Connecting adult immigrants to learning in the libraries

About Us


The mission of RIFLI is to equip adult immigrants in our communities with the literacy skills necessary for upward mobility, engaged citizenship, strong families and lifelong learning.
RIFLI brings together the best practices, staff and resources to lead high performing literacy programs in Rhode Island’s libraries that are most in need of these services.


As a result of public libraries joining together in RIFLI, immigrants in Rhode Island will be educated, engaged and productive members of our 21st century community.  RIFLI’s high quality instruction will equip immigrants with English literacy skills for effective reading, writing, speaking, listening, use of technology, and  math engagement.

RIFLI’s referrals will allow immigrants to access the wealth of free information, technology and resources available at public libraries and other educational and social service organizations to support their journey toward their goals.  They will enter and retain employment, transition to post-secondary and training programs and be positive parental models and active citizens.

The RIFLI collaborative began as a dialogue between library staff based on shared goals and values. The program was implemented as a direct response to the needs of the growing immigrant community in Rhode Island. In the 1980’s, the Providence Public Library began receiving many requests from recent immigrants  for ESL services. The library responded by implementing a family literacy program based on the Ruth Handel and Marianne Goldsmith’s Family Literacy Model, (Approaches to Intergenerational Literacy, New Readers Press, 1990). The practice is modeled after “evidence-based” family literacy models like Even Start, although tailored to a library setting and to the community need to keep this program in the evenings or for shorter durations. The majority (76%) of our students are working parents and need the flexibility of an evening, morning or Saturday program.

Initially, the Providence Public Library provided both ABE and ESL classes, but the need for ESL family literacy services was so great that the decision was made to focus on the needs of recent immigrants with lower level literacy needs. In 1995, Congress rescinded the LSCA federal funding it had made available for library literacy programs and seven libraries in the state were left with no funding for thriving adult literacy programming for the next year. In response to this crisis, librarians and local literacy advocates collaborated on securing new funding. In 1998, the collaboration was successful in receiving funds through the RI Foundation, allowing two of the libraries to run a pilot program modeled after the PPL’s Family Literacy Program (FLP).   How did we go from 1998 to today? How did things develop?     Today, RIFLI has 23 classes at 9 libraries and community centers in five library systems.