Wallowa County library receives national award

Duane Arenales, chief of technical services division at the National Library of Medicine (left) and Christa Hoffman, head of the NLM cataloging section (right) flank Wallowa County librarian Claudia Jones in Atlanta, Georgia. (Submitted photo)

Wallowa County librarian Claudia Jones has come a long way since she wrote her first successful grant application to the Wallowa County Commission on Children and Families in 1994 for $3,600.

And that long way included a trip to Atlanta, Georgia last week to pick up one of eight national public library awards presented by the Public Library Association which is a division of the American Library Association. The honor for Excellence in Small and/or Rural Public Library Service Award included a $1,000 check and a plaque.

The presentation was made Monday, June 17.

Since 1994 Jones, with some help from the co-director of the highly successful Training Wheels program Susan Polumsky, has been awarded as the recipient of 32 grants totaling a staggering $272,769.

Polumsky shares space in the Wallowa County Library in Enterprise as head of Child Care Resource & Referral and assisted in the writing of eight of the grants.

"Part of our success is that we do a lot of research," says Jones, who has submitted grant applications to nearly every non profit organization in the state that has any interest in preparing children to learn better.

Some 30,000 people were on hand for the annual awards ceremony in Atlanta. The presentation took place in Turner Stadium, said Jones. She was excited to be receiving awards right along with representatives from the Chicago Public Library and the New York City Public Library.

Husband Bob Jones paid his own way to accompany his wife for a 3 1/2 day stay in Atlanta.

When she received the award Jones gave a short speech in the 755 Club of Turner Stadium, emphasizing the rural nature of Wallowa County. "They don't understand what rural is," she said.

The service award is for libraries which serve a population of 10,000 or less. Jones says that on a good day she serves 50 persons.

The Wallowa County Public Library came into prominence in the fall of 2000 when Dr. Donald Lindberg, the director of the National Library of Medicine, made an acquaintance with Troy librarian Conni Curry. He was visiting his son John who was working seasonally at Troy for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. That acquaintance, with the help of Jones's writing abilities, was parlayed into a $30,000 grant which placed the Troy, Imnaha, city of Enterprise and Wallowa County libraries on to the Internet. Imnaha and Enterprise now have dedicated phone lines for Internet access, the Troy library has a T1 line that had only been in the school and the county library office has a DSL line.

Prior to Dr. Lindberg's chance meeting with Curry neither the Troy nor the Imnaha libraries even had telephones.

The lady who wrote the service award nomination letter and the actual grant application from Jones's request for Internet assistance is consumer health coordinator Nancy Press from the regional library in Seattle.

"Early literacy and childhood education are real big efforts being recognized nationally," says the successful local grant writer who has also been rejected on occasions. "We understand what we are doing really well. We pretty much understand Wallowa County and the need to prepare children to learn better. All of our libraries have great staff."

Jones says that communication regarding the rural nature of Wallowa County was made when she informed the national organization that library materials in the winter months are taken to Troy by the UPS driver or the garbage truck.

The Excellence in Small and/or Rural Public Library Service Award honors a public library for any or all of the following: "Uniqueness of service of program, impact of program or service on community; and how the service or program will affect the future of the library and its community."

An open house to celebrate the national award will be held at the Wallowa County library from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10. The public is invited to an event hosted by the public libraries of Enterprise, Wallowa and Joseph, and their board members.   

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