URI GSLIS Annual Gathering on May 3 features the Library of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards

Monday, April 01, 2024 8:30 PM | Anonymous

The Graduate School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s awards for Library of the Year and Alumni of the Year. The Library of the Year for 2024 is the Rhode Island State Archives in Providence, Rhode Island. Each year, GSLIS honors two alumni: one who graduated 10 or more years ago and another recent alumnus who graduated within the last 5-10 years. Our Alumna of the Year for 2024 is Stephanie Mills and our Recent Alumna of the Year for 2024 is Alyssa Taft. These awards will be presented at the GSLIS Annual Gathering, to be held May 3, 2024 at the URI Alumni Center in Kingston, RI. The Annual Gathering is an evening of professional camaraderie and celebration that will celebrate these award winners, along with our alumni, current students, and larger community, as well as a panel on Collaboration, comprised of Ashley Selima, RI State Archivist and Public Records Administrator, Stephanie Mills, Librarian at Park View Middle School, and Alyssa Taft, Teen Librarian at Cranston Public Library.

The Rhode Island State Archives is being recognized for its focus on serving the people and history of Rhode Island through in-person and virtual exhibits, collaborations with state and local agencies, and outreach to the people of Rhode Island. The RI State Archives engages in a wealth of collaborations, including with the New England Document Conservation Center to help preserve the RI Bill of Rights. They offer a variety of public programs, such as their Genealogy Open Houses, Map Nights, and a Parks & Recreation Panel offered in collaboration with RI Recreation and Parks Association, RI Department of Environmental Management, and the City of Providence. Continuing their efforts to broaden access to state historical collections, the RI State Archives has created several interactive stories through a partnership with Google Arts & Culture, including stories on RI parks and recreation, the Gaspee Raiders, and RI wild weather, among others. GSLIS selected the Rhode Island State Archives as Library of the Year for 2024 because of their commitment to public service through collaboration with state and local agencies, other partners, and the public. As State Archivist and Public Records Administrator Ashley Selima told URI Magazine, “Being a small part in helping people become more civically engaged is a really rewarding thing.”

Since graduating from URI GSLIS in 2007, Stephanie Mills has worked as the Librarian at Park View Middle School in Cranston, RI. Mills has been recognized for her collaborative work with teachers and other librarians. She has even collaborated with her students, seeking their input to help select books for an ARPA-funded grant from the RI Office of Library and Information Services in 2021. Among many other accomplishments, Mills was named School Librarian of the Year in 2020 by the School Librarians of Rhode Island. Cranston Public School Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse was quoted in the Cranston Herald as saying, “Stephanie is a wonderful example of a school librarian who has gone above and beyond to keep our students engaged in reading, in learning, and in utilizing our library’s many resources and supports. Our libraries are community hubs and Mills’ library at Park View Middle School certainly illustrates that important community dynamic.” This reflects Mills’ view of the library as “the hub, the place that brings together a community of readers,” as she explained to the URI Magazine. She described her collaborative teaching efforts in a blog post for Springshare in 2015, noting that she “work[ed] with different teams, many content areas and two grade levels on a daily basis.” Mills’ partnership with Alyssa Taft, the Recent Alumna of the Year, was featured in School Library Journal. URI GSLIS is proud of Stephanie Mills and all of her exemplary contributions to school librarianship and community building in Rhode Island.

Alyssa Taft graduated from URI in 2017 with both an MLIS and MA in English. Taft’s MLIS degree was completed with School Library Media certification, and she first worked as the library media specialist at Portsmouth Middle School before joining the Cranston Public Library teen services team in 2019. At Portsmouth Middle School, Taft collaborated with other teachers to put on an event in 2019 where students could chat live with authors through Skype. Teen Librarian, Taft runs a variety of programs and outreach events including Service Saturday when local teens can complete their community service requirements, the Cranston East High School Bring Your Own Book Club in partnership with OneCranston Health Equity Zone, and even Cupcake Wars. Taft has partnered with the Cranston Senior Center to have Service Saturday teens decorate Thanksgiving and Christmas cards that accompany holiday meals for seniors. Currently the Secretary of the RI Teen Book Award Committee, this year, Taft also stepped in as Co-Chair of the RILA Conference Committee, and has contributed to School Library Journal, Computers in Libraries, and Publisher’s Weekly. URI GSLIS is proud of Alyssa Taft and her commitment to serving the youth of Rhode Island, both as a school librarian and now as a public librarian.

GSLIS is proud of all our 2024 award winners and looks forward to celebrating with them on May 3 at our Annual Gathering. Registration is required.