York schools' library director leaving to come to Hampton

By Jeremy Corcoran, Portsmouth Herald Staff Writer

The following article is courtesy of ThePortsmouth Herald of August 8, 2000 and Seacoast Online

YORK — A lot has happened since Jeanne Gamage stepped into the job of library director for the York School Department nearly 19 years ago.

When she started, books were catalogued on index cards. There was no Internet and no video cameras. For computers, there were only a few early Commodores and Radio Shack TRS-80s.

But when she says good-bye to the York school system at the end of September, Gamage will leave behind one of the most technologically advanced public school libraries in the area.

"The community of York has always been supportive of education, especially libraries," Gamage said. "I often say that these are the best public libraries in the state."

Using federal grants and town money, Gamage put computers in each kindergarten-through-fourth-grade classroom about 15 years ago and updated the catalog system to the Internet about 10 years ago. In elementary school, kids produce a news program with audio/video equipment that is broadcast within the school. Eighth graders produce a video yearbook.

"Children don't have any inhibitions about learning," she said. "They work in the discovery mode — 'Well, let's click here and see what happens.' Adults are more aware of the consequences."

Just putting the technology in kid's hands is not enough, however. Educators need to learn how to use the new equipment before they can pass on their knowledge to students, Gamage said.

"Teachers have been eager to use it," she said. "Sometimes there's a lack of time and not enough training for everybody."

During her tenure, Gamage also let the school libraries stay open before and after school for use by the community at large.

"This is a community resource, so why not?" she said. "We want people in here. It's taxpayer money."

Gamage is leaving the school system to work at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton. She said the major difference she anticipates is not having to plan for classes. She will just handle adult programming in Hampton.

"It's just time to do something else," she said.

She was inspired to search for a new job by a fellow educator, who said he left his last job "on the crest of the wave" — or while employment opportunities were at their best.

Her replacement "better be able to move fast and multitask," she warned, because "things get hopping."

On any given day, she said, between 25 and 30 percent of York's students use their school's library.

"We're full a lot of the time (at the Middle School)," she said, "and that's true at all the schools."

In 20 years she has seen many classes of students matriculate through the system. Meeting students several times and knowing what they've been taught before, gives her a perspective on their education, she said.

"It's always rewarding," she said, "to hear a student say, 'Wow. I've got it. I found it.'"

She said she hopes to see progress continue at the York schools after her departure.

"Libraries are so important," she said. "It's still the one place where for free you can find the answer to your question."