The Block Island Times

Island Library continues its role as town gathering place

Celebrates its 5-star award
By Gloria S. Redlich | Jul 02, 2013

With the fiscal year ending on June 30, Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann summarized activities offered over the past year. She announced the library had sponsored 373 programs, which 5,394 people attended. Of these, 38 focused on family-oriented events, 91 for older patrons, 146 on children and 92 programs on preschool activities and six on young adults.

Attendees broke down into 2,503 adults; 1,920 children; 908 preschoolers and 63 young adults.

“This past year, 46,377 people came through the door,” Baumann said. In continuing her inventory of people and events, she also said there were 24,000 items in the library’s collection, a stable number that continued to be balanced by the ongoing process of weeding out and purchasing through ongoing sales.

What about the fence?

Baumann reported that she and Board of Trustees President Connie LaRue had attended a meeting with the management of the National Hotel, members of whom requested that the library restore fencing that had fallen into disrepair and been taken down behind the library parking lot.

The National representatives, Baumann said, were concerned that without fencing, unrestricted access to wireless at the library contributed to some problems for their employees, many of whom live behind the library. They were worried about late-night activity.

This point generated a lively conversation among board members, who wished to figure out “an appropriate library response.” Baumann said the discussion was useful because it was important to determine “what role does the public library have in providing Internet services.”

Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee John Warfel asked whether or not the library had any safeguards against inappropriate use of its Wi-Fi. Most trustees agreed that it was important to provide free Internet service at the library.

The board expressed mixed feelings about the National’s concerns — particularly their insistence that it was the responsibility of the library to take care of fencing. Baumann said she hoped the issue could be resolved by “being good neighbors.”

Warfel pointed out he had priced both wooden and steel fencing and that they came in around the same price — just under $1,500. After the meeting, the trustees walked out into the yard to assess the condition of the site and exchange ideas about fencing possibilities. They agreed to delay a decision on the issue until they could call a special meeting.

Baumann sets a number of goals

Among the many goals Baumann has set for the library, she said a recent one was to “participate in peace,” and to that end the library had discontinued allowing access to violent video games. Other programs focused on further developing the library’s technology program, and building the Friends of the Library group and collaborating with other island groups and organizations.

To the latter end, she reported that the library had made space available for a religious gathering, exercise groups, computer and book clubs, Land Trust and other group meetings.

“There’s been a lot of collaboration,” Baumann said.

She also broached the idea of holding an open house to celebrate the Five Star status the island library has been awarded five years running by the Library Journal, a national library publication. Baumann thought the library should invite summer visitors and tourists to acquaint them with the rich resource the library is to the community, and the nature of the library’s national credentials.

To that end, Treasurer Bill McKernan made a motion to “celebrate the five-star heritage of the library and its staff and director.” After discussion of what the expenses for such an event might be, the board supported it and voted to authorize an expenditure of up to $500 for a “Five-Star Celebration.”

Mahjong and a history club

This summer, as part of an effort to build activities for adults, Baumann said the library had held its first mahjong game, drawing 12 players and two teachers. She also explained that a history club was already up and running and would continue through the summer, starting the Saturday after July 4. Meetings thereafter will be held on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

The idea for this club, Baumann explained, came from elementary and middle grade students who asked for a club about World War II. During their first meeting, she added, artist and veteran Michael Peter Gish, spoke to the group.

Baumann thought it “was one of the best events we did this winter.” At the next meeting of the club, Baumann will read aloud from a book relevant to World War II, asking youngsters for their reactions.

As to “the big summer reading program,” Baumann described it as a promotion to have members of the community across the island read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The library will encourage discussion groups and follow-up activities, including a performance at the end of summer by Rhode Island actor Richard Clark who played Hemingway at the library during the summer of 2011. This time Clark will take on the role of Atticus Finch, the protagonist of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

The Friends of the Library will also continue to sponsor the ESL program — focusing on conversational English for international workers — that has been organized for years by Gillian and Ken Moss, Baumann said.

Reporting on the status of the Friends of the Library, Baumann said the group was “financially healthy and willing to pay for programming; in fact they see it as their role.” The group would like to increase its membership, she added.

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