2023 Year in Review

The OLIS team saw many exciting accomplishments and transitions in 2023.

OLIS Staff Changes and Activities – Local and National

We started the year with a bittersweet send off to long-time OLIS staffer, Chaichin Chen who provided OLIS with 26 years of steadfast service and played a significant role in transitioning OLIS communications and services onto digital platforms, including helping to develop OLIS’ first website and creating the first online CE registration and LORI Certification.

OLIS gained new staff members Chelsea Watts, Digital Resources Coordinator, and Lori DeCesare, Resource Sharing Coordinator, each bringing great talents and expertise to the OLIS team. At full capacity this fall, the OLIS team set out to resume Field Service visits to public libraries around the state. Field service visits had been on pause due to staffing shortages and then the COVID-19 pandemic. Every public library was visited by an OLIS staff member between August and October where we gathered insight into library services around the state and met many of the phenomenal staff who work to provide valuable services to Rhode Islanders. Ongoing conversations and relationships with libraries such as these inform OLIS’ focus areas in carrying out our mission and strategic plan.

OLIS’ visits to public libraries were preceded by a visit from our representative from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in July. Every 5 years, coinciding with the development of the agency’s new strategic plan, OLIS undergoes a site visit conducted by IMLS to monitor the use of Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds and to learn more about the work being done in Rhode Island to support library services. In addition to meeting with OLIS Staff, the IMLS Program Officer visited 7 libraries who have received and utilized IMLS sub-awards from OLIS to advance library services in their community.

OLIS also engaged with the library community locally and nationally throughout the year through various events and projects. In April, Nicolette Baffoni and Chelsea Watts represented the agency at RILA’s Library Legislative Day at the RI State House alongside other library organizations such as Ocean State Libraries and AskRI. In October, OLIS Chief Karen Mellor, hosted the Chief Officers of State Library (COSLA) Annual Fall Meeting in Newport, at which the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary. RI was well represented on the meeting agenda, which opened with the OLIS Chief facilitating a conversation between IMLS Director Crosby Kemper and US Senator Jack Reed; later in the meeting, Pablo Morales Henry presented on OLIS’ disaster preparedness tool, and a presentation on news media and democracy included RI journalist G. Wayne Miller from the Pell Center on the Humanities at Salve Regina University.

Data Coordinator Kelly Metzger, and OLIS Chief Karen Mellor served on the IMLS Library Statistics Working Group (LSWG) with other state library agency staff across the country. LSWG is a high-level working group that aims to advance public and professional understanding about the work of libraries across the United States through data. Their work supports and advances the collection of library statistics, such as the Public Library Annual Survey, and ensures that data collection efforts are relevant, accurate, and useful to libraries, community stakeholders, and researchers. Youth Services Coordinator Danielle Margarida continued her work with local libraries as part of OLIS’ participation in the California Library Association’s Building Equity Based Summers pilot project, which is funded by an IMLS grant.


Statewide Projects and Programs

OLIS’ continued efforts to support library services statewide proved fruitful in 2023. In the beginning of the year, the Governor’s FY24 budget included full funding for State Aid to Libraries at 25% of local appropriations and expenditures for the first time since 2008. (In FY23, the General Assembly fully funded State Aid to Libraries following advocacy efforts by the RI Library Association.) To support statewide digital literacy, OLIS convened a meeting at the Providence Public Library with Senator Jack Reed, RI Commerce staff, and members of the library community to discuss the current and future state of digital literacy and broadband access in Rhode Island. OLIS continues to advocate for libraries to be among community organizations who may receive funds through federal broadband and Digital Equity Act programs to support digital equity in RI. These programs are managed locally by RI Commerce through its ConnectRI initiative.  


Reading Programs

OLIS staff worked with the RI Center for the Book to carry out critical literacy programs for all ages including Read Across Rhode Island (RARI), Kids Read Across Rhode Island (KRARI), and the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award (RICBA). With funding from OLIS, the Center for the Book distributed over 3,000 books to libraries and individuals across the state to advance engagement and discussion around books like True Biz by Sara Novic (RARI), The Aquanaut by Dan Santat (KRARI), and Allergic[MK(1]  by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter (RICBA).

OLIS staff further engaged Rhode Islanders in literary discussions throughout the year. Adult Services Coordinator Emily Goodman held 4 book discussions with state employees on current and past RARI titles while Library Services Coordinator Alicia Waters hosted bimonthly discussions with members of the Talking Books Library. The Talking Books Library  also added two more titles to its growing Rhode Island Collection: 41 Signs of Hope by Dave Kane, which centers the historic Station Nightclub Fire, and Hidden History of Rhode Island: Never-to-be-Forgotten Tales of the Ocean State by Glenn Laxton.

The Talking Books Library also launched Duplication on Demand (DOD) this year, allowing members to receive multiple books on a single cartridge, shortening wait times for titles, easing mail delivery for the US Postal Service, and saving space as well as costs throughout the system.



OLIS held two grant programs in 2023. Non-competitive grants were again available to public libraries for Summer Reading Program activities for children, youth, and adults; forty library systems were awarded funds to support reading and learning programs. Library of Rhode Island (LORI) grants were awarded to 15 libraries, totaling $255,000 for projects conducted between May and September 2023.

Through these grant programs, a diverse array of community-focused projects were funded at Rhode Island libraries – from collection development and diversity assessments to ensure collections reflected community experiences, to virtual reality and innovative outreach efforts and an “Innovation Lab,” to supporting career development and digital literacy. There were also wildlife education programs, archival preservation, and projects to digitize historical newspapers, all to foster community enrichment, connectivity, and lifelong learning.

An additional round of LORI Grants was announced in November for projects taking place between February and August 2024.


Digital Projects

OLIS’ continued commitment to digital innovation led to the launch of two pivotal offerings; a new version of our website and a digital disaster planning tool, SCOOP.

The new version of our website marks a major step towards improved usability and statewide consistency, joining a statewide effort to provide all state agencies and departments with a uniform look and feel for their websites.  The new site allows for easier content updates and maintenance, simplifies navigation, and boosts discoverability of valuable resources.

SCOOPY, the new version of the Simplified Continuity of Operations Plan (SCOOP), provides an easier way to manage library outlets' information for disaster preparedness, allowing OLIS and libraries to provide fluid services in the face of unexpected disasters. We are looking forward to launching SCOOPY-TWO, the new iteration of this system to assist libraries with disaster planning.  

OLIS worked with the AskRI team to increase discovery and use of  statewide databases and other AskRI tools. In addition to regular training on available databases for librarians, digital magazines available via Flipster on AskRI were made discoverable in Ocean State Libraries’ (OSL) new catalog. We thank OSL for their continued partnership as we work to streamline resource sharing and discovery.


Continuing Education

OLIS offered RI librarians multiple formats for professional development in 2023. Total attendance at synchronous sessions facilitated by OLIS reached nearly 900 with over 1,000 more engagements taking place asynchronously via the OLIS Library Learning Center platform hosted by Niche Academy. Library staff were also offered the opportunity to take selected courses from Library Journal at no cost through OLIS’ subscription..

OLIS collaborated with library organizations across New England for impactful projects serving hundreds of library workers. In partnership with the Massachusetts Library System and the Connecticut State Library, OLIS hosted a virtual Summer Summit, providing a day and a half of learning for librarians on topics ranging from geocaching programs to civic science. Additionally, OLIS, in partnership with neighboring New England states, organized a virtual Teen Summit in the fall, focusing on reimagining teen programs and engagement. Finally, working with other state library agencies in the northeast, OLIS supported the Northeast Summit on Climate Adaptation for Library Facilities focused on adaptive resilience solutions for libraries facing the effects of climate change to their buildings and communities. The event was recorded and a regional LibGuide was created with general and local resources by state.

2023 Headlines on the OLIS Website