NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — While the North Kingstown Free Library and other libraries across the state have reopened in limited capacities to offer books, CDs, DVDs and other materials as well as access to basic library services, there’s been a hole left in their community services, as performances and lectures that made up much of libraries’ community outreach have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a new podcast launched by five Rhode Island librarians, including North Kingstown Free Library Community Outreach Coordinator Emily Goodman, hopes to fill that void and explore new topics and conversations with performers, artists, experts, professors and more.
The podcast, called “Rhody Radio: RI Library Radio Online,” debuted Tuesday on its own website, rhodyradio.org, as well as major podcast platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, will have episodes every week with a different featured guest and topic presented by one of its five editors: Goodman, Wil Gregersen of the Warwick Public Library, Nicolette Baffoni of the Office of Library and Information Services, Dave Bartos of the Cranston Public Library and Jessica D’Avanza of the Barrington Public Library.
According to Goodman, the idea for the podcast first came from Gregersen.
“(Gregersen) had this idea for a sort of outreach for our libraries to connect with our patrons, especially as COVID first started and we weren’t doing as many programs anymore, to reach them on a new platform,” Goodman said. “We were all pulled together as people who were doing programs around the state and some outreach in the state to sort of figure out this program.”
For them, their goal was simple: recreate the community events libraries could no longer offer in person due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We wanted to expand on basically what library programing already was offering in person, so the types of things that all of the libraries around Rhode Island tend to offer in person, which tend to be our local community members who are experts in their own field, performers, (especially) musical performers and sometimes we work with local college professors who do lectures on things in their fields,” Goodman said. “All of those things really highlight all of the particular communities and things that libraries tend to already be doing in their in person programs and finding a way to reach a new audience with those same individuals and it also offers us an opportunity to find new contacts and people in the community to maybe interview through a podcast setting that’s a little different from an in person setting that we normally would do, and to offer that perspective to the community.”
Goodman has said the process so far has been very enjoyable while also providing a way to go beyond traditional library lectures and performances.
“It has been a lot of fun to explore a new avenue of library programming,” Goodman said. “Often times we set up programs in person and we’ll hire a performer or a scholar to come and speak to the community, but we don’t always get to have the full hands-on experience with the performer and do the in-depth piece of it, so it’s been fun for me to really think about new ways that we can talk to people.”
The first episode, which was made and produced by Gregersen, focuses on Smithfield-based Celtic harpist Mary King.
“The interview that she had done with (Gregersen) in Warwick is so special and intimate to listen to,” Goodman said. “If you’ve ever heard her or you haven’t heard her perform, she is absolutely wonderful and this offers an even more in-depth experience into her background and her experiences with performing that adds a really extra special touch, so we hope that people listen to it and enjoy it for what it is.”
Goodman is working on an episode celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and exploring the state archives for the roles of Rhode Island women and movements within the state, something she had initially planned to do as a library event back in May but was unable to due to the shutdown.
“Since we don’t really know when we’re going to be able to offer in person programs the same way that we were doing before COVID, it’s been really nice to have this opportunity to explore the programs that we were doing in a new way and to still be able to offer them to the community because they’re such important things that we do as a library that missing that has been really difficult,” Goodman said. “For me, I think that’s particularly a large portion of my job. I miss that aspect of my job, so being able to offer it is really (awesome) for me.”
Rhody Radio is a project of the state’s Office of Library and Information Services and funded through a grant by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.
For more information on or to listen to the podcast, visit their website rhodyradio.org or check out Spotify, Apple Podcasts or other platforms under Rhody Radio.