published Monday, February 14th, 2011

Polk County libraries automate, renovate

By Paul Leach/Correspondent

BENTON, Tenn. — Polk County libraries are moving into the digital age, and the Benton branch has received a recent makeover.

However, the library system recently lost long-serving board Chairwoman Sheppie Dunn.

"It was time for me to step down and take care of my family," said Dunn, who resigned in January. "I loved all 14 years of it."

Roger Mayer now is chairman of the library board, with Arthur Bigham serving as assistant chairman.

"Sheppie was a great asset to us," Mayer said. "She served as a major impetus to all the changes we are seeing now."

The Benton and Ducktown branches began cataloging their collections into computer databases at the beginning of the year. The project, handled by Americorps worker Joshua Voyles, will take several months, Mayer said.

The Friends of the Library association funded the computers and software required for automating the library's catalog and sponsored the Americorps worker position specifically for the task.

The group also played a major role in fixing up the Benton library branch on the first floor of the Polk County Courthouse. Mayer said the group donated new carpeting, painted the branch and fixed its leaky pipes. Jail trusties also assisted, he said.

The Benton library will hold an open house March 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. to showcase its new look, Mayer said.

On the other side of the county, the Ducktown branch in the Copper Basin expects to receive several laptops and peripherals for a computer lab soon.

The equipment and software, funded through $16,000 in federal and state grants, are part of a program designed "to provide workforce training and increase educational opportunities for the communities they serve," according to a state news release.

The Ducktown branch also hosts a new adult book-reading club, run by Voyles as part of his Americorps service-learning curriculum. He also leads the Copper Basin High School book club and is conducting a research project on how the libraries can become more energy efficient.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. E-mail him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com

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