In This Issue
Rhode Island Festival of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators
Download Station in Practice
Share-a-Story
Librarians Detect!
It was strange...
News from the Field
Better Know a Librarian
Better Know a Library









The Rhode Island Library Association is a professional association of Librarians, Library Staff, Trustees, and library supporters whose purpose is to promote the profession of librarianship and to improve the visibility, accessibility, responsiveness and effectiveness of library and information
services throughout
Rhode Island.

Contact us at:
PO Box 6765
Providence, Rhode Island 02940

or rilibraries.org

Greetings!

Many of you saw the new RILA website at the RILA Conference.  For those who haven't (and even those who have, it has changed since the conference)--we urge you to hop on over to rilibraries.org and take a look.  We're pretty pleased.

The website was created by Evan Barta, Reference and Technology Librarian at North Kingstown Public Library using drupal, an open-source content management program.  Since drupal is open source, RILA is saving money that can now be geared toward creating more resources and professional development opportunities for Rhode Island librarians.

On the site, you'll find news, minutes for board meetings, past issues of The Bulletin, resources, conference information and more.  This new, more user-friendly format allows us to post frequent updates and keep everyone informed of news and new developments. Take a look and add it to your bookmarks.

Thanks for reading

Andria Tieman & Corrie MacDonald
RI Festival of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators
By Corrie MacDonald
Reference Librarian, Warwick Public Library
Jack Gantos signs books for fans
Jack Gantos is assisted by Paul Cuffee School Library Media Specialist Megan Madden

The occasional opportunity to meet authors and hear them speak about their work is one of the finest perks of librarianship. To read and enjoy a book is to connect with an author; I am always interested to get a peek into the lives of these fascinating, rare creatures who make a living writing books. How often does a librarian - someone who deals in the currency of books - get that chance?

Imagine my excitement, then, to attend the Rhode Island Festival of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators (hereby referred to as "the festival" for brevity's sake) for the first time. Not one author, but ten! As a volunteer, I was assigned the task - if you can call it that - of escorting an author throughout the day.

The festival is held annually at the Lincoln School on the weekend after Columbus Day. Organizer and Lincoln School Librarian Meagan Lenihan credits approximately 100 volunteers with helping to make the day run smoothly. The nearly 3,000 attendees were comprised of teachers, librarians, aspiring authors, and, of course, book loving children.

The literary pedigree of the festival is impressive. Caldecott Award winners Chris Van Allsburg and David Macauley were instrumental in reviving the festival in 2004. (The festival was originally sponsored by OLIS and Women and Infants Hospital, but ended in 1998 after a ten year run.) Van Allsburg's wife, Lisa, works with many different publishers to recruit a solid array of authors and illustrators to appear at the festival. This year's lineup was full of authors and illustrators already familiar to me, whether from a childhood spent reading voraciously or the seven years I worked as a children's librarian. Mark Teague's dinosaur books are a huge hit with my two-year-old, as are Mo Willems' pigeon books. To say I was awed and a little intimidated by the talent surrounding me would be an understatement.

At least I was not the only one feeling overwhelmed. When I found out I would be accompanying Rhode Island Children's Book Award winner Kazu Kibuishi for the day, I did a little internet stalking and found him discussing the upcoming festival on Twitter:

Kazu Kibuishi Twitter Icon
Kazu's Twitter Icon
"I am super excited to meet Chris Van Allsburg. I've been such a huge fan of his work pretty much my entire life!"

"And Jules Feiffer! The Phantom Tollbooth was my first favorite book. I often think about the Dodecahedron for no reason at all."

"Wait a minute, what the heck am I doing on this lineup?"

It was an interesting day. Surely, many of the the attendees were imagining a day in the future when they would be on the other side of the table, signing books for adoring fans. All for only $5 - don't miss it next year!
Overdrive Download Station in Practice
By Evan Barta
Technology and Reference Librarian, North Kingstown Free Library

This summer, the North Kingstown Free Library, along with Cranston Public Library, North Providence Union Free Library and the Newport Public Library received software to install Overdrive Media Download Stations through grant money awarded to the Ocean State Libraries Consortium.  This software allowed each of these libraries to create a place for people to bring their mobile devices to download and transfer audiobooks, music and videos from the Overdrive collection.

 

When I received word that we were selected, I was very excited.  Our library, thanks to the efforts of Sue Moreland and the rest of our staff, has put a strong emphasis on our digital collection, referring many of our users to it for its convenience and speed.  Since we have a good number of people downloading materials from home, I was hoping that the in-house download station would accomplish two specific goals:

 

  1. Provide a place for people without a high speed internet connection to download materials.
  2. Increase exposure for the Overdrive program in general.

 

Each goal has been met with successes and setbacks.  First, by simply having the station, we have increased access to a significant portion of our population.  Along with the people that don't have internet access at home, there is a large group of people that use dial-up to connect to the internet.  The size of the media involved in the Overdrive program renders a dial-up connection insufficient.  These patrons now have quick and easy access to the digital collections. 

 

I also hoped that the Overdrive program would help to put Overdrive in the spotlight at the library.  Ideally, I thought people would read the posters and signs, and even if they did not have their devices with them, would take that knowledge home with them and explore the program further. While there hasn't been a significant bump in the Overdrive statistics yet, two months is not enough time for any real impact to take place.  It seems that the staff has been receiving a few more questions about the program as of late, which is a good sign.

 

But the download station has brought some small problems as well.  For less tech-savy patrons, the program can prove to be tricky the first few times using it.  The digital rights restrictions and the many different formats and devices still confuse some patrons.  The Download Station is not compatible with iPhones yet, and for iPod users, many have to take their device home to change settings before it can be used in the library.  Also, the ePub format is not available for download at the Download Station, so ereader users must continue to use their home computers to download books.

 

Even with a broadband connection, the download and transfer is far from instantaneous.  Often, the process can take up to thirty minutes.  And since our Download Station is used only for catalog access and Overdrive, a person must stay close to their device until the process is finished.  This also puts an additional worry on the circulation staff who felt they might have to "police" the download station, to make sure there weren't unattended devices being stolen.  Luckily, this has been a non-issue so far, as most people seem to be content staying close to their devices while the download finishes.

 

For the small amount of shortcomings, the Overdrive Media Download Station has proven to be useful for our library.  It has increased access to those in the population without a broadband connection at home or a home computer, and hopefully, it will also shine a light on the digital collections that we have worked so hard to grow.

Share-a-Story
By Babs Wells
Youth Services Librarian, East Smithfield Public Library

Share a StoryThe East Smithfield Public Library began the Share - A- Story Book Group eight years ago, and it has grown and evolved over the years. The group meets once a month from September to June and is open to fourth and fifth graders, along with their caregivers. The aim is to strengthen the bond between the caregiver and their child, promote communication and community and to share the love of reading and learning.

In addition to promoting literacy and reading skills, the books also provide a jumping off place for talk about topics such as gender, values, and responsibility. We read from a diverse selection of age-appropriate literature from a variety of genres. There is no set procedure for how families prepare for the once-a-month group meetings. Some parents read the book out loud at bedtime, some members read the book individually and some read a chapter at a time together preparing to discuss as they move along through the book. I am always amazed at the keen insight the children bring to the table.

It is wonderful to see a child' s eyes light up when they know their opinions are being valued. It is amazing when children express how they connected with a character, whether it is through a common experience that validates a feeling, or a memory that the book brings back to them in a fresh way. Making these connections is one way that the children begin to understand the world around them. It is also just fine for anyone to share that they did not like the book for some reason. In some cases this revelation leads to a lively discussion. We have learned that it is okay to disagree with a given opinion. This is a natural way to learn to be respectful.

When starting this program, I already had an established relationship with the faculty at Old County Road School. The principal enthusiastically jumped on board and the book group has been thriving ever since. In return, the principal and the teachers at the school generously volunteer their time and talents over the summer to conduct very popular story hours during East Smithfield Library's annual Summer Reading Program.

The children are mostly recruited from local public schools, as well as regular library patrons. I like that the children think it is cool to spend an evening at the public library with their caregiver. Reading is an important aspect of the group, but snacks reign supreme! Eating in the library is something that only happens on special occasions. Sometime the snack relates to the book. When we read Love, Ruby Lavender by Debbie Wiles, we all enjoyed root beer floats - a favorite snack of the main character . In June we have our annual ice cream party, the library supplies the ice cream and everyone signs up to bring a different topping. It is a tasty way to wrap up a year spent reading and sharing books together.

Librarians Detect!
By Aaron Coutu
YA Librarian, Greenville Public Library
Librarians stereotypically viewed as being quiet and staid ... often running around shushing people into subservience so as not to disturb others. In reality, our world is filled with chances to interact with our patrons.  They often come in with questions, and (hopefully) with our help, walk out with a smile on their face and just what they were looking for.  At the root of that, is helping those who come in solve their own personal little mysteries.  As a result, it should not be surprising that a number of authors have decided to use librarians as amateur sleuths in their mystery novels.
 
One of the best known authors to do so is Charlaine Harris. She has found mainstream success with her Sookie Stackhouse books, which have been turned into the hit HBO series True Blood.  Before making it big with her tales of vampires, werewolves, and psychics, Harris authored a number of mystery novels focused on Aurora "Roe" Teagarden.  This part-time librarian is a 28-year-old resident of Lawrenceton, Georgia. 

Before being drawn into her first case in Real Murders, Roe has already had an interest in killers.  In the first novel in the series, readers learn she is a member of Real Murders, a discussion group that focuses on famous murder cases. When one of the other members turns up dead, it will be up to Roe to find out what really happened before the murderer sets his targets on her. Seven other books follow in the series.

Those looking for an historical perspective on librarian crime fighters should check out the Seneca Falls mysteries by Miriam Grace Monfredo. Set in the mid-1800s, this series explores the adventures of Glynis Tryon, an intrepid librarian employed at the local public library.  The books touch on many of the issues of the period from prejudice against Native Americans to abolition.  They are also filled with a number of historical figures.  In fact, the first novel (Seneca Falls Inheritance), set in 1848, takes place amid the First Women's Rights Convention allowing Glynis to work closed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton on a case involving the death of a woman claiming to be the sister of a wealthy man who recently bequeathed a major book donation to the library.  A family Bible included in the donation may hold the key to solving her ties to the family ... and who killed her. This is just the first of nine adventures.
 
While most people think of patrons going to libraries, but some librarians take their show on the road with a bookmobile.  That is the case for Israel Armstrong, who arrives for his new job in Tundrum, Northern Ireland only to find out that the library has been closed. Instead, he will be providing library services with a bookmobile that has seen much better days.  To make matters even worse, his first case kicks off because all 15,000 of the books that are supposed to make up the collection have disappeared.  Ian Samson has penned four novels in this series to date with the first being The Case of the Missing Books.

Judith Van Giesen writes about Claire Reynier, a specialist in rare books at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico library in Albuquerque.  Claire took this position as she segues into a new path in life after her divorce.  In The Stolen Blue, Claire finds that her new life is becoming a nightmare when a thief hijacks a box of books she has just carefully selected.  It is now up to Claire to find the book or it will cost her job ... and maybe even her life.  This volume and the other four in the series definitely provide a taste of the American Southwest, showing that in some ways it still hasn't lost its nickname--Wild West.
 
One of Charles A. Goodrum's series centers on the Werner-Bok Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts, which is located between the National Gallery and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. When the director receives several letters and bad press accusing the library of fraud and fakes in the collection, he asks his good friend, retired Yale mastermind and librarian Edward George, to come and get to the root of the problem.  During the investigation, two library employees are murdered.  With the help of Crighton Jones, a young woman fresh out of graduate school working as the library's press officer, and grad student Steve Carson, Edward George is hoping to find the culprit before more bodies turn up.  All this happens in just the first volume, which is wittily entitled Dewey Decimated, of this four-part series.
 
Hopefully, this sampling has whetted your appetite enough to join one of these librarian sleuths (or one of the many others) on an adventure.  Maybe they will inspire you to become a mystery-solver yourself.  Wait ... you already are, at the public service desk.
And it was strange...
Wrapping paperLibrary patrons make us love our jobs, and want to tear our hair out--sometimes at the same time!  Non-librarians always want to hear the weird stuff, those strange requests that make us look at the person making the request, tilt our heads sideways, and say "bah?" and why not?  Quirky characters are all part of a days' work.
Here's a few of the best from
Rhode Island.

--This was many years before the web.  A pre-teen boy asked me for information about Fort McHenry for a school project.  I realized I hadn't conducted a good reference interview when he rejected the first several sources I provided.  Then it occurred to me to ask me what sort of project he was doing.  "Building a replica of the fort out of toothpicks," he said, "So I need pictures that show it from every angle."

--From a Rhode Island College freshman: "I have to do a report on Indians of North America--but I was never good at geography... Where is North America?"

--Do you have the microfilm of Columbus discovery of America? I have to bring in an important headline and talk about it.

--"Are there any ethnic slurs for Norwegians?" The best I could come up with was "fish eater", which in this day and age implies a healthy diet - not exactly an insult!

--Young boy (10 or so) left at the library at closing. If there was ever a ride arranged, they never showed. Can't walk home - lives on the other side of the city. So we have him call home. He gets Mom who doesn't want/can't come get him. (She had an accent; I never did find out). What was clear was her request for us to call and pay for a taxi to send him home. She was pretty cheesed when we refused. Not get a taxi and she will pay at the end of the line, but for us to pay for it. We sadly ended up calling the police to take the poor kid home.

--Does the library have a "noted republic"?

--Just before the holidays we had a lady who wanted us to give her wrapping paper. She had some gifts to wrap, you see. She didn't seem to believe us when we told her libraries don't supply wrapping paper. It took quite a bit of back and forth to convince her. We found out later she also asked at the circulation desk and the library office.

--A dour student came up to the reference desk and sighed heavily, "I need the one where he dies, but she keeps talking to him."
~ Romeo and Juliet, of course

--Patron:  "I need a noted Republican"
Me: "Huh?" 
after several other questions I discover she needed a notary public

--Patron: "How do you get semen stains out of a silk dress?"
no, it wasn't Monica.  And I looked up protein stains in Hints from Heloise--don't know if that worked out for her

--Patron on the phone:  "Do you have any books on masturbation?"
Me:  "Do you need a how to or a history of?"
The kid hung up after that--guess you can't always shock the librarian.

--Back in the day when I was a music librarian at a public library,  we would often be asked to identify pieces of music, especially songs, which patrons would sing, hum, or whistle to us over the phone.  Occasionally they would remember some tiny snatch of words from somewhere in the song, but nothing else.

One day a patron called, sounding very subdued and embarrassed, and asked: "I'm trying to find that song about the goat turd - can you help me?"

"Let me make sure I've got your question right:  this song is about a "goat turd" or it mentions "goat turd" in the lyrics?"

(less embarrassment; more enthusiasm) "Yeh, that's it: it's got "goat turd" in the words!"

At which point the patron breaks into furious, semi-tuneful la-lahing (sorry, no MP3 file), of the melody from the Sound of Music:

"High on a hill was a lonely goat HERD, Lay~ee o~dl, lay~ee o~dl lay~ee~oo."

Ah - those were the days....

 

--Do you guys have the book by JRR Tolkein about that small small guy with hairy feet?

 

--Once when helping out at the reference desk, I had a request from a curmudgeonly elderly gentleman who liked to pretend to great erudition.  He approached me and said "I want information on Dan Coyote".
 
 "Dan Coyote?", I asked.  Is he a native American, or could you tell me more about him so I will know where to start looking?" 
 
He looked at me with what can only be called a sneer.  "I can't believe it!" he cried, "You call yourself a professional and you don't know who Dan Coyote is? What kind of a librarian are you? How could you not know about Dan Coyote? Are you totally illiterate?"
 
Keeping my cool, albeit, with a somewhat steely smile, I asked again, "You'll need to tell me more about Dan Coyote.  Is he someone famous in history? I really don't recognize the name, but since you say he's famous, let's start by checking the encyclopedia " (note: this was in pre-Internet days).
 
Again he acted disgusted and said, "I'm telling you, he's Dan Coyote.  They even made a movie and a musical about him. With that famous song to dream an impossible dream or something like that!"
 
Suddenly the light dawned.  "Oh, you mean Don Quixote!"  "Yes, that's what I said, Dan Coyote!"  "I see, well then, follow me. . . I think we might just have a thing or two in the library about him!"

News From the Field

News:

Many Rhode Island librarians have asked about RILA's decision to sever ties with NELA, a decision that was voted on and passed at the annual conference in May.  For those who were unaware, or who would like to know more about the thought behind it, President Marlane has posted a statement on the RILA website detailing the reasons for the decision.


The Tiverton library received $1000 from National Grid for use in replacing books damaged by the flood this past spring.  The flood destroyed approximately 4500 books from the children's and teen collections, in addition to shelving, wiring and carpet.  Tiverton's Friends of the Library Group has raised about $10,000 so far to put toward replacing the collection.

The 2011 Reading Across Rhode Island title has been selected: The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney. Mullaney is a North Kingstown native and a graduate of Hendricken High School.  The book comes with a Reading List compiled by the author, photographs, and suggestions for donations to nonprofits that help military families, veterans and wounded soldiers.

The author will attend the annual videoconference with schools and RARI Breakfast on April 29 & 30

The Broadband Get Connected Tour was held on Monday, October 25 at the Cranston Public Library located at 140 Sockanosset Cross Road. The event also featured speakers from OSHEAN and RIEDC presenting information on the federal broadband stimulus grants received by those organizations and how these agencies are working with Ocean State Libraries to maximize broadband resources in Rhode Island.

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) received two federal Broadband stimulus grants awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The grants include $1.6 million in funds to provide 600+ computers/printers and 10 mobile computer centers for public libraries at over 70 locations throughout the state - covering virtually every public library in Rhode Island.
Broadband event

Jenna Hecker, a May 2009 URI GSLIS Graduate has been chosen as one of ALA's Emerging Leaders for 2011.  "I am so excited to be selected to participate in Emerging Leaders, I am looking forward to meeting so many other new librarians, and learning from them."she said.  Jenna is the Technology and Reference Librarian at Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA, but she's still a Rhode Islander, living in Providence. 

Retirements:
Jamestown Philomenian Library Director Judy Bell is retiring.


North Smithfield Library Director Carol Brouwer is retiring.

 

Warwick Public Library Adult Programs Librarian Cynthia Trainer will retire in January after 20 years of service.

Programs:
Rochambeau Library:
English as a Second Language classes
Tuesdays, Thursdays, November 16, 2010 - December 21, 2010
1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Rochambeau Library, Providence Community Library
708 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906

South Kingstown/Peace Dale:

Thursday, November 18, 7 PM
Poet Chris Waters reads from  his new book, Ghost Lighthouse: New and Selected Hatteras Poems. A published poet since childhood, and a retired URI Professor of French, Chris lives part of the year in Saunderstown, RI and part on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  

Thursday, December 2, 7 PM
2010 Mom's Choice Award-winning author Christine Carr speaks about her book, Mother Daze: Tales from the Imperfect Playground. Throughout her stories of misplaced toys, temper tantrums, and experiences as a physical education teacher, Christine offers observations that will ring true with all mothers.  Her book offers a virtual high five to women for the gazillion things they manage to miraculously get done.

Middletown:
The Big Picture, Screenwriting Workshop for Teens.
Everyone has a movie inside of them, now it's time to set yours free. Screenwriter extraodinaire, Andria Tieman will teach you how to get that movie idea out of your head, onto paper and into the hands of movie producers.

This programs meets for five sessions: January 13th & 20th, February 3rd & 17th and March 3rd.  Sessions begin at 6pm and run 90 minutes.  Participants must be age 12-18 years old.  Call Christina Wolfskehl 401-846-1573 or email
[email protected] to register.

Rhode Island Historical Society:

Rhode Island Historical Society Book Sale

Aldrich House  

110 Benevolent St. Providence, RI 02906

 

Preview Night   

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010 5-8 pm

Members free

Non-members $10

 

Saturday, December 4, 2010 10 am-4 pm

FREE- All are welcome!


Trails of Memory in the Narragansett Country:

Native and Settler Place-Traditions in Rhode Island after King Philip's War

Rhode Island Historical Society Library

Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 6:30-7:30 pm

 

The lands around Narragansett Bay formed the geographic epicenter of the colonial crisis known as King Philip's War (1675-78), which destroyed settler communities and decimated Narragansett, Wampanoag, and other Algonquian populations.  In the war's aftermath "Narragansett Country" remained a contested place as tribal and settler inhabitants jostled for control of territory-and stories. This talk exposes a vast settler "memory-scape" that emerged in the nineteenth century, where place-visiting and Euro-American oral traditions tended to erase enduring Native peoples from the landscape. 

 

Christine DeLucia is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale University and recipient of a New England Regional Fellowship Consortium Award, which supported her research at RIHS Library on this topic. She studies collective memories of the seventeenth-century "Indian Wars" in the American Northeast and "Red Atlantic" world, tracing ties between the region's physical environment and understandings of a violent colonial past. She earned a degree in Environmental History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland (Millett. 2007) and in History and Literature at Harvard College (A.B. 2006).

 

Better Know a Librarian
Isabel Wallace
Cranston Public Library, Auburn Branch Librarian 1944-1984
By Daniel T. Pires, Auburn Library Patron

I met this remarkable woman when I was a seven-year-old boy almost 63 years ago. She was the children's librarian at the old Auburn Public Library on Park Avenue. In ways I think she never knew, and I doubt realized at the time, she was a very special person in my life.

As a young boy who was the son of hardworking immigrant parents, I came from a family which, by today's standards, would be considered poor. Because my parents never had more than a fourth grade education and struggled with the English language, I too was less proficient in English than my classmates. Reading was difficult for me and my parents were not really able to help me.

One day shortly after the school year had ended, a friend took me to the old Auburn Public Library. Miss Wallace introduced herself and welcomed me when she realized it was my first visit to a library. She explained how I could get a card and borrow books. When she asked if I liked to read I told her I didn't because it was hard and took too much time. She proceeded to tell me the fun and enjoyment reading could provide and offered to help me.

We sat at a table and she started reading a short book to me and just as we got to an exciting part she asked me to read on by myself as best I could for a few moments because she had to help someone at the desk. I think that was the first time I read a book outside of school. Miss Wallace gave me a book to take home and encouraged me to return to tell her about it when I finished or if I needed help. That was the start of my lifetime love of reading.

Isabel Azalea Garden
Isabel with young patrons at a library benefit.

For the rest of that summer I was an almost daily visitor to the library. She would help me choose a book, sit and help me with it when I had difficulties and tell me how proud of me she was. With each book I finished Miss Wallace would fill in a little block on a path leading to the word "Prize." She explained the goal was to get to the end of the path by the end of the summer. I was so proud with each block filled and with her help I colored my last block well before the end of summer. My prize was my own book which she purchased for me. Needless to say I was hooked, and my almost daily visits to the library continued through most of elementary school.

I returned to school at the end of that summer and my teacher asked me who had helped me with my reading which had improved so much. In those days we had reading groups in which we were placed according to our reading ability. Shortly after starting school that year, I was moved from the lowest group to the highest one. All my school work improved dramatically and I was now reading books for enjoyment that Miss Wallace continued to help me select.

Isabel Christmas party
Isabel and the staff of the library and the Auburn Public Library Association board members and spouses at a Christmas Party.

After elementary school my visits to the library were not as frequent and now most of my visits were to get books on the first floor rather than the children's section upstairs. But even then and through high school there were frequent visits to see Miss Wallace. She always found time to chat with me, find out how school was going, what I was reading and to suggest a book I might enjoy.

As time went on I was off to college, became a teacher, got married, was drafted and went to Vietnam. In the process I lost contact with this wonderful woman who had taught me so much. It was several years later that I read an article in the paper about Miss Wallace who was about to retire. I made some inquiries and learned that she loved Maine. I purchased a book about Maine - My Maine Thing and donated it to the library in her honor.

Shortly thereafter I received a wonderful note from Miss Wallace who, to my surprise, not only remembered me, but knew I had gone on to college and become a teacher. She went on to say how proud she was of me. What I don't think she ever really knew was that she, as much as anyone else, was the inspiration and the reason I had done so. For that I am, and will always be grateful to Isabel S. Wallace.

Isabel 100th Anniversary
Isabel reading the 100th anniversary history of Auburn
which she wrote/compiled in 1988.
Better Know a Library
Warwick Public Library
By Mary Anne Quinn
Reference Librarian, Warwick Public Library

Animal Crackers, Chimney Sweeps and Quahoggers:
the Colorful History of the Warwick Public Library

Warwick in the 1960's was a fairly rural community, but the population was exploding as people migrated to the suburbs. Warwick had seven small community libraries, each founded and managed by people in the neighborhood surrounding the library. Many of the libraries had been around for some time, including the Old Warwick League Library, founded in 1884, and the Norwood Library, which opened its doors in 1907. 

The decade from 1950 to 1960 saw an increase in the population of Warwick of 59% and the community realized that along with new schools, Warwick needed a new library! Mayor Horace Hobbs started a committee to study the feasibility of the creation of a central public library, and the new library opened its doors at 600 Sandy Lane in February 1965, with a staff of eight. Opening festivities and speeches were delayed until May and the festivities were held outside on a day so warm and sunny that the folding chairs the audience sat on slowly sank into the asphalt parking lot. The audience got away easily enough, but the ripples in the parking lot remained until it was resurfaced several years later. The small community libraries eventually either closed or became branches of the Warwick Public Library.  Apponaug, Conimicut and Norwood remain branches today, and the Pontiac Free Library is independent.

Vincent Bleeker was the original director, followed by Richard Robbins in 1973 (previously director of the Pawtucket Public Library.) The first challenge Mr. Robbins faced was lack of space. In less than ten years, the popular building was running out of space, and plans were made for the remodeling of the library, which would triple the space available for shelving and library activities without expanding the building. Staff offices were moved upstairs, the Children's Library was expanded, and three public meeting rooms were added to the second floor.

As the library expanded, they added new services and new options for patrons.  The Children's Library lent small animals along with cages, food pellets, wood chips and instructions on care. Parents and children loved this service - children were able to take home a "pet" without the long term commitment parents were happy to avoid. This practice remained popular until 1985.  Mr. Robbins also started opening the library on Sundays, a service he had tried in Pawtucket and proved to be extremely popular. Warwick became the second library in the state offering Sunday hours. Mr. Robbins left the library in 1984, and Douglas Pearce was hired as the new director.

Unusual events occur in every library from time to time and Warwick is no exception. In late November, 1989, library workers arrived in their offices on the third floor, and heard anguished cries for help that seemed to be coming from the wall. After some investigating, the fire department and police were called, only to discover a naked young man covered with soot at the bottom of the 20 foot chimney in the library. Apparently thinking it was a way into the library, the intruder slid down the hot chimney shaft and promptly was stuck - he couldn't climb out and he couldn't go any further down. He had been there all night and was so warm he wriggled out of his clothes. The police department reported that he looked like he was cleaning the chimney. The AP news service picked up the story and made the most of the Santa Claus connection. (It was the Christmas season after all!)

Douglas Pearce handled many challenges in his first few years at the library, but the biggest project, was (you guessed it!) another building renovation. Douglas Pearce and Assistant Director Carol Drought began planning for the next major library renovation in the mid-1990's. Shelf space was tight, the seating capacity was overflowing and space was needed for expanding technology. Larger meeting rooms were needed and the Children's Library was inadequate for current demands.

An additional 28,000 square feet was planned, bringing the library space up to 63,000 square feet. Once the project got under way, most of the collection was packed into eight trailers, and stored for 18 months. The staff was relocated to a storefront on Buttonwoods Ave., with basic circulation, reference and children's services. Only new books and videos were available for checkout. The building project included gutting the original building and adding two large additions. The grand new library was opened in October 1998 and both staff and the public were elated.  Patrons were greeted with state-of-the-art computer equipment, a large quiet study room, a caf´┐Ż, a large children's library with a boat to play in and updated Circulation and Reference areas.
WPL Quahogger
The quahogger statue in the courtyard was chosen as a symbol of Rhode Island
A lovely bronze sculpture of a quahogger was dedicated in the new gardens, a project spearheaded by then Mayor Lincoln Chaffee. The quahogger was chosen as a symbol of Rhode Island and represents hard work, a love of Narragansett Bay and independence.

The Warwick Public Library continues to thrive and grow in this time of economic change. Douglas Pearce and Carol Drought have retired, and the current director is Diane Greenwald. The Library continues to change to meet the needs of the residents of Warwick, who are extremely supportive of their library. The Warwick Public Library is a meeting place, a community hub and a center for learning for all ages.            

The RILA Bulletin is produced by the RILA Communications Committee.  The RILA Communications Committee is responsible for publicizing and supporting Rhode Island Library Association activities using a variety of communication tools. Responsibilities including publishing the RILA Bulletin, managing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and exploring other mediums as needed. The Communications Committee may cooperate with the publicity efforts of the Public Relations Committee to promote library services statewide.

Rhode Island Library Association members can contribute content to the RILA Bulletin by emailing the editors: [email protected]
 
Corrie MacDonald & Andria Tieman
RI Library Association