[June 3, 2016] Thomas Viall, Chair of the Library Board of Rhode Island, was awarded a Citation of Merit by the Rhode Island Library Association at the Association’s annual conference on May 27. This award is conferred upon citizens who are neither librarians nor library trustees but who have made outstanding contributions to quality library service.
Mr. Viall has served on the Library Board of Rhode Island (the Board) since 2008 when he was appointed by Governor Donald Carcieri to represent general library users. From the start, Tom demonstrated his commitment to the Board and to RI libraries by volunteering to chair an ad hoc committee on delivery logistics. The committee conducted an in-depth and exhaustive analysis of delivery. As a direct result of this report, the Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) instituted a number of improvements, including the elimination of packaging and introduction of covered bins, collectively saving libraries nearly a half a million dollars in personnel costs. In 2010 Governor Carcieri appointed Tom as Chair of the Library Board.
Over the past six years, Tom has actively led the Board through a period of great change for libraries and OLIS. Under his leadership, the Board has approved new standards for public libraries and the Library of Rhode Island, and updated and revised its own By-Laws. Tom has reviewed grant applications for Library of Rhode Island grants, traveled to Washington numerous times for National Library Legislative Day to advocate for federal library funding, testified at the State House on library legislation to increase library funding, served as Master of Ceremonies at library programs, attended library events across the state, and proven himself time and again to be one of Rhode Island’s leading library advocates.
In addition to his work on the Library Board, Tom has also served actively as a director on the board of the Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA), using his skills in online applications to convert COLA’s membership records to an online database and building a new and dynamic COLA website.
When Tom is not volunteering his time and considerable skills to libraries, he works as the general manager of RI.gov, Rhode Island’s online government portal. Even at RI.gov Tom has served libraries, beginning in 2004 when he began working with OLIS to find a way to answer all the questions that RI.gov received on online government. Tom arranged for RI.gov to pay for software that enables librarians at the Statewide Reference Resource Center to answer online questions received by RI.gov and the Statewide Reference Resource Center. The new virtual reference service, Instant Answers, soon morphed into AskRI, which RI.gov helped support for the next 10 years. Most recently, RI.gov and Tom have helped provide the expertise and software that enables OLIS to provide online forms for interlibrary loan services.
Tom Viall has been a tremendous friend to and supporter of libraries. His wide-ranging knowledge of all things Rhode Island and his connections in government, technology and the arts have enabled him to be a powerful connector for libraries. His articulate presentations at library events, General Assembly hearings, and meetings with senators and congressmen clearly and eloquently deliver the message of the critical importance of libraries in a digital world, spoken by one who clearly understands the power of technology and the power of libraries. Tom Viall is indeed a great friend of libraries and a tremendous supporter of OLIS and its programs.