The Block Island Times

Island library: Grounded in creating a healthy community

By Gloria S.Redlich | Jun 06, 2013

Reporting to the Island Free Library’s Trustees at its meeting on May 28, Director Kristin Baumann described the inspirational nature of a class she took recently at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Entitled “Global Change: Leading with Courage, Commitment and Creativity,” the one week course inspired her to feel “even more grounded in the work we do to make improvements in people’s lives here.”

Baumann added that the many constituencies on island, including “seniors, 20-year-olds and little kids, need our attention, particularly in creating a healthy community here.” Believing that real change was possible, she explained that the entire staff had already made a decision that the “we weren’t going to become a gaming center.”

Noting that they had “packed up the kids’ computers,” Baumann said they set up others for doing research, reference work and homework. “It started after Newtown,” she said, but has continued “because we wanted to be participants in peace.”

The course at Harvard, which she called “fabulous,” made her think more deeply about how to effect change on the island. The curriculum had her examining what could be done and she realized, “We’re little; we can shift things.”

Among the faculty for her class were a past President of Ecuador, a literature professor and a professor from Northern Ireland, both on the Harvard faculty — all working for change. Among strategies discussed were employing cultural activities — literature, theatre and music — to bring about change. With 48 fellow students — many of them international — Baumann came away from the experience fully believing in what the small island library could do: “I knew that we had the potential to stir it up.”

Eager to assist film-makers

Among programs she is eager to assist and participate in is the proposed film to be made by documentary film-maker Sue Hagedorn in collaboration with island teenagers. Baumann said the library wanted to help in any way it could by offering its resources and space.

Baumann also noted that she was in the process of “spending funds” ($792) from the St. Vincent de Paul Fund to purchase tickets to take 15 or 16 Block Island School students (entering grades five through seven in the fall) to a production of “Annie” at the Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuck. The fund is a cultural enrichment grant established by the late Eileen Dolphin, a long-time island resident, and designated to be used specifically for Block Island school children.

On another matter, Baumann said she had consulted with Ann Henault about using the Henault Book Fund for a purchase updating the World Book Encyclopedia — which includes both hard and electronic copies. The areas to be upgraded were reference books on presidents and science, at a cost of $1,000. Baumann said Henault was wonderful, offering more money if needed.

Enriching life since 1875

Baumann also circulated a potential new design updating the tag-line for the island website. Its logo would read: “Island Free Library: Enriching Life since 1875,” which is the role Baumann saw the library filling. The group approved the proposal.

In early May, Baumann said she had participated with Zena Clark, President of the Tourism Council in a program called Island to Island Exchange — this year held at Fishers Island in New York. With participants involved in all aspects of island life, the discussion included such issues as affordable housing, ferries and internet service providers. Baumann said it was good to speak with others who “really understand island life.”

Baumann was enthusiastic about intended fare at the island library for this summer. Among programs she highlighted were the History Club and matinees — planned to continue throughout the summer — storytellers, the Lizard Man, science programs, visiting authors and many more.

Sssshhh! Someone’s putting

Reminding the group of the program to “kick off the summer season,” Baumann said the Young Lions, the youth division of the Lions Club, was to sponsor a mobile miniature golf exploration of the library. This event will take place on June 7 and 8, Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Baumann said the Friends of the Library was looking for members and the group needs officers. Noting that the Friends sponsored the Bake, Book and Bloom sale, Baumann said “They had a great day, enjoyed themselves. They want members of the community to know “they’re a fun organization and want people to join,” Baumann added.

Staff will accompany Baumann to a conference of the Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) to be held on June 3 and 4 at Salve Regina University in Newport. With a few of the staff attending only one day, Baumann said the library would open on Tuesday (June 4) with returning staff members and several selected volunteers.

Baumann wished to extend her appreciation to Block Island Residents Association (BIRA) for $500 in scholarship to apply toward her tuition for the Harvard course. With some professional development monies available from the Board of Trustees, Baumann had to take a personal loan to cover the full costs. She asked members of the community who might know of other grants she might tap to contact her.

She also noted that BIRA was willing to support other islanders in pursuit of professional development and hoped those interested would apply.

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