Posted by: bluesyemre | September 28, 2019

Why do we say ‘surfing the #internet?’ You can thank a CNY #librarian (#KatrinaTulloch) for that

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Katrina Tulloch | ktulloch@syrac
– Jean Armour Polly of Jamesville, N.Y. will be inducted into the Global Internet Hall of Fame for her contributions to early internet literacy. She popularized the phrase “surfing the internet” in 1992 and wrote a series of internet books for kids, earning her the nickname “Net-Mom.” Katrina Tulloch | ktulloch@syracuse.com

Syracuse, N.Y. — More than 30 years ago, Jean Polly started a revolution in the oddest of places: the Liverpool Public Library.

Polly, an assistant librarian at the time, decided the library should get a computer for the public to use.

It was 1981 and this was groundbreaking. They set up the computer, a black Apple 2 Plus, in a spot where everyone could use it. The American Legion raised money to buy the printer. At the time, Liverpool was one of two libraries in the country with a computer, said Polly, a Syracuse University alumna.

People loved it, but her colleagues in the wider public library world did not.

“This is not our core mission. Our core mission is books and literacy,” Polly recalls being told. She didn’t listen.

“Whenever one goes into a school or public library and sees the hundreds of people using the Internet, Jean is the reason this is possible,” said Beverly Choltco-Devlin. Also a librarian, Choltco-Devlin met Polly when she was working at the Morrisville Public Library. Polly was able to get a grant and provide the training that helped that library and several others get online.

Today, Polly is being honored for blazing a brave path for libraries and bringing the Internet to the public. The 66-year-old, who is now retired, is being inducted into the Global Internet Hall of Fame. She is the first librarian to be honored.

Polly also worked with other librarians to found PUBLIB, the first online listserv for public librarians. It’s still used.

After that first computer, Polly kept pushing ahead and soon the library had a connection to the rudimentary online world, long before the “World Wide Web” and Google.

Also, if you’ve ever said, “Surfing the web,” you’ve got Polly to thank. It was the title of her 1992 guide for a library journal about how to use what would become the web. “Surfing the Internet: An introduction,” was published in the Wilson Library Bulletin.

Polly was sitting at her computer, thinking about what title to use when she looked down at her mousepad. There was a surfer, a wave, and the phrase, Information surfing.

“I said, ‘That’s my metaphor.’ It’s hard. You need some skill. You never know if there are going to be sharks,” Polly said.

Shortly after writing the article, Polly left the library world for a time to work for NYSERnet, a nonprofit research group that was one of the state’s first internet providers. When she worked there, she shared the surfing article and it went as close to viral as something could go in those days.

“The idea of surfing went around the world,” Polly said. And with it came the wrath of surfers.

They thought Polly was equating their sport with something trivial and easy.

“I got some hate mail from surfers,” she said.

So when Polly went to Hawaii for a conference, she paid a visit to the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing.

“I threw myself on his mercy and apologized for this lapse in judgment,” she said. She laughs, but that’s just what she did. The librarian does not make things up.

Then she went into the surfing internet forums and retold the story of her apology.

As the internet became more popular, people were looking for help finding safe sites for kids and families to use. Polly kept waiting for someone to write it, but no one did. So she decided to. She took another risk and quit her job to write the first edition of “Net-mom’s Internet Kids and Family Yellow Pages.” She went on to publish six editions, which have sold 250,000 copies and been translated into Chinese.

Choltco-Devlin, who now manages a large public library in Tacoma, Washington, said she sees Polly’s influence, still.

https://www.syracuse.com/news/2019/09/why-do-we-say-surfing-the-internet-you-can-thank-a-cny-librarian-for-that.html


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