Putting Patrons on the Map

I’m back into the final push for finishing the manuscript and have also been connecting with a number of my original contributors to make sure I have bio lines right, details updated, etc. Thanks again to all of you who’ve worked with me on these sidebar views into the real stories that make up the entire project. (There’s still time if you have not told me your story – it’s a short online survey.)

I’m especially excited about being able to print this story from Molly Rodgers. I saw a short description of her library in an article a long time ago on WebJunction and I’m really glad she agreed to tell me more about her library for the book. Molly’s story reminds me that we don’t need to have a big complicated project in order to have huge impact for the community. And check out her bio line! A kindred spirit? I think so!

Thanks Molly for your insights. It has been great working with you.

Putting Patrons on the Map, by Molly Rodgers.

Wayne County, Pennsylvania is a rural county along the northern Delaware River, but during the summer months the local library looks and sounds more like a branch of the United Nations, with dozens of languages being spoken and alphabets other than English on the computer screens. The county has a lot of summer camps, and young people come from all over the world to work as camp counselors. With rivers, lakes, and state forests the area also attracts summer visitors. Hundreds of people use the library’s public access computers to stay in touch with family and friends, to contact travel agencies and airlines, to search for information about the local area and other places they plan to visit.

Beginning in 2004, we started displaying a world map in our public access computer room and asked everyone who used a computer to put a dot on the map to show their home country, as well as write down the name of their hometown on a legal pad. After the summer was over we used the map and the list of place names in presentations to local service clubs and to public officials. The map was an effective way to show how people from all over the world depend on the computers at public libraries, and we shared some of the stories of how our staff and our services made visitors feel welcome. The presentations were especially effective with service groups that have international missions such as Rotary Clubs. Most people had no idea the influx of computer users we have during the summer! The local Rotarians decided to apply for a matching grant to purchase a laptop computer for us with a wireless Internet connection. This grant allowed us to expand the number of computer stations we can offer and will support other sources of funding to increase our wireless capacity.

In addition to the international character of summer visitors and camps who come to libraries, we now also see an increasing number of people living and working in Wayne County who have come from their countries. Library computers are vital to these new residents as they search for jobs, type up resumes, take English as a second language courses, and practice citizenship and TOEFL tests. We recently invited our three county commissioners to a library in the county that had received new computers this year through the Gates Opportunity Grant, to thank the commissioners for providing matching funds. One of the library patrons who spoke about the importance of public access computers in his own experience is from Colombia. Showing, and telling, our community about both their global reach and local outcomes has made a huge difference in our community.

Molly Rodgers is the director of the Wayne County Public Library in rural Pennsylvania, and the Administrator of the Wayne Library Authority, a system of seven libraries in the county. Molly earned her MLS from Southern Connecticut State University in 2002, and was one of the first two students at SCSU to complete her studies all-online.  Her career goal is to break down old stereotypes and change local perceptions about libraries and librarians. She has been shushed by adult patrons and invited to race her Mini Cooper by teen patrons. Her library is online at www.waynelibraries.org.