Schell, Harrington reflect on DCPL moving into the digital age over last 3 decades

September 30, 2022 | 12:09 am

Updated September 29, 2022 | 11:28 pm

Card catalogs, hand-stamped checkout cards with due dates, and telephone calls to patrons when their holds were ready. Thes are some of the things that Rhonda Schell and Alicia Harrington remember that have since moved into the electronic age at Daviess County Public Library.

Schell recently celebrated 30 years with DCPL, and this past week was Harrington’s last after 29 years. 

“I worked in the Reference Department, and we fielded numerous research questions both in person and via telephone,” Schell said. “Using print sources was our only option to find the information. Sometimes we would work on questions for days to make sure we were thorough in our research.”

Once the card catalog system became digital, she said it was simultaneously exciting and scary, but with technology invading our world, libraries now have more opportunities to offer to patrons.

“We give people access to digital books to download, online databases for research, and even offer internet hotspots to check out,” Schell said. “Even though the methods for providing information may have changed significantly over the past three decades, our goal as librarians is still to serve the people of the community to the best of our abilities and offer outstanding service to everyone.”

Harrington also mentioned the many changes that libraries have undergone in the last 30 years.

“When I started, we still had the card catalog with cards in drawers,” she said. “The internet was dial-up, and you were charged by the minute to make searches. Now, everyone can do searches on free computers with high-speed internet.”

While many people now have access to the internet without having to come to the library, Harrington still finds value in the building and its employees.

“Libraries and librarians are still important because people need help evaluating the sites,” she said. “Anyone can put a site up online and look like they are an expert. Librarians can help determine what sites are legit or what sites are sales gimmicks.”

Neither woman intended for their career to be at DCPL, although both say they have enjoyed it greatly. 

“I worked in libraries in high school and the audiovisual department in college,” Harrington said. “When an opening came up at the library I applied.”

Through an American Library Association Grow-Your-Own grant Harrington was chosen for, she received her master’s degree in library science.

Schell was a student at the local business college and had a friend who worked part-time while also a student. 

“For my first two years at the library I was also a student, and honestly thought I would go to work in a medical or legal office setting,” she said. “Had someone told me that I would be at the library for 30 years I would have never believed it.”

Schell has worked in the Reference Department and the Collections Department, where she has headed the Interlibrary Loan Department for the last 10 years. 

“There has always been something so exciting to me about getting a request from a person and being able to provide that information that someone needs, or acquiring a book or movie that our library doesn’t own for our library patrons’ enjoyment,” Schell said. “Helping people brings me genuine enjoyment, and at the end of each day, I try to focus on the fact that I have hopefully helped someone I’ve come in contact with as part of my job at the library.”

Harrington began in the Reference Department before moving to Technical Services and Computer Services. She also managed the Information Services Department before a reorganization where she became the Manager of Collection Development. 

Harrington also has been integral in moving the library from its old location — which is now home to the Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education — to its current home at 2020 Frederica Street. DCPL also underwent a second-floor remodel. During the move and remodel, Harrington worked with library movers with carts designed specifically to store books.

“In moving buildings we were able to allow people to check out from the old building and keep the titles for eight weeks and then return them to the new building,” she said. “The public didn’t know it but they helped us move buildings. During the remodel, we were able to have 95% of our collection available on the floor for the public. That was huge for our customers and the staff.”

Schell and Harrington said the relationships with both colleagues and patrons are something they cherish.

“Many friendships have been born with the staff I have worked with,” Harrington said.

Schell is excited to see how the library continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community. 

“Our library collections are very diverse, and I am proud that we truly offer something for everyone,” she said. “We do a great job of bringing wonderful programs to the community for people of all ages, and I can only see that continuing to expand.  I’m not sure how many more years I’ll continue to be a library staff member, but I plan on being a lifelong library user and look forward to enjoying the library from that perspective.”

Harrington looks forward to sleeping in and is interested in gardening and having livestock on her small farm. She also would like to travel.

She truly believes DCPL is the “best-kept secret” of Daviess County. 

“You can attend programs, read, watch movies, listen to audiobooks and surf the web,” she said. “You can’t beat the cost of a few minutes of filling out an application.”

And, Schell said the card catalog is still in use at the library, but it is used as the seed library for patrons.

September 30, 2022 | 12:09 am

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