About Us

About Us

Mission of the Ashaway Free Library
To enrich the community by providing resources and related services and programming for personal skills, self-improvement, career advancement, cultural enjoyment, entertainment, and creative activities.

About Us

The Ashaway Free Library (AFL) has a print collection of 23,000 plus volumes, a wide selection of magazines, DVD/audio books/ CD collection of 553 items as well as three computer stations and WIFI connection. The library is a member of Ocean State Libraries, a state consortium, which gives patrons open access to materials from libraries throughout the state of Rhode Island and beyond. The AFL is truly a window to the world for its community. The library sponsors children’s and adult programs to include a card/stamping craft program for adults, a summer reading and program series for children, a weekly story hour, an adult book discussion group and a lecture series for adults sponsored by the Siciliano Family.  The library may be reached at (401) 377-2770 or director@ashawaylibrary.org.  Library hours are: Monday 10-5; Tuesday 4-8; Wednesday 10-8; Thursday 4-8; Friday 10-5; Saturday 9-1.


Library History
The Library has a long and rich history. Located in the heart of the Ashaway Village, the library shares its historic neighborhood with the Jacob D. Babcock House, once a station on the “Underground Railroad” during the Pre-Civil War era and the Ashaway Line and Twine Manufacturing Company, a producer of tennis racket strings, fishing line, surgical thread, and rope and twine products. This world recognized business has been family operated and in operation in the Village of Ashaway since 1824.

The library had its inception in 1871, when two local ladies, Hannah Cundall and Sylvia Salisbury, donated books and contributed money that resulted in a collection of 600 to 700 books. The early collection was housed in a small building known as The Ashaway Library and Reading Room in the village near the site of the present library. The Ashaway Library and Reading Room Association provided free public use of its reading room, books, magazines and a free admission to an annual lecture series. By 1907, the library’s collection was expanding, was outgrowing its little building and needed a new home. A group of local citizens came to the rescue purchasing the former Ashaway Kindergarten building at auction for $101.00 and moved the schoolhouse from Church Street on log rollers and wagon to its present location at the corner of High and Knight Streets. The Ashaway Woolen Company donated the land for the newly acquired building, and the Ashaway Line and Twine Manufacturing Company later deeded additional land to the original tract.

In 1907, the library became known as The Ashaway Free Library and at that time was established as a share-holding company sponsored by several members of the community. This organization was later dissolved and the library was reorganized as the non-profit corporation, overseen by a board of volunteer trustees, as it remains today. The first librarian was Herbert L. Larkin, followed by Isaac Cundall, LaVerne Burdick, Herbert Kenyon, Curtis F. Randolph, Lloyd R. Crandall and Reverend Everett P. Mathewson. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Eleanor Perrin served as librarian for twenty years and later as a library trustee and volunteer.. May K. Fay succeeded Mrs. Perrin followed by Charlotte Truman and Carolyn Tuchapsky. Over the previous four decades Ruth Demers, Edna B.Lanphear, Joan F. Gately, Kathleen Flaherty, Shannon Pimental, and David J. Panciera have provided distinguished service as head librarians. The present Head Librarian is Heather Field who has provided capable leadership for the past sixteen years..

In 1951, L. Robert Crandall, an enthusiastic and generous library supporter became the president of the Ashaway Free Library’s board of trustees. During Mr. Crandall’s tenure as the leader of the board of trustees, the library underwent many improvements. In 1954, the interior of the building was completely renovated with painting and plastering, installation of new shelving, furniture, improved lighting, new flooring and a new furnace and heating system. During this period, the library’s collections were reorganized by librarian Eleanor Perrin in compliance with Rhode Island State Library Standards of the time. In 1965, an addition was built on the west side of the original building. The addition provided much needed space for a circulation center, a children’s section, the librarian’s office, and a work/storage area. This building project was made possible by a community building drive and matching funds from The Ashaway Charitable Trust. In 1972, the addition was dedicated in honor of the memory of Mr. Crandall who died in 1970. This area of the library is known as The L. Robert Crandall Memorial Wing.

The Ashaway Free Library has undergone many changes over the past one hundred and forty-four year but remains a vital center of culture and information for its community. The library truly is the little library with a big heart providing its 1,000 plus patrons with personalized, friendly library service and access to state of the arts information and materials in a wide variety of formats.
—2015, Mary Elizabeth Mercer, Board of Trustees

Library Staff
Head Librarian: Heather Field.
Staff: Amy Forbes, Josh Fowler, Brenda Laing, Nancy Martell. Substitutes: Peggy Roever, Emily Lemay

Board of Trustees
Elizabeth Algieri, Lorna Caulfield, Sara Clark, Fran Cohen, Dezmarie Doyle, Judie Freeman, Krislyn Launer, Tara Roesberg, Karen St. Peter, Bob Ward


Service Policy

Any person may become a borrowing member of the library and be issued a library card in accordance with the rules of the Ocean State Libraries (OSL) consortium.

Persons are not required to be members of the library to use the library facilities and to use library materials on the premises. Only valid members of the Ashaway Free Library or persons in possession of an OSL card from another library may borrow materials for use outside the library.

Services available include the following:

CIRCULATION:  Duty librarians will circulate all materials (excluding local history special collections) for the appropriate loan periods to cardholders in good standing.  Items other than video media and reference books may be renewed once, provided that another patron has not requested the item.  There is no charge for borrowing materials, but charges will be assessed for overdue, lost, or damaged items and for audiovisual items returned in the book drop.

INTERLIBRARY LOAN: Requested materials that are not part of the library’s holdings will be obtained, as available, through the appropriate interlibrary loan network.  Any fees assessed by owning libraries for sending materials physically or electronically will be paid by the patron.  No fees are charged for research or for returning ILL items.  The library adheres to the Libraries of Rhode Island Interlibrary Loan Code.  Outgoing materials will have a six-week loan period, inclusive of transit time.

REFERENCE: Staff members are available to assist in locating materials, subject matter, or specific items on the shelves or in the library’s electronic holdings.  Reference requests are accepted in person, by phone, and by electronic mail.

PROGRAMS: The library provides educational, cultural, and entertainment programs for children, young adults, adults, and families.  These programs are free and open to the public.

The library adheres to the policies of the American Library Association, including the Library Bill of Rights and the Code of Ethics.

Technology Plan 2014-2017

I. Technology Vision Statement

The goal of the library is to enrich life in the community by providing readily accessible print and non-print materials and related services for individual self-improvement, business and personal skills development, creative activities, and recreation.  The library will use technology to meet this goal in part by providing sufficient up-to-date hardware and by promoting patron and staff use and understanding of available electronic resources.

II. Goals

A. Facilitate ease and effectiveness of public access to electronic resources and materials.

  1. Provide sufficient up-to-date hardware

a. Continue to work with OSL and the Champlin Foundations to  maintain three patron computers and public catalog computer (especially through transition to VDI technology) (2014-2017).

2. Promote patron use and understanding of available electronic resources

a. Utilize results of recent patron needs survey to determine patron education as well as staff training priorities (2014-2015).

b. Promote the use of AskRI databases and electronic resources available through the Ocean State Libraries consortium (2014-2017).

c. Recruit volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring for patrons with basic digital literacy needs (2014-2017).

B. Use technology to increase staff productivity

  1. Provide sufficient up-to-date hardware

a. Install second staff-use terminal at circulation desk as part of overall circulation remodel (2014).

b. Investigate label-printing technology to expedite materials processing (2014).

2. Promote staff use and understanding of available electronic resources

a. Conduct staff training on use of full-text databases available through OSL and AskRI (2014-2017; ongoing).

b. Emphasize availability of continuing education opportunities available through OLIS and OSL (2014-2017).

III. Evaluation

This plan will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees and Head Librarian on an annual basis.  Revisions will be made in accordance with shifts in patron needs, staffing, and other variables.

  1. Budget

Capital equipment expenditures are funded on a case-by-case basis, and therefore are not shown.  Available resources include: income from state and local sources, fundraising efforts, and grant sources, most notably the Champlin Foundation.



Ashaway Free Library Five Year Plan, 2013-2018

Vision and Mission 

The AFL Board of Trustees has reviewed documents and past practices to update the Library’s vision and mission.

Vision This is an aspirational statement, an image of our desired future. There is no expectation this vision will be entirely achieved in the near future; it is designed to guide our future growth and accomplishments for years to come.

The Ashaway Free Library is the center of the Ashaway Universe.

It is a transformational force in the lives of community members; a “go to” place that opens doors to new worlds.

It is an attractive, independent, financially solvent cultural mecca bustling with activity that also offers serenity to its community of readers.

Mission Our mission describes what the AFL is here to do.

To enrich the community by providing resources and related services and programming for personal skills, self-improvement, career advancement, cultural enjoyment, entertainment, and creative activities.


 Service Area and Population

  • The 19% increase in the Town’s population over the last decade has not been matched by a similar increase in Library resources.
  • Given local demographics, the AFL needs to be alert to ways to better serve special populations such as the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with English as a second language.
  • While about half the population have some college education, half have a high school education or less. This distinctly different educational background likely gives us a patron base with distinctly different needs and interests.
  • The Library needs to be attentive to the needs of Town residents who are unemployed or underemployed.

Building and Grounds, Facilities, Furnishings, Technologies

  • The regular upkeep of the building exterior and grounds is inadequate.
  • There is no space allocated for Library programming.
  • The circulation desk is crowded and not as efficient as it could be.
  • Better storage space for Library equipment and book donations is needed.
  • The parking lot lacks spaces for individuals with disabilities and the ramp at the entrance does not meet ADA requirements.

Library Collection and Use of Library Services

  • Because the Ocean State Libraries Online Catalog and borrowing system gives patrons access to virtually all Rhode Island Library resources, the current collection is adequate. Current space limits growth.
  • Computer stations for patrons are inadequate for the numbers of users.

Funding and Finances

  • Town and State funding has not increased in five years and are inadequate to meet operating expenses.
  • Funding for facility and service improvement must be sought from private foundations and public funds.
  • Management of the AFL Endowment needs to be improved for greater profit and convenience.
  • Management of accounts and general finances needs to be simplified.
  • Recent successful fundraising efforts are a positive addition to both our finances and our public image and need to continue.
  • The Annual Friends Donation process needs to be reviewed to generate more income.


  • Given the diversity of our population, we need to continue to survey our patrons to meet their needs for resources and programs.
  • We need to continue to work on finding more effective publicity for Library programs and activities.
  • Improvements to the Library’s website and social media need to continue.

State and National Library Organization Priorities*

  • 19% of Rhode Islanders over the age of 16 have insufficient literacy skills to confidently perform the basic literacy and numerical tasks necessary to continue their education or achieve advancement in the workplace.
  • More homework services and after school programming for tweens and teenagers are needed.
  • Computer access is a high priority especially for libraries with limited evening and weekend hours.
  • Civic leaders see a need for libraries to provide information about government services, job search information, small business assistance, and community development programs.
  • Libraries must address gaps in digital access, especially among the elderly, people with lower educational levels, and non-English speakers

 *OLIS/RI 5 year plan, National Adult Literacy Survey and 2006 report prepared by Public Agenda with support from the Americans for Libraries Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 

  1. Goals

Goals are milestones we expect to reach before too long. They must have a visible or measurable outcome and dates of accomplishment. Goals must be realistic; that is, there has to be method to achieve the goal.  Goals can be problem solving, improvements, innovation or change.

The following goals are scheduled to be accomplished in the next five years. These goals are ambitious but they are all deemed essential given the community study and assessment. Eventually, the Board must identify individuals or groups who will be responsible for accomplishing each goal.

 Goals Related to Funding and Finances

  1. Increase Town and State funding


  • Research history of town library funding
  • Research how other towns have increased their library funding
  • Connect with advocacy groups such as COLA
  • Design and mount a campaign to increase funding from the Town of Hopkinton

Maintain an effective and profitable fundraising schedule


  • Schedule and publicize a core group of activities to be repeated annually
  • Seek creative opportunities to add occasionally to the core activities
  • Investigate forming an informal Library Friends Group to help with these activities
  1. Improve effectiveness of annual appeal


  • Find out how other libraries effectively solicit funds
  • Consider using follow-up communication after the initial request
  • Consider giving area businesses guidelines for contributions or in-kind contributions
  • Include more information about donations of stocks and property

Build continuing relationships with area businesses


  • Seek sponsors for all newsletter editions
  • When posting flyers and requesting donations, communicate effectively with business managers and acknowledge their contributions.

Submit funding requests to local, state, and national groups


  • Prioritize needs
  • Research funding sources for identified needs
  • Schedule submission of funding requests

Improve return on Endowment and simplify accounts and financial management.


  • Research investment opportunities for endowments, compare fees and projected revenue. Move funds as recommended.
  • Evaluate and streamline the Library’s current banking system and accounts

Goals Related to Communication

 Enlarge email list, social media and other electronic communication with patrons


  • Request email addresses with every patron communication
  • Get advice from patrons who are particularly “connected”

Schedule patron surveys to regularly obtain input from those we serve


  • Set a schedule for the number and timing of annual surveys
  • Solicit survey topics from Board members

Continue and improve quarterly newsletter


  • Seek content from Board members and patrons
  • Keep publication predictable and timely


  1. Improve Library web pages


  • Benchmark other libraries’ websites
  • Include on the web site links to newsletters, program flyers, surveys
  • Include information such as new acquisitions
  • Include a mechanism for patron questions and feedback

A publicity campaign accompanies all Library changes and improvements


  • Press releases are submitted with photo opportunities to local and State media

Responsibility: Individual or group that initiates change or improvement, or special volunteer

 Goals Related to Service

  1. Increase volunteers with specific expertise, e.g., technical skills
  • Contact service organizations (e.g., Rotary Club) with specific requests
  • Contact area high schools with specific requests
  • Put specific requests in the newsletter

Work with patrons to increase digital literacy


  • Introduce patrons to existing tutorials regarding computer and internet use
  • Introduce patrons to existing tutorials and other resources on how to find and evaluate internet information
  • Use skilled volunteers to assist patrons with digital learning


  1. Use survey data to insure that programming is responsive to patron interest and to identify programming resources in the community


  • Use information from the first and subsequent surveys
  • Use the newsletter and library flyers to find low or no-cost expertise on specific topics

Goals Related to Facilities

Schedule building maintenance and identify funding sources


  • Outline an ideal maintenance schedule
  • Seek bids from area workers
  • Seek donors for specific maintenance, e.g., The Town agrees to fund tree maintenance; the Acme company agrees to fund power washing
  • Acknowledge such donations

Build a Library addition for a community programming space, improved circulation desk, improved accessible entrance and parking, improved storage.


  • Develop a wish list for each aspect of the addition
  • Seek affordable expertise to design improvements
  • Identify expertise needed to execute
  • Seek funds to execute


  1. Improve landscaping and usefulness of Library grounds


  • Build on initial funding request by seeking materials from area nurseries, labor from local service groups
  • Submit new funding requests for major improvements

 Given that circumstances may not permit the achievement of all goals, Trustees have given the following priority to these seventeen goals. However, it is understood that we will move to achieve goals of lesser priority if opportunities present themselves.

Top Priority

Improve landscaping and usefulness of Library grounds

Improve return on Endowment and simplify accounts and financial management.

Schedule building maintenance and identify funding sources

Very Important

Increase Town and State funding

Improve effectiveness of annual appeal

Submit funding requests to local, state, and national groups

Moderately Important

Increase volunteers with specific expertise, e.g., technical skills

Work with patrons to increase digital literacy

Build a Library addition for a community programming space, improved circulation desk, improved accessible entrance and parking, improved storage.

Use survey data to insure that programming is responsive to patron interest and to identify programming resources in the community

Continue and improve quarterly newsletter