manifests itself in our schools, workplaces, and government agencies.

    RILA pledges to join with library workers and libraries to oppose any proposal to censor information resources, curricula, or programs addressing racial injustice, Black American history, indigenous history, and diversity education. Further, we commit to supporting libraries, library workers, schools, colleges, and universities facing these challenges and developing tools that will prepare library workers to defend their collections, counter falsehoods, and engage their communities in important conversations about racial injustice and empowering everyone to fully participate in our democratic society.

    Questions about RILA’s position on this and related issues may be directed to communications@rilibraries.org.

    For more resources and support for Intellectual Freedom please visit the homepage of the RILA Intellectual Freedom Committee at https://rilibraries.org/intellectual-freedom.

  • Tuesday, March 29, 2022 4:36 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 2022 Spotlight: New England Library Association (NELA)

    For this issue, we asked Kelly Parlin to tell us about her role as RILA Representative to NELA. Kelly is a Teen Librarian at Rochambeau Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

    What is the mission or purpose of NELA?

    The mission of the New England Library Association is to provide educational and leadership opportunities for library staff in support of improved library services for the people of New England. To that end, the association (1) engages regionally in important discussions in the library profession, (2) encourages the exchange of ideas through a variety of formal and informal events and (3) collaborates regionally and nationally with allied organizations. NELA is a chapter of the American Library Association.

    When was NELA formed?

    Officially chartered in 1963, the New England Library Association is a regional organization whose membership represents a wide range of library-related interests. Its objectives are to initiate, plan, and support regional activities; to encourage the exchange of ideas; and to cooperate with regional and national agencies having related interests.

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

    Having attended the NELA-sponsored New England Library Leadership Symposium (NELLS) in 2019, I knew I wanted to further my leadership skills by getting more involved in the big picture of libraries. I was excited to participate in the behind-the-scenes efforts of RILA and NELA, as well as network with library professionals across the region. I also looked forward to visiting other libraries across New England; although, sadly the pandemic prevented me from enjoying this aspect of the position. Hopefully the next representative will get to travel to beautiful libraries throughout New England!

    What is NELA’s proudest achievement?

    In my opinion, I think NELA has done great work in providing career development and leadership training opportunities. My NELLS experience in 2019 was a highlight of my career, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested! I describe NELLS as a summer camp/therapy retreat for librarians who not only want to better themselves, but also their individual institutions. I made powerful connections with the other participants, and I’m excited to run into them at future conferences! I’m glad NELLS exists, and I hope to participate in NELLS II when I’m qualified.

    What ongoing challenges does this program face?

    NELA is composed of volunteers, so it’s a challenge to recruit new board members due to the time commitment and effort involved. That said, it can be a worthwhile investment to build skills, make connections, and add to your resume.

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

    I wasn’t sure how to answer this question, but when I asked other board members what they think, one said that being able to expand the NELLS leadership program so it can be for anyone (rather than having certain year requirements) would be ideal. I also believe that without the constraints of time or money, NELA could execute more grants on a larger scale due to its ideal positioning as a regional organization.

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

    NELA has many committees and also works directly with the state library organizations of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. This has been very beneficial in leveraging grant opportunities, comparing statistics, keeping informed of happenings in the region, and connecting professionals across state boundaries.

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

    NELA is currently recruiting a vice president, a member-at-large, and a secretary for the Executive Board. There are also openings on the Conference, Educational Assistance, Membership, and Public Relations Committees. For sections, the Information Technology Section (ITS) is accepting new members including a member-at-large position, and the Academic Librarians Section (ALS) needs a new chair. Interested parties may contact Faithe Miller Lakowicz, the Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteer@nelib.org. Alternatively, they may fill out the 'Get Involved' form on the NELA website

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

    I recently finished the middle grade graphic novel Snapdragon by Kat Leyh, and I loved it! The story content was wonderful, the plot easy to follow, and the art so expressive that it perfectly captured the characters' thoughts and feelings. I highly recommend it!

  • Saturday, February 05, 2022 11:54 AM | 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.

    February 2022 Spotlight: RILA Financial Literacy Roundtable

    In honor of 2022’s Money Smart Week (April 9-16), we asked RILA Financial Literacy Roundtable (FLRT) Chair Jen Linton to take the spotlight for this issue. Jen is a Reference Librarian at Warwick Public Library.

    What is the mission or purpose of the RILA Financial Literacy Roundtable (FLRT)?

    To support and promote financial literacy programs at libraries across the state

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

    I'm a longtime fan of personal finance books. I still have my dog-eared copy of Suze Orman's The Road to Wealth, which was the first book that talked about money in a way that made sense to me. When the opportunity to join FLRT arose, it was an easy decision. It's been great to connect with librarians around the state. My hope is to collaborate and find new ways to spread information to patrons and empower them to make informed choices about their finances.

    What is the FLRT’s proudest achievement?

    FLRT members recorded a Rhody Radio show that featured our favorite Financial Literacy books. The process was more fun than I expected, and I added books to my own reading list.

    What ongoing challenges does this program face?

    Finances are awkward to talk about. Personally, I've noticed that patrons tend to check out financial books but don't attend programs. I would love to find ways to bridge that gap, or at least find more passive programming opportunities.

    If money and time were not an issue, what is the FLRT’s number one wishlist item to support its mission or purpose?

    Oh, wow! I've been keeping an eye on the new RI financial literacy standards for students. I love the idea, and my dream would be for all ages to have access to content that will help them gain confidence with their money. Consistent, quality programming for all! (A librarian can dream.)

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

    Money Smart Week (created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago) is a free annual event that can be promoted by all libraries. A variety of programs are offered for all ages, and marketing materials are available to download. It's a quick and easy way to offer financial education to patrons. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also a huge asset when it comes to free materials to give to patrons. Publications can be ordered online covering a number of topics.

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

    Absolutely! If you're interested in all things financial literacy, send an email to flrt@rilibraries.org.

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

    Currently reading a NetGalley copy of Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon, which has been a surprise. I was expecting an upbeat, behind-the-scenes look at SNL, but so far it has been a candid and heartbreaking look at her upbringing. Hard to put down!

  • Saturday, February 05, 2022 11:09 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    written by Alicia Vaandering, Assistant Professor and Student Success Librarian at University of Rhode Island

    Library orientations and other introductions to library services feeling stale? Breakout boxes can help gamify traditional library orientations and provide engaging and effective introductions to collections and services for new library users. Similar to escape rooms, breakout boxes require participants to work as a group to solve a series of clues in order to win the game. In September 2021, the URI Libraries piloted a new breakout box game, A Rhody the Ram Breakout Adventure, for incoming first-year, transfer, and international students.

    Beginning in Spring 2020, librarians at the URI Libraries began to prepare for the upcoming fall orientation week (O-Week) scheduled for early September at the University of Rhode Island. Our goal was to create an engaging game that would require student participants to collaborate together to use library resources and identify important library services. As Student Success Librarian, I spearheaded this effort and utilized breakout boxes purchased from breakout.edu to design a new game: A Rhody the Ram Breakout Adventure. In this game, participants were given a scenario in which Rhody the Ram, the URI mascot, was lost in the library and needed help answering a series of clues to help him find his way out of the URI Libraries. To solve the clues, participants had to navigate the library website, use the library catalog to find books, and identify library services and collections in order to open a series of locks and win the game.

    Library orientation is optional at the University of Rhode Island, and over 50 students chose to attend one of the eight sessions of A Rhody the Ram Breakout Adventure from the wide range of orientation activities offered as part of O-Week. While many students signed up individually, hoping to learn more about the library and meet other new students; a small number signed up with partners or as a small group. Many students celebrated their win by enjoying the candy from their unlocked boxes, taking pictures with provided photo props, asking follow-up questions about the library, and exchanging contact information with the new friends they met while playing the game.

    While A Rhody the Ram Breakout Adventure was designed as a library orientation for college students, the use of breakout boxes offers promising potential for library orientations and programming to other library users in and outside of the classroom. Clues can easily be changed and scaled to meet the needs of diverse users who have varying levels of knowledge about library collections and services. The game encourages participants to work through their clues as a group, which allows the supervising librarian to run multiple games simultaneously. Finally, by piggybacking on the success and popularity of escape rooms, breakout boxes provide a unique balance in which participants learn more about the library without feeling like they are attending an instruction session.

  • Saturday, February 05, 2022 10:22 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    The Cranston Public Library (CPL) has recently received a $29,500 grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine, Region 7. With this grant, CPL has launched the "Healthy Families" Initiative, which aims to connect residents with factual and timely health information, with a specific focus on households where more than one language is spoken.

    Through programming and services, Healthy Families aims to engage with members of the community around current health topics and help library patrons of all ages find up-to-date, accurate information regarding healthy living as well as disease management and prevention. The initiative will empower families through carefully curated materials and increase access to dependable library and local community resources.

    “Our goal is to encourage library patrons to recognize the library as a confidential place for free health information in English and other languages,” said Carla Jaggi, project coordinator for the grant. “We currently have a Healthy Families Kiosk at the Central Library with printed material on multiple topics in both English and Spanish, and plan to add a touch-screen, interactive element in the near future.”

    “The Cranston Public Library staff has been specially trained to direct patrons to multilingual, multicultural health resources,” said Julie Holden, Assistant Library Director. “Our partnerships with the OneCranston Health Equity Zone (HEZ) and the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center ensure that we are bringing the best information to the community.”

    “In addition to library resources, we will be presenting several in-person and virtual programs on a wide range of health topics from area experts,” said Zachary Berger, Adult Services Librarian. “This is a continuation of health-related programming that we began during the height of the pandemic, and we are excited to use this grant funding to continue our efforts.”

    This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Worcester.

  • Thursday, January 27, 2022 3:40 PM | Anonymous

    Each election year, RILA members may self-nominate for open positions on the RILA Executive Board. This year, we have 3 open board seats:

    The 2022 Nominating Committee, chaired by the immediate past president, has put forth a slate of candidates to fill these roles; however, any RILA member in good standing can also self-nominate in accordance with the RILA by-laws, which state:

    Those members interested in nominating themselves for any positions on the Executive Board, should complete a Right of Petition at least 90 days before the annual business meeting.The petition must have 20 signatures of members of the Association supporting the person for the nomination. This would allow the name to be included in the Nominating Committee’s presentation of names to the Executive Board.

    If you wish to self-nominate, please complete the RILA Executive Board Self-Nomination Form by February 24, 2022. Questions? Please email Julie Holden, Chair of the Nominating Committee, at julieholden@cranstonlibrary.org.

  • Saturday, January 22, 2022 10:22 AM | RILA Communications (Administrator)

    We are ALL Readers is an innovative opportunity for children of the West Bay/South County region and their families to mingle with authors of acclaimed literature, engage in story walks and creative programs about literature, hear and read stories together, make their own books, and more. This week-long celebration of diverse children’s literature is a collaborative project of librarians, authors, and educators from the West Bay region and across Rhode Island, also including authors from nearby states.

    All children deserve the opportunity to see themselves reflected in literature. All children also deserve the opportunity to travel into different life experiences, times, and cultures through the pages of a book. The goal of We are ALL Readers is to create an event that celebrates windows and mirrors in children’s books, spurs the imagination of young readers, and gives children the opportunity to engage with great literature and build authentic connections with authors. 

    Reading is critical to kids’ academic growth, but it is also important for social and emotional development. Researchers have found that reading fiction actually increases the reader’s capacity to understand what other people are thinking and feeling. Reading books written from a diversity of lived experiences helps kids build empathy and communication skills for the 21st century. In this recent period of COVID-19, when so many children have lived in isolation from their peers and their teachers, the social-emotional development has been particularly and dramatically affected.

    This extensive group of collaborators has come together to plan a week-long celebration of diverse children’s literature across the West Bay for the first week of April. During the week we will have smaller events, culminating in a celebratory book festival on April 9, 2022. 

    In partnership with local public and school libraries and other community organizations, they are planning to host:

    • Storywalks in East Greenwich, North Kingstown, Kingston, West Warwick, and Exeter featuring a diversity of picture book stories with outdoor installations of picture book pages along a walking path, so that children, families, and caregivers can explore the book and the outdoors together.

    • Free virtual author visits for local elementary schools on April 8th. Authors will provide 20-minute zoom storytimes and Q&A with students at local schools. 

    • Bookmaking and comics workshops for kids and poetry writing workshops for teens, hosted by local teaching artists. 

    • A book festival on April 9th, featuring a diverse lineup of award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators who will speak and read from their work, interact with children, and sign books. 

    • A free book for each child attending and bringing a stamped event passport to the event on April 9th. Children will be able to collect stamps at all of the planned events and storywalks.

    The planners are currently seeking volunteers and authors/illustrators willing to donate their time. To volunteer, please contact Jeanette Bradley at jeanette@jeanettebradley.com.

  • Wednesday, January 19, 2022 5:49 PM | Anonymous

    The Rhode Island House of Representatives honored Patricia Redfearn on her retirement after 18 years as director of the George Hail Free Library in Warren, RI. Read the full House Resolution H 7039 online.

    You can read more about Patricia's career at George Hail via EastBayRI at this URL:


  • Tuesday, January 11, 2022 9:26 AM | Anonymous

    RILA 2022 Annual Conference. The theme is "restore, reconnect, reflect." Conference is May 25-26, 2022, at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI.Save the Date! The Rhode Island Library Association 2022 Annual Conference will be held on May 25 - 26, 2022, at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. The youth & school library track will be on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

    The conference theme is Restore Reconnect Reflect. The Conference Committee hopes that we will be able to get together in person for a restorative event that allows us to reconnect with each other and with the fundamentals of the library profession while reflecting on library services during trying times. The Conference Committee is monitoring the situation with the pandemic and will be prepared to move to a virtual conference should the necessity arise.

    The Call for Proposals is now open and accepting your submissions. The committee strives to create a vibrant conference that will leave attendees invigorated and inspired. As part of this year's theme Restore Reconnect Reflect, we are looking for proposals that address core library services and highlight our fundamental library values including information access, intellectual freedom and censorship, building community, and equity, diversity and inclusion. Your proposal does not need to fit the theme to be considered for inclusion in the conference.

    Please submit your proposals by Sunday, February 6, 2022, at the 2022 RILA Annual Conference Call for Proposals form. You will also find a link for a Google Doc with all required questions to help you more easily work on proposals before submission. We look forward to reading your proposals!

    For any questions, please contact the conference committee at conference@rilibraries.org.

"Rhode Island Library Association" is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Rhode Island Library Association, P.O. Box 6765, Providence, RI 02940

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