Delaware Public Media

New laws protect statewide library network, expand librarian scholarship

Jul 19, 2017

Delaware’s had a statewide library network for several years. But it wasn’t official until Gov. Carney signed it into law Wednesday.


Gov. John Carney signed two bills at the Newark Free Library Wednesday afternoon. One will protect a network that lets libraries share books throughout the state.  

“The libraries across our state and all of our volunteers and librarians have done an amazing job over the last decade really creating this statewide system," Carney said. "That is really unique and really important.”

Delaware state librarian Dr. Annie Norman was worried the years-long effort to create the statewide library network was at risk as the state faced a multi-million dollar budget deficit earlier this year.

“And so it was this frantic need to somehow get this recognized and established," Norman said.

Those fears were eased in part by Wednesday’s bill signing. $585,000 for library technology - crucial to the statewide network – was at risk earlier this year. 

 

Fortunately, state data coordinator Bob Wetherall says, that money was preserved. 

 

“We took a little bit of a hit this year, but boy it could have been a lot worse," he said. 

Wetherall says it's "about time" the state formally recognized the statewide library network, which he says is immensely better than it was when he moved to Delaware in 1989. 

 

Norman hopes that now that the network's been formalized, other libraries will take an interest in joining in. 

“One area that I’m interested in are the school libraries," Norman said.

 

Norman said a few charter and public schools are part of the network, but she wants more to participate. All of the state’s public libraries and a few universities are also in the network.

The other law signed Wednesday extends a scholarship to librarians-in-training working at private libraries. The Ada Soles Memorial Scholarship was previously reserved solely for people working in public libraries. 

The scholarship is named in honor of late Delaware Representative Ada Soles. Her daughter Catherine Soles Pomeroy and grandchildren attended the announcement.

"She was a big supporter of libraries in the 70s," Soles Pomeroy said. "And when she was a state representative she always made sure that their budget was what it needed to be, and advocated for the professionalization of librarians. She really believed that library is a science and supported people being able to pursue that form of education."

Soles Pomeroy says her mother and father were the first ones in their families to go to college, and appreciated the role of libraries as the "great equalizers." 

"Libraries gave them access to a world beyond what they'd normally have access to," she said. "I think [libraries] create more equality, and that was really important to my parents."