By Katie Collins News Eagle Reporter
HAWLEY- The area’s seven libraries have joined forces, to change the stereotypical perceptions that libraries are more than a quiet place where female librarians sporting a bun, will shush them. In the upcoming weeks the "What do you geek?" campaign will take place, because the libraries want to learn what library patrons are passionate about, said Molly Rogers, the System Administrator of the Wayne Library Alliance.
The campaign, she said, gives people a point of conversation, creating bonds as people discover that they share interests with others. Ultimately, the shared ground, Rogers said, will help people realize that the library is a neutral place where they can build relationships and participate in activities with others.
Although the word "geek," may be considered negative as it describes a socially awkward person, in the library’s campaign, "geek" is used as a verb because it presents another explanation as to what people are enthusiastic about.
Maura Rottmund, the Executive Director of the Hawley Library, said the campaign is fun and so far, people have been "receptive and really positive." The libraries want to know what people "geek," to see if they need to add materials that aren’t already available in the libraries, to give people more for their interests.
Part of the geek campaign is to raise peoples’ awareness about how differently libraries in Pennsylvania are funded to those in other states. The information about the libraries funding is important, Rogers said, because libraries nationwide are struggling. Libraries in Pennsylvania, she said, are not mandated to receive funding. On a local basis, Rogers explained that people get to choose whether their area libraries are funded.
The seven libraries in the area are funded on a county wide basis and last year, 52 percent of the funding was through gifts, fundraising efforts, donations and through a program called "Educational Improvement Tax Credits." The program, Rogers said, allows banks and corporations to receive tax credits for their donations which is not tax funding. School districts, townships and boroughs may give local libraries some funding too. Even though the libraries can provide all kinds of resources like computers and wireless internet, the county commissioners is giving the area libraries $4.00 per capita, which is the same amount the libraries received in 1999. Rodgers said that as times have changed, the libraries are "trying to maintain libraries in the 21st century." She added that this is "very critical, but people don’t understand." Last year, the libraries sent 10,000 fundraising letters to people and of those letters, the libraries received 500 back. If people were to donate, she asked, "What kind of difference might that make in the ability for libraries to serve their communities?"
Although funding is an issue, the libraries are still equipped to provide people with all kinds of modern resources so they don’t even have to step foot in the library to use the resources. At no cost, as long as people have internet or wireless connection, they just need a library barcode number, which they would receive once they sign up for a library card. With their barcode, excitedly Rodgers said, they would have access to, "an amazing array of stuff on your own schedule."
Society, Rogers said, has gotten to a point where time is more valuable than money and so people are buying products like e-books because of their convenience. Libraries, she said, have to be aware that people don’t have the time to stop in and browse anymore. Instead, "we need to be where they are, when they need us," which she added, "redefines libraries."
Despite the funding struggle, libraries are the only institution where people can find tax forms, like they did during tax day last week. Rogers said government agencies are moving toward e-government forms, applications and filing, even though there are still a number of people who don’t have computers or internet access. Aside from providing the tax forms, the libraries proctor tests for online learning because someone needs to be certified to give the tests. Rottmund said that has "suddenly exploded."
Part of what makes the geek campaign easy, Rogers said, is that it is helping library staff have conversations with patrons as they may learn more about their interests. She added that if people want more items, the libraries need donations, "to help make it happen."
Nationally the Gates Foundation and the OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. started the geek campaign and will be running it for the next two years. The area’s libraries will officially launch the campaign in June and it’ll run for six months. There are plans to have area residents and representatives show what they "geek" on posters and tee-shirts, which will be for sale. There will be events like antique shows and arts and crafts fairs with geek boards where people can tell of what they, "geek."
For the time being, if interested in learning about the geek campaign, people can visit the participating library’s circulation desks for information. Rottmund said thinking about what she "geeks" was fun because it made her realize, "maybe I should resurrect my interests." She said she "geeks" creativity and learning. But, her first "geek" is physical fitness. Rogers said she "geeks" many things, including curiosity because it’s a common conversation. She explained that kids spend so much time in school just learning about how to pass a test, that they’ve lost "their sense of curiosity." People, Rogers said, need to go out into the world and discover what they are curious about because, "the world is not driven by multiply choice answers." Instead, she said, "the world is driven by people who see a problem and go after it." The campaign, she said, is meant to show patrons that, "whatever you’re interested in, the library can support you."