JAMESTOWN â€“ When Judith Bell retired after 24 years as director of the Jamestown Philomenian Library, the ad for her replacement might just as well have read, Wanted: Legend in Training.
The woman who stepped forward to fill her shoes â€“ and was chosen unanimously by the hiring committee and the library board â€“ has had lots of small-town experience but is poised to guide the Jamestown facility into the modern electronic era of e-reading.
Raised in East Greenwich, South Kingstown resident Donna Fogarty graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in English and earned a masterâ€™s in library and information sciences from the University of Rhode Island.
She got her start as a volunteer in Windsor, Vermont, a typical New England small town. â€śAfter the director left, I was asked to take her place,â€ť she recalls. â€śWindsor was a little smaller than Jamestown and very similar.â€ť
She worked part-time for seven years before finding a full-time position as circulation supervisor and reference librarian for the South Kingstown Free Library in Peace Dale and Wakefield.
When the Jamestown job opened, Donna pounced.
â€śI had been looking at the job sites for quite awhile,â€ť she says. â€śI was looking for a challenge.â€ť
Sheâ€™ll certainly get her wish.
â€śThe challenge here will be in assisting this library to move forward with new technology while keeping one foot in tradition. That will involve basic, traditional services but, with the [bad] economy and high gas prices, we need to look at downloadable texts. You donâ€™t even need to leave home.â€ť
She says itâ€™s possible to create audio books by downloading to a sound device such as an iPod or an MP3 player. To many traditionalists who like to hold and savor a book, these techniques sound like science fiction.
Another task Donna has identified is â€śutilizing space. The new technology will be a priority in the next couple of years.â€ť
The Jamestown library has more than 5,000 members; foot traffic doubles in the summer tourist season.
â€śThe off-season is very busy, too,â€ť notes Donna. â€śWe have lots of mothers and children at story hour. People come in to the use the computers; itâ€™s very popular after school. Weâ€™re open on Sundays and the North Kingstown library is closed so some of [those patrons] come over here.â€ť
She says the libraryâ€™s circulation department processes 1,000 items every day.
Donna confesses she was not always a devoted reader, as are many in her profession. But she knows precisely when she fell in love with books.
â€śThe turning point was after eighth grade. We were going on a family vacation to New Hampshire and my mother gave me The Catcher in the Rye [by J.D. Salinger],â€ť she recalls. â€śI remember nothing about the camping trip; I just remembered The Catcher in the Rye. We came home and I couldnâ€™t get enough to read.â€ť
After she married and had kids, Donna detoured through childrenâ€™s literature but got back on track. Stephen King, whose books she discovered in high school, is still a favorite.
At her desk, she has a coffee mug with the inscription, â€śSo many books â€¦ so little time.â€ť It has inspired her to be creative in finding reading time.
â€śI love to read so much I squeeze in a book when Iâ€™m on the treadmill by using electronic download. Right now Iâ€™m reading The Terror by Dan Simmons.â€ť
Donna says the change libraries face in the future, is â€śexciting. We embrace it because it extends our scope.â€ť
Martha Smith is an independent contractor for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.