2017 brought a new direction and new staff to OLIS. During the year we developed a new strategic plan for the agency with a great deal of input and participation from the library community (more on this later). In May, we welcomed a new adult services coordinator, Nicolette Baffoni, who quickly got to work, strengthening existing partnerships and creating new ones in the areas of adult services, workforce development and digitial initiatives, including establishing the Digital Innovation Roundtable (DIRT). In September, we welcomed new Library Program Manager Jason Bloom, who is temporarily filling in as State Data Coordinator and will manage the state aid and construction reimbursement programs, along with other areas of library development.
2017 was a year of innovation and learning. OLIS partnered with the Rhode Island Office of Innovation in a unique collaboration with Apple in the Next Generation Library Challenge, announced by Governor Gina Raimondo in January. This competitive grant cycle resulted in the development of Studio Rhode, one in Westerly and one in Woonsocket. Later in the year OLIS offered scholarships for librarians to attend the Research Institute for Public Libraries in Maine and the Futures Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In addition to these unique opportunities, OLIS offered a wide variety of opportunities for librarians and library staff to strengthen their skills throughout the year, including our ongoing roundtables and programs for Children's Services, Young Adult Services, and Adult Services and the new Digital Innovation Roundtable. Other programs included opportunities for trustees to learn how to expand their library's community building and engagement and for librarians to learn how tosupport children and families affected by incarceration, how to navigate the Public Records and Open Meeting Acts and how to use public library survey data to tell the library's story. In addition, OLIS offered programs on libraries as innovation labs, how to use social media to promote resources, and how to support patrons in a "fake news" world. OLIS continued its partnership with the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies through Media Smart Libraries programs on raspberry pi, podcasting, Twitter, social media literacy, makerspaces and more. Finally, the Providence Public Library continued to offer programs that enable librarians to fully utilize the resources in AskRI.
OLIS' advisory board, the Library Board of Rhode Island, had a full year too. It began with the Board wrapping up its in-depth study of the state grant-in-aid program and publishing a report on the public library funding formula for Rhode Island's cities and towns. The Board has also been carefully monitoring support for libraries on the local and national front, including the federal budget proposal last March that threatened to eliminate the Institute for Museum and Library Services(IMLS). With the assistance of Rhode Island's senior Senator Jack Reed and support of Rhode Island librarians and library advocates, the IMLS was not eliminated, but received an additional $4 million that will support the Grants to States program; OLIS receives approximately half of its budget through this federal program. Senator Reed concluded the year by introducing a bill to reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act, so library supporters must continue to remain vigilant.
The biggest project of 2017, though, was the development of OLIS' new Five-Year Strategic Plan for the expenditure of federal Library Services and Technology Act funds (LSTA) from 2018-2022. The process began in late 2016 with the evaluation of the old LSTA Five-Year Plan for 2013-2017, with input from the library community on the execution of that plan. This was followed by an environmental scan conducted by ESC of New England, which provided additional input from the library community. OLIS drafted its new plan and, following review by the Library Board of Rhode Island, the plan was approved and submitted to the IMLS. The IMLS approved the plan in September with Director Kathryn Matthew writing that the plan "documents the need for and impact of LSTA funds in the communties you serve. It is an excellent framework for the future." We think it is too, and thank the library community for their substantial input throughout the process, which also helped OLIS create a new vision and mission statement for our agency.
As we welcome 2018, OLIS staff will continue to support libraries across the state in new and old ways through our various programs, and support Rhode Islanders' information needs directly through through the Talking Books Library and AskRI. Keep up-to-date on our projects and activities through our website, Rhodarian, Facebookand Twitter. Happy New Year to all - we look forward to another exciting year working with Rhode Island's libraries and library users!