About Us

Nationally recognized for its public library service by Library Journal, the Island Free Library is one of Block Island’s most beloved destinations among islanders and visitors alike, young and old. Open year-round, it provides a central location, holds a unique position of importance within this remote community, and plays an integral part of island life. The Library’s staff, Board of Trustees, and loyal Friends of the Library all work tirelessly to ensure a safe, comfortable, stimulating and aesthetically pleasing environment in which to learn and embrace literacy in all forms. We look forward to seeing you there!

Vision Statement

The Trustees of the Island Free Library, its staff, Friends group and volunteers share a vision of literacy and enrichment for all Block Island residents and visitors alike. All Island Free Library resources — human, financial, material and time — work cooperatively and cohesively to create an institution where all may be educated, entertained, enriched and supported.

All policies and practices of the Island Free Library support both the Vision Statement and Mission Statement.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Island Free Library is to fulfill the informational, cultural, and recreational needs of its patrons by providing a full spectrum of library services, including access to print, audio, video, and electronic formats; fostering a lifelong love of reading with programs for children and adults; and promoting computer literacy through appropriate forms of instruction. The library will assist its patrons and staff in becoming familiar with new electronic information resources as they become available at the Island Free Library through on-going instruction and guidance.

Staff

  • Kristin J. Baumann, Director
  • Judith A. Mitchell, Interlibrary Loan Circulation Clerk
  • Morgan Walsh, Youth Services Librarian
  • Bethany Petrik, Circulation Supervisor
  • Susana Gardner, Technical Services Librarian
  • Jami Newell, Circulation Clerk

Board of Trustees

The Library Board is a volunteer group of 7 trustees appointed by the Town Council for three-year terms. Persons interested in serving on the Board of Trustees may submit a letter of interest to the Town Council, and are encouraged to express interest to the Library Director and/or current Board member(s).

Powers and duties of trustees are established by RI General Law, Section 29-4-6. The trustees are the legal guardians and custodians of the library. Duties include providing suitable space for the library, arranging for proper care of the library, choosing the Library Director, and making rules and regulations for the governance of the library and use of books and resources. The Board holds monthly meetings and works cooperatively with the Library Director to set policies and establish the annual budget, among other things. The Library Board is qualified to accept tax deductible charitable donations under IRS Section 170(c)(1), as a political subdivision of the State of RI and a unit of local government. Donations by check can be mailed to: Island Free Library Board of Trustees, PO Box 1830, Block Island, RI 02807. Contributions can also be made to the Island Free Library Endowment Fund.

Meetings are held in accordance with the Rhode Island Open Meetings Law and the public is welcome to attend. To view a schedule of meetings, agendas and minutes, please visit the RI Secretary of State’s Open Meetings website.

Current Trustees

  • Shirlyne Gobern, Chair (2019)
  • Lisa Nolan, Vice-Chair (2020)
  • William Feuer, Treasurer (2021)
  • Tom Doyle, Secretary (2019)
  • Tracy Heinz (2020)
  • David Sniffen (2021)
  • Jen Yeh (2019)

Library History

The Island Free library was established on March 6, 1875 under the name “The Island Library Association.” The members were “interested in obtaining better advantages for intellectual improvement than were then enjoyed on Block Island” (Livermore, 1873). Members paid an annual fee: $1 for men, and 50 cents for woman. By the spring of the next year, 1876, the library had been established with Arthur W. Brown as librarian. By now the library had 250 volumes that fit in one bookcase at the town hall, which was located at the bottom of Center Road.

In early 1877, after a year’s operation, the number of books had reached 500, most of them donated. On Halloween night in 1923 the library was completely destroyed when the town hall burned. After starting over again, the library was located for many years in the back of Star Department store. In 1958, the library moved to Chapel Street with Bea Dodge as Librarian, into the smallest of the three shops facing the street (now part of the Hagopian marketplace).

In 1975, one hundred years after it’s beginning the IFL finally moved into a brand new building on Dodge Street with Sandra Madison Gaffett at its helm. That move was the result of the generosity of Lester Dodge. When Lester Dodge died in June 1971, his will left the bulk of his estate, nearly $400,000, to the town to build and maintain a new library on his family homestead on Dodge Street.

Friends of the Library

The library is extremely lucky to have such a dedicated Friends group and all of you who support them in their mission. We thank you and look forward to many more years of “friendship.”

Who are the Friends of the Library?

We are people who share a common belief that the library is important to the intellectual and cultural life of the Block Island community.

Why do we have a Friends group?

Our non-profit organization works to increase public awareness of all library services and events and assists in bringing funds to the library for special projects through membership fees, donations, and our annual Bake, Book, & Bloom fundraiser.

What do the Friends do?

The Friends sponsor many programs and activities including:

  • Holiday Open House
  • Memoir Writing
  • Knitting Group
  • Book Discussions
  • Literary Seminars
  • Author Readings
  • Concerts and Lectures
  • Art Exhibits
  • Crafts Workshops
  • Continuing Education Programs
  • English as a Second Language
  • Children’s programs
  • Bridge Lessons