Ed Garcia, who has helped Cranston's network of five libraries not just adapt, but exploit 21st century changes, said he's thrilled to be a part of the newly-created council, which will advise the governor and state leaders on policy and strategic economic development.
"I am honored to have been appointed to the new Council of Economic Advisors," he said. "I commend Governor Chafee for for realizing the important part Rhode Island's libraries play in the economic growth of our state."
Consider that on any given day at the Central Library in Cranston, you'll encounter job seekers using tools and resources to look through job postings, craft resumes or participate in a free workshop.
The library is a meeting place. It's an after-school education center. Garcia and other librarians in communities with both urban and suburban characteristics like Cranston realized long ago that the weight of a community's need will land on their shoulders, no matter what. So he and other leaders in his field have been lobbying for and building systems for libraries to offer workforce training along with books to check out. And as a community hub, it's an opportunity to expand a social safety net that feeds brains, not bellies, and has always played a crucial role in the fulfilling the American philosophy of self-determination and independence. No true scholar of American Democracy can dismiss the importance of public access to knowledge and no other institution can better serve that need than a library.
"Our libraries are not only places of knowledge, literacy and education but are also engines of economic development and workforce training," Garcia said. "I am excited about helping to provide the data and analysis to help improve our state's economy and standard of living for all."
State lawmakers passed a bill creating the council in 2013. The nine-member council includes members of the public and private sector and they collect and publish data to advise the General Assembly, the Secretary of Commerce and the Governor on economic matters.
The council will also prepare what could be a highly-anticipated annual "data book" on the state economy as well as provide "on demand" data on specific issues.
"The data and analysis provided by the council would better inform and guide overall commerce and economic development policy," according to a State House release. "The need for constant, comprehensive, and accurate information on the state’s economy was discussed at separate conferences on the state’s economic development needs held earlier this year by both the House and the Senate."