[November 4, 2019] U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, convened two events at the Cranston Public Library. "The Future of Libraries" panel discussion was organized by the Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) and Senator Reed's office to highlight the work of Rhode Island libraries, and the "Celebration & Kickoff: 20th Anniversary of Veterans History Project” was organized by Senator Reed’s office to promote the project to veterans and library staff. Karen Mellor, Chief of Library Services, welcomed the audience and thanked the panelists for agreeing to share their libraries' successes.
The Future of Libraries panel, moderated by Senator Reed and Dr. Hayden, highlighted projects from Rhode Island libraries that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, community outreach, workforce development, and ebook purchasing. The panel included: Maria Cotto, Bilingual Children's Librarian, Pawtucket Public Library; Ed Garcia, Cranston Public Library; Cheryl Space, Director, Providence Community Library; Steve Spohn, Director, Ocean State Libraries; and Karisa Tashjian, Education Director, Providence Public Library.
The discussion highlighted libraries' unique position to provide engaging programs and high-quality resources and information to diverse communities. By removing barriers such as cost, stigma and fear, libraries can serve as on-ramps to help community members reach their personal and professional goals. The discussion also drew attention to the difficulties that libraries face in funding the growing demand for ebooks and audiobooks, as these resources continue to rise in popularity but are increasingly cost-prohibitive for libraries to purchase.
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress collects and archives personal accounts of American war veterans and Gold Star Families through audio and video recordings, photographs, letters, diaries and memoirs. These materials are made accessible to the public so that future generations may understand the realities of war through listening to the voices of those who served. Senator Reed and Dr. Hayden gave opening remarks, followed by Kasim Yarn, Director of the RI Office of Veterans Affairs, and Ginny Hanson, U.S. Navy (Ret.), who has recorded her story for the project.
The speakers emphasized the positive impact this project has had, not only for researchers, veterans and families who now have access to the vast public record that has been created, but for the veterans and families who have recorded their stories and felt that healing effects that sharing can have. Dr. Hayden described learning from veterans experiencing challenges that “being able to tell your story, or to think about the experiences in a safe setting, a quiet setting, a non-judgmental setting, has been very helpful.”
Five veterans in attendance were paired with interviewers and went into sessions to record their stories for the project. All attendees received resources to learn more about becoming interviewers and other ways to get involved in the project. Visit the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to explore the collection, learn more and get involved as an interviewer or interviewee.