Mar 10, 2014 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
On March 6, Liverpool Public Library Executive Director Jean Armour Polly announced to her staff that she would retire 30 days later, on April 6.
Polly, 61, was appointed director in July 2009. Prior to that, from 2002 to ’09, she was assistant director of the library in charge of its systems and technology department. She previously worked at the library from 1976 to 1992, when she left to pursue Internet-related projects and write books.
“We thank her for her years of service,” said LPL Board President Natalie Scavone. “She has done amazing things to bring our library forward actually beyond the 21st century, it seems to me.”
Polly’s decision to retire from the library came a week after the funeral of her 89-year-old mother, local author MaryLee Armour. One of her post-retirement goals is to write a memoir focusing on her mother’s final years.
“Mom wrote me thousands of emails as her health began to deteriorate,” Polly recalled. “I’d like to follow her journey through dementia. Maybe it could help somebody else.”
She also plans to work on a major genealogy project and perhaps do some consulting.
Polly, who was raised in the village of Liverpool and educated at Syracuse University, became interim director of Liverpool Public Library in February 2009 after then-director Elizabeth Dailey was appointed as head of Onondaga County Public Library in Syracuse. During Polly’s five years at the helm here, the Liverpool Library has seen significant changes.
“We’ve instituted a number of innovations,” Polly said. The library now has three media banks from which patrons can access discs and DVDs and is increasing its collection of e-books. While traditional book circulation steadily declines in libraries nationwide, Liverpool Library has started circulating non-traditional items such as roku boxes, family history video kits, GPS units, bird-watching kits and ukuleles.
“Soon we’ll be circulating bongo drums, too,” Polly said.
In the early 1990s, Polly authored a series of books known as “Net-Mom’s Internet Kids & Family Yellow Pages.” As Net-Mom, Polly consulted for companies such as Disney Online, Children’s Television Workshop, America Online and Microsoft. She was director of public services at NYSERNet, Inc., from 1992 to 1995.
Polly put her information-technology background to good use in the maintenance of an interactive website, lpl.org, where patrons can access data bases as varied as Mango, Freegal and Consumer Reports.
“We’re to the point where you can do so many things at home by accessing our website that you don’t even have to come into the library building itself,” Polly said.
Other library improvements she oversaw included a revamped security system, window replacements in the Carman Community Room, offering U.S. passport services, commissioning outdoor dinosaur sculptures and forging a partnership with Liverpool Elementary PTO on an annual used-book sale.
“And programming has really taken off lately,” Polly said. “Attendance is way up, for instance, when we show recently released feature films. Another program that routinely draws 40 or 50 participants is gaming for young adults with special needs.”
Scavone credited Polly’s grant-seeking efforts for keeping the library vibrant. “She has the connections and got the grants that brought money to the library allowing us to offer services to patrons that many other libraries don’t offer, and we’re proud of that.”
So is Polly.
“I think the community is pretty happy with their library,” she said. “The last couple budget votes were in the high-60-percents [of voters approving the approximately $3 million annual budgets].”
Earlier this year, Polly had informed the LPL Board of Trustees that she intended to retire sometime before October, and so last week’s announcement came as a surprise.
“It did happen rather suddenly,” Scavone said. “We’re scheduling a special board meeting this month to start a nationwide search for a new director.”
As technologies continue to evolve, Polly said, libraries must embrace change. “You’ve got to reinvent yourself all the time. I expect great things from Liverpool Public Library after I’m gone.”
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