Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Lone Oak resident Ruth Blough is taking over the volunteer librarian position at the free library in Lone Oak Community Center following the retirement of longtime volunteer librarian Bill Helrigel, age 92.
“Ruth has been very instrumental in getting things changing,” said Helrigel of Blough, who for the past several years has served as the library’s volunteer coordinator.
Since Blough became involved she has overseen the library’s transition from a card catalog system to the use of computer files to keep track of its books. She has also initiated an after-school program for students in elementary through high school at the library that will be held Thursdays beginning Sept. 6 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
“In Sequatchie, there’s a need,” said Blough, noting that approximately 70 percent of Sequatchie County schools’ students receive free or reduced-price lunches. “With children [living on Walden’s Ridge in Sequatchie County] being bused with such a long commute, they do not have the opportunity to take advantage of resources at school.”
She said students participating in the Lone Oak program will have the opportunity to use laptops with wireless Internet and printer access for school assignments as well as receive homework help from volunteers, most of whom are former accredited teachers.
“I believe in the power of education to empower children,” said Blough, who earned a degree in education and worked as a technical writer for more than 20 years.
Program volunteers include Lone Oak associate librarians Ginny Gaines and Judy Werner, a former French teacher, as well as one-time teacher Carolyn Johnson and avid reader and former Lone Oak GED student Donna Brown.
“The biggest thing is providing Internet access for students who can’t afford Internet access at home,” said Blough.
Signal Crest United Methodist Church is partnering with Lone Oak to provide after-school snacks for program participants as well as help supply volunteer tutors from its congregation.
Blough said one of two laptops the library is providing for student use was donated and the other was purchased using funds from book sale proceeds. She said two more laptop donations will be arriving soon.
“We specify they are only to be used for educational purposes — no social media or games,” she said.
Students must have parental permission to attend; those that ride the bus can arrange to be dropped off at the center for parents or guardians to pick them up when the program concludes. If demand increases, Blough said the library may begin offering the program Tuesdays as well.
She said she plans to apply for grants in order to continue Helrigel’s practice of purchasing books for the library currently on the New York Times Best Seller list. Helreigel was able to accomplish this using funds he raised by selling iris bulbs, which he said he now lacks the energy to do.
“I miss the people, knowing what they like to read and trying to order books that they would like,” said Helreigel of what he misses most about serving as the community center’s librarian, a position he had held since 2001.
The library now has hundreds of new children’s books, which Blough said include many Newberry Award winners as well as titles recommended by Gaines, a former school librarian.