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April 1, 2020 | 0 comments

Jean Armour Polly, retired from working as a public librarian and Internet evangelist, continues to provide folks with information in a very personal way. She volunteers at a local Rescue Mission Thrifty Shopper, organizing bric-a-brac. But in addition to that “organizing” role, she has used her tech expertise, tenacity and sleuthing skills to reunite old photos and documents with their families of origin.

“I have shipped precious historical items to families in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Tennessee,” she said. “It is my honor to return these things to families.”

It’s surprising what gets brought to the Thrifty Shopper. Items that come in have included things like photo albums, marriage and death certificates, and even cemetery deeds.

“If there’s any kind of identifying information, I go to my ancestry.com account and build out a little family tree to find descendants who are actively involved in researching that line. Quite a project, but the resulting families are so grateful!”

In the process, Polly has become an avid, albeit amateur, genealogist. “I have access to many online resources and archives,” she says. “Because of my own DNA test results, I have connected with other DNA ‘hits’ to me, to work out how we’re related. More than a handful of times the hits were adoptees or children of adoptees who were...

April 1, 2020 | 0 comments

In 1981, personal computers had been invented, but in public libraries, they were nowhere to be seen.

Then Jean Armour Polly stepped in.

As a librarian in the upstate New York village of Liverpool, she was frustrated with the way most libraries operated. “They were so slow to take risks!” she says.

Polly has told the news media on many occasions, “The enemy is complacency.” Polly was anything but complacent. The first class she had taken, back in 1974 in Syracuse University’s graduate Library School, was on ‘how to type a catalogue card, how many spaces to leave between items.’ “It was so boring!” she says. So, she signed up for some free, noncredit computing classes that were being offered in the Engineering Center.

“I learned BASIC and FORTRAN,” she says, “and other things that I knew were somehow going to be important for me, because I didn’t want to be stuck typing those damn cards!”

A year later, master’s degree in hand, Polly began working as a librarian in Liverpool. At conferences, she quickly saw that access to information via computers would be the wave of the future. When she learned that students, even grade-school kids, were getting Apple computers, she persuaded Liverpool Public to buy an Apple II Plus for public use.

It didn’t take long before people started coming in to play games like Oregon Trail or use the spreadsheet Visi-calc on the...

March 10, 2020 | 0 comments

With apologies to Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin, when it comes to web access, sisters are doing it for themselves. 

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the first message sent via ARPANET, a forerunner to the modern Internet, a recent edition of Popular Mechanics highlighted 11 notable women in computer science. 

Among the 11 spotlighted by the magazine are six Internet Hall of Fame inductees: Yvonne-Marie Andres, Elise Gerich, Elizabeth Feinler, Ida Holz, Anne-Marie Eklund Lowinder and Jean Armour Polly. 

As the publication notes, these women "deserve recognition for their groundbreaking contributions," as they have "helped shape the way we connect with the world around us."

March 8, 2020 | 0 comments

As the Internet becomes more globally accessible, Yvonne Marie Andres would like to see it used more for preventing problems than creating new ones.

A 2017 inductee into the Internet Hall of Fame, Andres was one of the first to develop and utilize online learning programs for students and educators.

Among the education initiatives she helped develop are Global SchoolNet, Global Schoolhouse, the International Cyberfair and the U.S. State Department-backed Doors to Diplomacy Program

In an interview from her induction, Andres said she hopes that the Internet will be better incorporated to create hands-on,...

March 3, 2020 | 0 comments

March 8 is International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, political, economic and cultural achievements of women worldwide.

That’s why this month, the Internet Hall of Fame is spotlighting three of its most recent inductees who have led the way in inspiring, aiding and promoting the accomplishments of women whose careers – or future careers – revolve around computer science, Internet networking and Information and Communications Technology.

Dr. Kimberly ("kc") Claffy, Elise Gerich and Jean Armour Polly, all 2019 inductees into the Internet Hall of Fame, recently reminisced about their own careers, and shared words of encouragement for girls and young women who are considering careers in tech.

Not all of them took the most direct route to the Internet Hall of Fame.

Polly, a librarian, majored in Medieval Studies as an undergrad, earned a Masters of Library Science degree, and hoped to spend her career working with rare books. But she was a risk-taker. In 1981, when she learned at a library conference about computers being used by students, she successfully pushed for her own small library to acquire one. Her curiosity and fearlessness then led her to evangelize at...

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