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An Anniversary and Dreams in an Era of Doubt

By howard | July 15, 2009

a guest post by Kathy Ryan.

Although a library can rise above the environment it inhabits, it must be conscious of that environment nonetheless, as we all must be conscious of our environment and the need to protect it from ourselves in the interest of our own survival.  Kathy has been working on planning a new library for Tiverton with the consciousness of an environmentalist.  I asked her to share some of her experience and thoughts with us; her response follows.  –hb:

Public Library Service was begun in Tiverton in 1820 with Union Library, the second oldest in Newport County. The Town maintained up to four buildings in the main villages of town. The current main building, the Essex, saw groundbreaking in May of 1939 during the Great Depression. Its books were cataloged as part of a WPA project.

Today, Union is designated a reading room and library services are coordinated through Essex.The current buildings are not compliant with State and Federal standards. Current location makes expansion impossible. Building Committees have worked since the mid-1980’s to address the need for a new structure for a growing community of over 15,000. In fall of 2007, we signed on a property in [appropriately named!] Bliss Corners–at the geographic center of Tiverton. Also, in 2007, four of the library community had an opportunity to attend and be the subject of a workshop at the Library Journal Design Institute: Going Green, held in Chicago. It was an incredible, serendipitous experience–hugely invigorating, and can be found at the Library Journal website.

On June 19, 2008, the Tiverton Library Building Foundation was awarded a $5,000 grant by the Newport County Fund of the RI Foundation. This grant was to provide energy modeling, life-cycle analysis, and funding opportunities available for constructing a new, green, resource-efficient library building.

The future library building will have a great impact on the Town, from its full service as a library for all the citizens of Tiverton, to its place as a partner in the economic development of Bliss Four Corners.

Architect Steven L. Hughes, AIA, LEED, of the Robinson Green Beretta Corp. in Providence, presented the Report to the public on February 18, to very positive reviews in a packed hall at Judson St.  The conclusion was that building a “green” library is cost efficient, compared to a conventional building, especially when commissioned.
· Heat and energy costs according to the energy modeling would be lowered from $5.50 SF in the current 2,800 SF building to $2.00 SF in the new 31,500 SF building. [The project is included in the federal economic stimulus-funding request.]

· A green library will be a model for smart municipal project design.

· It will include critically needed meeting space, display space for artists, as well as programming, workspace, and public restrooms that are impossible in the existing building.

· The water saving technologies will help avoid potential negative impact on the Westport River Watershed and keep an estimated 127,500 gal / year of drinking water from being wasted.

· Construction waste will be recycled, saving cost and materials.

· Maintenance costs will be factored into material and system selections as part of preliminary planning.

· Healthy building construction without volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), using natural light and improved ventilation, will help to improve working conditions and create a pleasant, healthy environment.

· Sustainable site development techniques will preserve greenspace and minimize runoff into groundwater from parking.

· The proposed one story building will provide easy access for elderly, those with handicaps, and young children to resources and programming that are currently unavailable.

· The proximity to recreation, fire/rescue services, an art colony, retail, homes, the closeness of elementary/middle/high schools will effectively create a mini town-center.

The PowerPoint presentation and Narrative Report are available for all at www.tivertonlibrary.org. The Narrative includes the report by Conserve by Design on potential “green” funding sources.

In Oct. 2008, a second grant was received from the RI Foundation for Strategic Planning. It will provide concept drawings and allow us to begin a Capital Campaign. Additional grant applications are underway.
In February, through the efforts of Senator Reed, the Library was awarded a federal appropriation appropriation of $475,000 toward the project.
The Four Corners Merchants held a holiday fundraiser toward the new building. Meetinghouse Realty saw that and began another. Pennies and Pell Bridge tokens are pledged.
When this building is done–a shining, sustainable, response to community need– it will have been built by more than 15,000  pairs of hands!

Our thanks to all who worked to bring the project to this step, to those who packed the hall at Judson St. on a cold snowy night to hear the report, and to the RI Foundation, whose vision and funding enabled the study to    happen.

Kathryn E. Ryan
Chair, Tiverton Library Building Committee
President, Friends of Tiverton Libraries

Topics: General | 15 Comments »

Summer reading, reading summer

By howard | July 8, 2009

Nicholas D. Kristof used a line in his column last Sunday that I have been quoting (or plagiarizing, depending on the circumstance) ever since I read it, to put across the importance of what libraries do for kids that school can’t.  He wrote, “So how will your kids spend this summer? Building sand castles at the beach? Swimming at summer camp? Shedding I.Q. points?”  He then went on to recommend his favorite kid’s books as a bulwark against this summer’s instance of the declining intelligence phenomenon.  All that was missing from his column was the library.

I wish he would have recognized that it usually isn’t enough for an adult to recommend something to read.  Kids frequently need more incentive than that, and the kids who would most benefit from some summer reading might often turn out to be the kids who need the most incentives.  That’s what the library does.  By putting summer reading into a context it makes reading more than a chore the grownups want to do.  By making that a library context, kids can find the incentives they need.  Summer Reading Programs make available everything from the all-important social milieu – complete with the potential for peer pressure to read – to competition for prizes, goals to reach, entertainment rewards and even the opportunity to use reading as an excuse to simply escape for a little bit.  In that, the summer Reading Program is an enticing context.  But there’s more, the Summer Reading Program is in the Library context, the Library is in the community context.  How can you lose?

In RI libraries, summer reading is coordinated statewide.  This Summer at OLIS we are lucky enough to have been able to engage Cheryl Space as our new Library Program Specialist for Youth Services just in time to coordinate and enhance the wonderful work the state’s state’s youth services librarians do. The statewide program coordinates with the national Collaborative Summer Library Program making the context even bigger.

Isn’t that what libraries are all about.  Walk into one and you’re inside them all, ’cause they all work together. But you don’t need to walk, you can enter online. More and more you can enter via Facebook, Twitter. . . . Then, once you are in the library, you can be there in your community or you can be there alone, or. . .you can indeed get there from here. Over 15,000 kids did last summer through a Summer Reading Program at their public libraries, Bradley Hospital or Meeting Street School.

Meanwhile, the more I misuse Nicholas D. Kristof’s image of IQ points littering the streets of our communities waiting for the kids on summer vacation to go to the library and seal up some learning for next September, the more I am glad he brought the subject up at all; the more I am glad we are working on it.  Get your kids to your library this summer.  Get yourself there, too.

Topics: General | 1 Comment »

Working for the Fourth of July

By howard | July 3, 2009

A thought for the 4th:  It is an informed citizenry that makes it possible for us to keep the convenant of the fourth of July.  We are able to continue celebrating our Independence because we actively maintain it.  It’s a particularly special celebration for us library folks as we devote our working hours to making sure citizens can find out what they need to know to participate in our democracy; that our children can learn to independently discover information, turn it into knowledge and apply it to the making of their communities; and that there is a space in every community where all can take part.  Many thanks to all who help in that work.  Happy Fourth of July.  Fireworks, please!

Topics: General | No Comments »

GIA 2010

By howard | January 29, 2009

Last April, I wrote, “We are all facing another difficult budget year. I know it is of little comfort, but RI is not at all alone.  .  . .”  Little did I know that I would be posting the same message this year, albeit with a little more intensity.

Once again this year, the trouble is nation (world) wide. A recent news release reported, “Forty-one percent of states report declining state funding for U.S. public libraries in fiscal year 2009, according to a survey of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) conducted by the American Library Association (ALA). Twenty percent of these states anticipate an additional reduction in the current fiscal year.”  Despite our high ranking in the distressed state milieu, RI state funding for public libraries remains level this year.

I also wrote last year that “. . .in Rhode Island, flat funding of library grants-in-aid coupled with reductions in other state aid to municipalities and local troubles stemming from the general downturn in our economy have upped the downward pressure on local library budgets. In some cases that downward pressure could lead to loss of the state grant-in-aid. Local budget decisionmakers will need to be careful about ensuring continued eligibility for state grants-in-aid. . . .”  That, too, has not changed.

The Law does indeed require municipalities to “. . .appropriate from local tax revenues an amount not less than the amount appropriated the previous year from local tax revenues and expended for library operating expenses. . .” (that’s in RIGL: 29-6-3  Eligibility requirements – Municipalities. In case you wish to read it).  I have, however, some leeway in applying eligibility criteria; and, knowing the dire straits many cities and towns are in this year, am inclined to consider requests for waivers.

In any waiver request I shall be looking to see that:
1) reductions of the library budget are fair and equitable considering cuts to other municipal services;
2) there has been a serious consideration of what percentage of the municipal budget is represented by library services and how reducing that will help in balancing the budget;
3) that reductions to the funding of library services will not impair the municipality’s ability to meet Minimum Standard for Rhode Island Public Libraries) or to make a case for standards waivers including plans to return to compliance.

A waiver of eligibility requirements is a serious matter.  Abrogation of the maintenance of effort has important ramifications for public library services.  Most libraries are a very small portion of their municipality’s budget, are already operating very close to the budgetary bone and are experiencing increased demand for their services as the ambient economy declines.  Reduction of the municipal library budget not only abandons the responsibility for funding library services (that led the legislature to include a maintenance of effort requirement in the first place) during the year of the cut, but reduces the subsequent years’ requirements by reducing the basis of their calculation.  That calls up visions of a downward spiral that would wreak havoc on Rhode Islanders’ ability to get help with a resume, use the Internet find out about education and training opportunities, get reliable health information, watch a movie, read a book; in other words, obtain library service.

Moreover, as public libraries in Rhode Island cooperate massively through resource sharing, interlibrary loan, consolidated services etc., a reduction to any is a reduction to all.  Rhode Islanders need only one library card to have access to the materials in all the state’s public libraries.  Resource sharing agreements extend that accessibility to materials held by college and university, hospital, school and other libraries as well.  By working together, libraries have made an enormous selection of online resources as well as over 10 million books, magazines, DVDs, etc. available to all on a routine basis.  The maintenance of effort ensures a certain level of reliability in each library’s contribution to the whole.

Will you be facing money troubles in your library in FY2010?  Please email or comment here.  Let us know how the funding situation in  your city or town is likely to affect library services.

Topics: GIA | 3 Comments »

In Memoriam Senator Claiborne Pell

By howard | January 2, 2009

One of the special things about having come to the state of Rhode Island as a young librarian in 1979 was to have come to the state of Senator Claiborne Pell.  Senator Pell’s name was already virtually synonymous with our government’s role in the kind of cultural phenomena that libraries comprise.  The Arts. . .the Humanities. . .Higher Education. . .Libraries themselves. . .federal participation bore the stamp of his leadership.  State and local governments followed or benefited from that federal role.  We would not have the libraries – or the cultural heritage we are so proud of – without his impetus.

Senator Pell was the genius behind the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and, of course, the Pell grants that bear his name.  He was also a sponsor of the White House Conferences on Libraries and information Services and of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) .  We would not have become the libraries or the librarians we are without him.

Claiborne Pell passed away on New Year’s Day.  We will miss him.   Our hearts are with his family and friends, we mourn alongside them.  Let us hope that we can continue to act on the inspiration he has been to us throughout his long life of service.

Topics: General | No Comments »

Hanukkah for librarians 2009

By howard | December 24, 2008

The holidays are upon us.  We do Hanukkah at our house, which this year has a special library lesson to carry into the new year among all of our other resolutions.

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle.  The Temple in Jerusalem was humiliated by Seleucid Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE by the establishment therein of an alter to Zeus. The Temple was given over to the worship of the Greek gods and the practice of Judaism proscribed.  To add insult to injury, the worship of Zeus included sacrificing pigs – the Jews’ most reviled animal – the Temple was truly denigrated.

The pigs are in the Temple
Their rooting snoots debase the floor
Their hooves have carved a dour example
From the altar to the door.

At the same time, the implements and treasures of Jewish worship were removed from the Temple or destroyed.

Mattathias, a priest of the Temple and leader of an intense and traditionalist segment of the Jewish community refused to obey the new laws, took to the hills with his seven sons and their followers and developed an armed insurgent movement, the Maccabees. In 165 BCE, the Maccabees triumphed over the Seleucids and reestablished Jewish practice in Jerusalem.  The image I retain from hearing this story as I grew up is of a terrible battle in the Temple itself with the Maccabees at the end left standing in a pile of ruins

They cleaned and ritually cleansed the Temple, built a new altar to replace the polluted one and made new holy vessels. To complete the Temple’s rededication, however, they needed sacramental olive oil to light the menorah, the “eternal light” that was supposed to burn continually inside the Temple. But among the ruins there remained unadulterated by Zeus’ occupation only one vial, only enough to burn for one day.

Miraculously, that one vial of oil burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply.  Hence the eight days of Hanukkah, the holiday whose name means “rededication”

A week’s worth of oil from one day’s worth – a familiar miracle to librarians who routinely wring eight days of value from one day’s worth of funding.  A tradition we are likely to have to rely on more than usual in the coming year as there seems to be little hope for an end to the economic woes that threaten all of our budgets.

That New Years’ Resolution? Just as the Maccabees recognized the importance of sacramental oil to the recovery of their Temple and their society in BCE 165 Jerusalem, so we need to assert the importance of our libraries in the recovery of our economy and society.  ALA has provided something of a blueprint in a report to the presidential transition team that will help us do that. Click here to see it at the ALA website.

Resolved:  To do what I can to ensure that everyone, especially our government decisionmakers, understands the important role our libraries have to play in the recovery of our economy and the progress of our nation.

Topics: General | 1 Comment »

Statistics in Overdrive/Overdrive in Statistics

By howard | November 28, 2008

The election campaign season sent me back to the news-junkie-ism I thought I had gotten under control many years ago. In the exhaustion that followed the election returns, though, I, like so many others, have had to find strategies for returning to a ‘normal’ life. Chief among those has been a determination to avoid tuning the car radio to news broadcasts during my brief, but often traffic jam ridden commute.

Like all of my resolutions – about portion control, working out and the like – my success rate has not risen to what it ought to be – after all, my NPR addiction is almost 30 years old. So I have turned to the strategy that was such a help long ago when I abandoned cigarettes, substitution.

What is more appealing than the morning and the evening news? A well written, well read book, of course and many of those are available to check out digitally at the Ocean State Library (OSL)’s E-zone (browse there from your local library’s homepage or go directly to http://riezone.lib.overdrive.com). Thousands of titles are waiting there to be borrowed in audio format as though they were physical books sitting on the shelf at the local library, except that at E-zone, the local library is open 24/7 and the books require a little help from a little bit of technological gear. The directions for using the service, though, are remarkably simple. As the welcome screen at the E-zone site says,

“Browse, Check Out, and Download best selling digital titles 24/7 to your PC and PDA at home, in the office or from anywhere in the world. Now you can hear Audiobooks and Music, or view eBooks and Videos–Free. Digital media can be downloaded and listened to on your home PC and if the publisher allows burned to CD for your car stereo. All titles can be transferred to many supported portable devices–all without leaving the comfort of your home! Now your library never closes! Check one out today!”

I don’t recommend the eBooks or the videos for your commute, but now, in the middle of 7 hours and 19 minutes of listening to Simon Winchester regaling me with the story of the making of the OED (with all of his charm, wit and endearing propensity for digression live in my ears as he reads me his book, The meaning of everything) instead of being assailed with the ongoing tale of hell’s handbasket (thanks to Patricia J. Williams for that phrase) that travel-time news reports, I am in much more relaxed.

OSL’s E-zone is one of the great examples of things libraries in RI do better together. Buying and using the service as a multi-jurisdictional multi-institutional collaborative saves each municipality and its libraries time and money and each library user fuss and bother.  At the same time, each library is able to offer a far greater selection of downloadable titles than it could were it to go it alone. The electronic equivalent of interlibrary loan and OSL’s one-card-for-all-the-public-libraries provides every Rhode Islander access to all the available titles.

Downloadables are great for library users (the e-books and videos included) and represent a significant advance in libraryland’s efforts to keep up with our mission of interfacing between our clientele and the world of information and cultural packaging (per Jesse Shera’s dictum that we find for “each reader his [/her] book and for each book its reader”).  It is a trouble, though for those of us who bother ourselves with measuring library service and paving the road for researchers to analyze our world and find better ways for us to serve.

The ground zero of such botheration for Public Libraries is IMLS (the federal Institution for Museum and Library Services)’s Public Library Statistics Cooperative, (PLSC, the successor to the Federal State Cooperative System for Public library Data, FSCS, that had been managed until last year by the National Center for Educational Statistics and the National Commission on Library and Information Services), who are holding their annual symposium December 3-5, 2008 and will be deliberating on, among other things, how to account for use of downloadables from public libraries. Data Coordinators from each state and territory as well as staff from IMLS’ brand new research and statistics program will take part in the forum.

The debate is twofold; 1) how do you count downloadables in a particular library’s collections and 2) how do you count circulation?  If a title is bought by a consortium (like OSL), it is available to all the libraries; analogous to a book with a copy on the shelf in every library and branch; does this count as one purchased item or, in the case of OSL, 71 items?  When the item circulates, which library does it circulate from?  The one that bought it; hence “owns” it, or the library at which the borrower is registered? Both matters are made more complicated by the nationwide variety in the way libraries deploy downloadable service. Methodologies range from a single purchase by a group of libraries through individual purchases by libraries all using a single contract, to individual libraries purchasing individual use contracts for use in a multi-library loaning collaborative or individual libraries circulating exclusively to their registered borrowers.

Even here in OSL, some titles are purchased jointly to be “always available” while others come out of an individual library’s budget and are available to only one user at a time. Trouble is that for the data to be useful to researchers, we will need to define our terms for data collection the same way throughout the country.  Next week PLSC will try to decide what that way will be and next year or the year after, public libraries will report that way on their annual reports. Other topics of discussion will include the question of how old a YA is and how old children are.

I will be participating both as Rhode Island’s State Data Coordinator and as a delegate from COSLA the national association of Chief Officers of State Library Agencies. Let’s talk; what do you think about downloadable service and how you think we ought to count them.

Topics: Annual Reports, General | 1 Comment »

Inside and Outside the Library

By howard | October 7, 2008

Fall is here. The thermometer fell to 40° last night and promises to do so again tonight; so it is time to go inside where it’s warm and cozy. Yet, autumn being the most delightful of seasons, it’s beautiful outside, and growing more so. Daily the leaves take on color and their fragrance permeates even the center of the city. The chill is crisp, making outside a refreshing place to be. Can it be that Fall has value both inside and out? Like a library?

Our libraries are inside. Each is a building or a part of a building made especially welcoming to any who come to learn or bring the kids to learn, to read, to get on the Internet, experience exhibits or programs, participate in community activities, seek the advice of reference librarians or readers’ advisors, or simply be part of the past and future of human culture that every library is. The library is a place – inside.

Increasingly, however, there is an outside of each library as well. From wherever an electronic connection can be made, many of the library’s tools and resources can be used just as they can from the inside. These are the databases, full text articles, e-books, digital collections of all kinds and other online resources that each library selects to meet the needs of its clientele. College and University library users have long provided their communities with access to databases and full text articles for research. RI’s public libraries offer e-books as well and a selection of databases and full text materials.

OLIS has long been working on creating a space in that outside-of-the-library that is everyone’s – a RI people’s park, if you will, where resources of wide interest can be accessible to anyone anywhere in RI. The first flower we planted in that park, AskRI is the online reference service provided to everyone in RI by the Statewide Reference Resource Center (SRRC) at the Providence Public Library under contract with OLIS. Monthly between 200 and 300 questions arrive at AskRI as emails or online chat sessions and are answered by the reference staff of the Providence Public Library. Questioners find AskRI in a link from the state’s web portal, ri.gov, or from a RI public library website.

Working in the park again this Summer, we set about cultivating a core collection of online resources to add to AskRI. For this effort, we are proud to have put together a consortium of consortia – HELIN, OSL, RILINK and the SRRC – that chose to plant access to Tutor.com, World Book and a selection of EBSCO databases in the AskRI park. The flowers are coming up now; check out the news on OLIS website www.olis.ri.gov to watch them grow and bloom.

The Statewide Reference Resource Center is established in RIGL 29-6 as a state grant to the Providence Public Library. OLIS and PPL annually negotiate a contract and program of service, available for view on the OLIS website www.olis.ri.gov. Special thanks are due this year to Dan Austin and Kathy Ellen Bullard of PPL and Karen Mellor of OLIS for their work hammering out the 2009 contract. Thanks are also due to the participants in the ‘consortium of consortia’ Bob Aspri of HELIN (RI’s Higher Education Library Information Network), Joan Gillespie of OSL (Ocean State Libraries), and Dorothy Frechette of RILINK (RI Library network for Kids).

Topics: General | No Comments »

Summer learning

By howard | July 16, 2008

It was a pleasure to read in the Providence Journal a couple of months ago about the value of summer learning (Summer learning makes a big impact by Ron Fairchild, May 29,2008). The proliferation of summer programs for kids is heartening. All Rhode Islanders should be excited about it – kids, their parents, and anyone who treasures education, economic development, quality of life, the future. Mr. Fairchild is right to cite the “study after study” that shows the importance of summer learning programs and to praise Rhode Island for pursuing them. He did, however, fail to mention the mainstay of out-of-school learning for Rhode Island children, the local public library. Throughout the state, public libraries offer quality learning opportunities for kids (and grownups) outside of school. During the school year, it’s homework help, and after school and weekend enticements.

Every summer, through the coordination of the state’s Office of Library and Information Services, Rhode Island’s public libraries offer a Summer Reading program. With a modicum of support from federal, state and municipal government and the help of such partners as the McDonald’s Restaurants of Rhode Island, Pawtucket Red Sox, Citizen’s Bank, Coca-Cola, the Providence Journal, libraries tailor library services and special events to their communities around a common theme. This year, it’s “Catch the Reading Bug!” (as highlighted in a Providence Journal Newspaper in Education Supplement May 19, 2008.) Replete with prizes, presentations and other incentives to keep their minds operating through summer vacation, the libraries provide kids with a fun place to learn.

By working together within the state and by participating in the 45 state Collaborative Summer Library Program, libraries are able to keep costs down and leverage a very small government contribution to produce a very large impact in every RI community. By partnering with local businesses and agencies that serve children, libraries stretch the government dollar even farther. The Summer Reading Program is available to every kid in Rhode Island.

Last year 13,744 kids participated. Twenty-one libraries last year had teen summer reading programs as well. Bradley Hospital and the Meeting Street School helped assure that disabilities would not be a deterrent to participation. Well over half of the participants completed their local library’s program. Upward of 17,000 attended 272 special events. Funding is always a challenge; diminishing state and federal contributions meant a decrease in the number of events at libraries last year, only some of which was made up through local grants and donations. Despite the funding situation, however, this year, libraries are expecting even more excitement and more participation. Knowing what libraries are doing on a shoestring, consider what they could do with more.

“Catch the Reading Bug!” will be different at every library, but will include great reading experiences, of course, storytellers, magic, edutainment and entomophagy. A Summer Reading Club for teens at many libraries will feature “Metamorphosis@ Your Library” with special programs in the young adult department. Summer Reading Program information is available at the local library; a statewide schedule of performances and presentations is posted at www.olis.ri.gov/services/srp.

We’re in the midst of summer now, and young minds in every corner of Rhode Island are keeping active through the Summer Reading Program at their local public library. They will consequently return to school next fall that much more ready to learn. Educators, legislators, policy makers at all levels should be thinking library whenever they consider after school or summer learning

Topics: General | 1 Comment »

RI library advocates go to Washington

By howard | May 23, 2008

Last Tuesday and Wednesday I spent with some of my most convivial colleagues. Seven of us constituted a RI delegation to ALA’s National Library Legislation Day (NLLD). We learned a lot and accomplished a lot, and rediscovered how special RI is on the national library advocacy stage. Three members of the LiBRI (Library Board of Rhode Island), chair Mark McKenney, Joan Ress Reeves, and Rose Ellen Reynolds (who also represented COLA), Chris LaRoux, RILA president, Jackie Lamoureux, president of RIEMA, David Macksam RI’s ALA councilor and I participated in a Briefing Day on Tuesday and visited our congressmen and senators on Wednesday. We went armed with information packets for our legislators and for their staffs outlining the federal issues of special interest to RI libraries. See what was in our Packets:

Briefing Day was deftly managed by ALA’s Washington Office. It featured a rundown by the Washington Office’s executive director Emily Sheketoff of the hot library issues before the legislature and key messages that ALA wants to convey on behalf of libraries. Emily not only understands libraries of all kinds, but is on top of the what and who of currents events on the Hill. Remarkably, she is able to communicate all that (and it is an ‘all that’!) to us ordinary librarians and library supporters in a way we can understand. The Washington Office team also prepared a slew of papers on ALA’s hot issues and key messages for us to share with our legislators. You can see them at ‘issue briefs’ and at ‘other resources’ on their website: http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/washevents/nlld/nlld2008.cfm. Also valuable was a panel of congressional hill staffers with tips on how the legislative process works and how to communicate with legislators and their staffs.

Briefing Day also held the first NLLD experience of RI as something special. That was the presentation of the first annual WHCLIST (White House Conference on Library and Information Services Taskforce) award to help pay for a participant to attend NLLD. The award was presented by our own Rose Ellen Reynolds, current chair of WHCLIST – RI showing the way.

Wednesday the RI delegation gathered in front of Representative Langevin’s Office in the Cannon House Office Building. We were joined by James Telhia, who is leaving URI for a post in Idaho and was joining both state delegations for legislator visits. We had a friendly and productive visit with Rep. Langevin’s Legislative Assistant Kirtley Ficher.

Thus we began the second round of our “RI is special” experience. Unlike most of our colleagues in other states, we found ourselves more thanking our legislators than petitioning them. Jim added to that feeling; we all noted that he is moving from the nation’s bluest to the nation’s reddest state. Having joined the Idaho delegation for their visits the day before, he could attest to the contrast. We didn’t have any hard sales to make, just reminders that library-related issues need attention.

At Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s office , also in the Cannon Bldg., we met primarily with very knowledgeable legislative assistant Mike Harney. The congressman did stop in for a considerable time to say hi and assure us of his concern for our issues.

RI delegation with Senator Whitehouse After lunch in the Senate Cafeteria we spoke with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and his assistant Regan Fitzpatrick in the Hart Senate Office Building. Again, we said thank you. Senator Whitehouse is particularly involved in our intellectual freedom issues, and eagerly joins Senator Reed in his support of libraries.

The biggest thank yous, of course went to Senator Jack Reed, who saw us in his office, also in the Hart Building, and his legislative aide and long time library advocate Elyse Wasch. Senator Reed continues to be the driving force of library advocacy in the US Congress and Elyse continues to be the librarian’s ideal of a legislative staffer.

In the lobby at Senator Reed’s office, we ran into a delegation from Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance – one of our local natural allies in providing services to children also there to thank the senator and remind him of RI kids’ – and parents’ – continuing needs.

RI delegation with Senator ReedAll of our legislators urged patience. Action on library issues (and a host of others) they told us, is likely to wait until the new administration takes over. Dollar items especially, are likely to be on the shelf until next spring. We can wait until March, we intimated, but our needs, especially full funding for LSTA, SKILLS and NLS for Talking Books Plus, e-rate, net neutrality and the issues that impinge upon intellectual freedom. We had a successful and satisfying NLLD.

Many thanks to all who helped: at OLIS, especially Debbie Cullerton who did all the logistics for our delegation and Alicia Waters who helped Debbie put the information packets together – in time.

Topics: General | Comments Off on RI library advocates go to Washington


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