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Studio Rhode: Woonsocket

Woonsocket Public Library

Studio Rhode Idea: My Woonsocket Life

Woonsocket Harris Public Library partnered with the city planning department to collect the personal stories of two hundred of their residents of different generations, backgrounds, income levels, and abilities to help the city develop their strategic plan, known locally as the Comprehensive Plan. The library also created a Studio Rhode Creation Lab to re-imagine a quiet study room into an innovative studio to house their new equipment and offer expanded technology programming.



Project Details

The city of Woonsocket’s City Planning Department had identified a critical need to redefine the identity of the community. Once known as a tightly-knit, vibrant mill town, economic downturn and a changing population have left the city without a cohesive identity. To address this, the project team proposed to use a suite of tools from Apple and additionally purchased audio and video equipment to collect stories from residents of different generations, income levels, and backgrounds. The stories focused on community members experiences living in Woonsocket.

To gather them, the project team asked:

  • What is a favorite memory of living in Woonsocket?
  • What do you like about living here?
  • What do you find challenging?
  • What would you change about the city?

This pilot ran from June to October 2017, though project activity continues up to time of this toolkit’s publication. During the project period, the library hosted six internal events, including a kick-off and several story-collection events. The library reexamined their approach after noting that the in-house events were poorly attended, and opted instead to focus on attending community events. Following this shift, the library attended twenty-five different community events, where they collected the majority of their stories, connected with hundreds of community members, and distributed branded materials to promote the library and the Studio Rhode project.

Collected stories were transcribed for closed captioning and edited by library staff and University of Rhode Island graduate students. The RI Office of Library & Information services connected the library and the graduate students when it became clear that extra transcription help was needed. When completed, stories were uploaded to the library’s YouTube page. Because of the significant time to complete a story, work on transcribing and editing the backlog of videos continues.

During the project, the library also renovated a quiet study space into the Studio Rhode Creation Lab, adding soundproofing, lighting, flexible furniture, and technology to create an inviting, multi-use space. As part of Round I of Studio Rhode, the library received a suite of Apple products that included ten iPad Pros with Apple Pencils, thirty iPad Airs, AppleCare+ for all products, one Apple TV, one iMac, one MacBook Air, a variety of accessories, a lock and charge storage cart, and accompanying Apple professional services. With additional grant funds, the library purchased filming equipment to support the story collection project, as well as furniture, decor, technology, and new signage for the Creation Lab.


Timeline / 2017
  • Team began promoting project by creating video using donated drone footage of Woonsocket, drafting a press release, and posting to social media
  • Local radio station began airing promotion for My Woonsocket Life
  • Library threw a kick-off party and scheduled in-house events
July - October
  • Story collection continued at community events including AutumnFest, Story Safari, club meetings, city parks, vendor fairs, and church fairs
  • Working with URI Library school graduate students, team edited and transcribed videos for closed-captioning and uploads completed stories to library YouTube channel
  • A local graduate student designer worked with the library to plan and purchase materials for the Studio Rhode Creation Lab renovation
  • Story collecting continues throughout the year; editing and transcribing continues on backlog of story videos
  • Library continues its partnership with city planning department, as they await the 2018 election with data and videos ready to share
  • Community partners continue working with the library and cross-promoting events
  • The newly renovated Creation Lab had its grand opening, followed by use for a variety of purposes including coding classes for children, art classes for teens, knitting classes for adult, and green screen classes for all.


On the Road with Studio Rhode Woonsocket

Community awareness was key to the success of My Woonsocket Life. The Woonsocket Harris Public Library was able to spread their story collection idea by putting themselves out into the community and forming partnerships as a result.

The project began as a partnership with the Department of City Planning, to help with the department’s goal of rebranding the city’s identity. Other city departments worked with the library throughout the project to help connect the library to events and potential storytellers, including the Woonsocket Police Department and the Woonsocket Education Department.

Other community partners included community non-profit organizations NeighborWorks, PACE, Community Care Alliance, the Museum of Work and Culture, and Landmark Hospital. These organizations helped by providing space at community events, community contacts for story collecting, and volunteers to type transcripts or hand out flyers—as well as by promoting the project on their social media sites and amongst their employees.

The library formed a fruitful partnership with the local radio station, WOON 1240 AM, which still has a broad listenership across the city. The station donated prime commercial airtime to the library to advertise their project and allowed the library to use their mobile van unit so that they could collect stories out in the community more easily.

The library community, including the Board of Trustees and library users, also helped to promote My Woonsocket Life. The Board of Trustees set up a flash story collection event at a local restaurant and invited community members to join. One library member donated hundreds of hours of drone footage, which helped create a movie clip the library used to promote the project.



Rebranding a Quiet Study Room

The library redesigned an underutilized 200-sq-ft quiet study room into the Studio Rhode Woonsocket Creation Lab, an innovative, inviting, lounge-style studio. The Creation Studio now has flexible, movable furniture, including a table that can
be reconfigured to accommodate a variety of uses and comfortable wheeled chairs. There are movie lights, sound cancelling panels, plants, blinds, and an empty wall that can be used as a green screen. The redesigned room can serve multiple uses: recording video and audio, and holding programs and trainings, while still providing space for tutoring and private study.

Since the close of the Studio Rhode pilot window, the Creation Studio has been used for a number of new library programs including: Scratch Jr. coding classes for children, anime art classes for teens, knitting classes for adults, meme-making with iPads, green screen classes, Tech Tuesdays, and e-book downloading. Community members and groups have also been using the room—from tutors working with students to a local businessperson who filmed a commercial using the green screen.

My Woonsocket Life also prompted the library to expand outside the library walls by regularly going out into the community to collect stories. They used the tagline “On the Road with Studio Rhode Woonsocket” when they were out in the radio station’s mobile unit to get people’s attention and handed out branded project materials to connect the project back to the library.


Then and Now

The goal of My Woonsocket Life was to collect 200 stories from diverse voices within the community in order to help redefine the city’s identity in a more positive light.Since the start of the project the library has collected seventy-five stories, with story collection ongoing. By focusing on the service the videos would provide to the city, the library found that people were likely to overcome their initial camera-shyness.

The project team learned that editing the footage and transcribing stories so they would be accessible for all viewers took significantly more time and energy than they had anticipated. They began working with the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, who connected them with graduate students to edit and transcribe videos. This relationship continues, as the library continues work on editing and transcribing a backlog of stories to be added to the library’s YouTube channel.

The biggest successes of this project came from their attendance at over twenty-five community events and the partnerships they built at those events. Meeting the community where they were helped to create a sense of shared purpose. The library received many phone calls and emails about the project from people who heard the commercials on the radio or had spoken to library staff at an event. Fully one-third of community members who opted to share their story did not have a library card or were not regular library users, showing that the library formed connections with new potential library users by putting themselves out into the community.

Community partnerships have persisted with a cross-sharing of events on social media and continued conversations about how best to help each other. For example, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, a local community development organization, connected the library to local people who have offered free- and low-cost programs to the library, included artists who have displayed their works in the gallery area and a poet who taught poetry/podcasting classes. NeighborWorks also connected the library with local businesses, as part of their mission to develop a community- wide support system for business and community organizations. One such local business offered their services as a fundraiser for the library, generating $265.00 towards a new outdoor sign. WOON 1240 continues to support the library with free on-air radio advertising, and the library records a weekly spot to advertise their upcoming programs.

Since its opening in June 2017, the Studio Rhode Creation Lab has been used for a variety of library and community uses, as a meeting room, tutoring space, recording studio, and even a meditation space.

One important desired impact of My Woonsocket Life was to help redefine the city’s identity in conjunction with the city planning department. This process has been delayed due to staffing changes at the city’s department that started soon after the project began. The library is working with an interim city official, and following the 2018 election, will work with the newly appointed director to share the wealth of information they have collected from the people of Woonsocket. In the meantime, they continue collecting and uploading stories, exploring new uses for their space, and strengthening the new partnerships they developed during this project.